Mental health & mental illness is something I bang on about on the blog a lot. I’ve shared my story, I share my trials as they come up and all to try and show the reality of mental illness, to prove that those of us who are mentally ill are human too, we have downs sure, but we have ups too, and we deserve to be treated with respect. And this time to talk day I wanted to blog a bit more about mental illness.
For this post I threw it open to the people of the interwebs; what shall I blog about? I wondered, and you came back to me. “something about not being afraid to talk maybe? Reassurance that the first time can be the hardest, but it can get easier” so here I am, rambling a bit about talking about mental illness.
First thing’s first; we all have mental health. Much like we all have physical health. Some of us get mentally ill for a period of time and get better, others battle mental illness for life. However, unlike physical health, there are no easy ways to diagnose someone with a mental illness. You can’t see it, you often can’t test for it, it comes down to what the individual tells you and any symptoms they may display. It’s difficult, and that makes getting a diagnosis, and therefore getting treatment, tough.
But it’s important that if you think you are mentally ill you do speak up, preferably to your GP, or another health professional. It can be scary, the prospect of getting a diagnosis can be terrifying, you may well be overwhelmed with emotions and think that you can deal with it on your own. You don’t have to. There are so many wonderful treatments out there that could help, that could make your life easier, it is so worth seeing a doctor and talking to someone.
The first time it is hard. Many of us are conditioned to pretend we’re ok, to tell people we’re fine when we’re not, to have that stiff upper lip. In front of your doctor is not the time for that though, then is the time to let it out. Everything. How you feel, why you’re there, any symptoms you have, tell them everything, no matter how stupid you think it sounds, how embarrassed you might feel, it is so important for them to have all the information.
Personally, I had an amazing GP who was super understanding and amazing and helped me a lot. I didn’t have to fight to get a psychiatric appointment, he believed me and that meant the world. I can’t say the same about the psychiatric care I received in the UK but since I’ve been in France I’ve found a good combination of medications that keeps me mostly stable apart from when under extreme stress.
Anyway, I digress. I’m not sure there’s anything I can specifically say that will make talking about your mental illness easier, or less scary. I think much of it comes down your own beliefs around mental illness and that is what needs to change. Too many people still think you can ‘snap out of it’ or that it is a ‘weak mind’ that becomes mentally ill. The more people talk about mental illness, the more people will see that it takes huge strength to battle illness, any illness, every day. And hopefully more people will understand that it is not an imaginary disease, that just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
It does get easier though. The more I share my story and my trials, the easier it becomes. It feels natural to me now to blog what I’m going through. I still find it hard to talk to real people about it, but I struggle to express most things verbally, I’m better with writing! But whatever medium works for you please do talk about your experiences, it’s the only way things will change, and it can often make things feel a little easier too.
We all need to speak up; those of us who are mentally ill need to share our stories, those who stand by us need to share theirs and those who are mentally healthy need to listen to us, because anyone can become ill at any time, it could be you next, and I doubt you want to be mentally ill in a world where you’re told to suck it up and get on with it.