By Gavin Walker
I’ve been really struggling with writing a new blog post here, I want to write something positive, helpful and hopefully something people can take away and use to manage their own problems with Mental Illness.
I wanted to write a post with tips and strategies on how to talk openly about dealing with Mental Illness – in my case Major Depressive Disorder – but before I can do that I think I need to address and look into the reasons why we don’t feel we can talk openly about these issues in the first place.
By ‘We’ I mean those of us who have experienced Mental Health problems, have diagnosed Mental Illnesses or those who have not yet sought help, but are in a confused state of mind as to what the hell is going on in their brain.
When I was going through my toughest times (early 2000’s and early 2010’s) the awareness around Mental Health, especially in young men, was limited at best. There were a handful of charities, but there was no Facebook (really, there was a world before Social Media!!!!!) no way to spread mass messages that it was OK to talk, that Mental Health problems and Mental Illnesses were commonplace and nothing to be ashamed of.
Now, we’re surrounded by amazing campaigns and projects aimed at decreasing stigma, raising awareness and just generally encouraging us all to talk openly about our Mental Wellbeing – all of which is awesome.
But, and this is a big but, even now, when I’m feeling low, or I know I’m about to drop off a cliff edge – even with 6 years of therapy, medication, managing my illness and developing coping strategies – I still find it really hard to talk about what I’m going through, even to close family and friends.
Why is this?
I mean fucking petrified, of so many things, there’s no way I can put a full list here, but as a stater for 10 here are a few reasons I was too scared to open up and talk, both when I first experienced Depression, and since I was diagnosed and now manage my ups and many downs:
- We won’t be believed
- We’ll be told that there’s nothing wrong with us
- We’ll be judged
- We’ll be cast aside by friends/family/work/society/our local pub/strangers – the guy I buy petrol from, even though he has no idea who I am or that I suffer, and I mean why would he he’s never met me before, but he’s just looked at me funny, so he must know I’m a total fruit loop/the universe
- People will get fed-up of hearing that we’re down again, or not feeling up to doing anything
WE FEEL SHIT ABOUT OURSELVES
Yeah, we’re struggling with horrible thoughts inside our own minds, our own thought process is grinding us down to minute fractions of our real selves, we lack confidence, esteem and any kind of positive outlook, so the thought of opening up to a stranger – or even a close friend – about how we’re feeling is virtually impossible.
I felt like I didn’t want to burden anyone with my problems, mainly as I refused to see it as an issue, for years (on reflection, easily the best part of a decade for me) I saw it as a weakness, I was the problem.
WE BLAME OURSELVES
For everything. All. The. Damn. Time.
Any problems happening to us, or those around us, It’s our fault. This then becomes guilt; which feeds the negative thinking; which leads to reinforcing your negative self-image; and you’re then convinced by your brain that you’re a total C**t.
Our brains will – for no good reason – remind us of bad things that happened to us years ago, and through the negative thought process that dominates our minds, we use it against ourselves. Chances are this particular memory has nothing to do with what we’re currently doing, but as we’re fighting a brain that’s conspiring against us, all of a sudden the fact that I threw a forward pass in a game in 1993 which meant we didn’t score a try (rugby reference), all of a sudden – in 2011 – I’m a fucking twat. Thanks Brain.
WE DON’T KNOW WHO TO TALK TO
With all the options available to talk to people now, it can be overwhelming to try and choose who to talk to.
There are charities, self-help groups, call lines, forums, email addresses, councilors, therapists, GP’s, Facebook pages, Blogs………the list goes on, and the sheer amount of information to try and process, when you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the battle going on inside your head can easily make you bury your head in the sand and just plain ignore the help available.
Even when you do open up there’s a significant risk that you won’t get the reaction you were hoping for. The wrong reaction can be devastating, even if the reaction comes from a good place – we’ve all had “come on, just think of all the things you’ve got to be happy about!” and plenty of others.
For me my biggest fear was to not be believed (which happened with two GP’s in the 00’s) which only reinforced my feelings that my Depression was a weakness.
WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been desperate to talk about the demons and dark thoughts flying around inside my head, but I just couldn’t find the words to describe what was going on and what I was actually feeling.
How can you describe hopelessness, that feeling of complete helplessness that consumes you, words can’t describe the physical pain you’re in or the total confusion you feel in trying to comprehend the fact that your own brain is trying to kill you. We don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t know what the wrong thing is, but just the fear of saying the wrong thing was enough to make me keep my mouth shut, and suffer in silence.
TO SUM UP
A lot of the thought processes we go through during low periods are totally irrational, and mainly driven by fear, loss of control and – initially – the unknown. Thankfully – the good news is there’s loads you can do to prepare to talk about what you’re going through, that’ll be my next post, hopefully that’ll be a bit more constructive.
I’d love to hear your own personal barriers you experienced in trying to talk about your Mental Health – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduced with permission, originally posted here