Thursday, 5 February 2015

Time to Talk Day - could you give me 5 minutes?

Today we are talking about mental health. (Grandiose? Me?!)

I know that some of you will think that mental health is talked about far too much. Unfortunately I have to respectfully disagree.

You know the statistics, one in four of us will be diagnosed, the funding for children's mental health services is being savagely cut, there are avoidable suicides every week because there are just not enough psychiatric beds and we have a health minister who thinks homeopathy is the solution (we shall talk about placebos and lots of statistics another time!).

So what can I add to the discussion?

I, myself, "suffer" from poor mental health. It's always hard to say, it's a sentence loaded with shame and embarrassment (mostly my own but also the that of our society - "I'm a crazy.")

Yet, suffer is the wrong word. I've developed a pretty good happy "person suit*" and try to fit in everywhere I go. Currently my whole life revolves around my relatively bad depression and my allied issues. I'm not wanting pity, I just want a chance to get better. It's  almost impossible to get better on your own. Yet that's what society expects, "just give it some time and you'll pull yourself together."

Unlike most patients with depression I've just spent some time in hospital (quite a long time really). Finally I was nervously (me nervous not them) discharged on the 5th January, want to to know when my next out-patient appointment is - 3rd June! Now I'm not being left to flounder on my own but even to me that seems like a long time in the future. I'm sure it's the same in every other speciality, that doesn't make it right or safe.

It's so incredibly difficult to explain to anyone who has not been tarred with this dirty brush how it feels to be depressed or understand any mental health disorder. (Also no-one gets to tell you how you feel when you're depressed. No-one.) What you feel is what you feel, now it may not be depression but it still can be incredibly difficult to deal with. For me it is a certain numbness and fogginess which wants me to cocoon and never see the light of day again. Fun right?

Not really but let's move along.

Can I try to dispel some myths? (That I've sadly had directed toward me, people can be so thoughtless and mean)

Depression is a normal part of life.
It is oft suggested that depression is part of a normal continuum of life. No no no. Sadness is a part of the normal continuum of life. Blue days are normal. The persistant bleakness or emptiness or perhaps the numbness is very much not. 

Depression is not cancer.
Oh don't think we don't know cancer is the top dog. Cancer is a bitch. Yes. So much. I hate it too. It's taken many of my friends and family, However, cancer is not a superior disease. No-one will ever want to wear a black ribbon to support those in need. Although I totally would and I think it is something that actually needs to happen! There is such a taboo, such a stigma. But why? Yes the brain is an unknown territory but we know enough to say most mental health problems have a significant biochemical component. How is this any different from someone suffering from diabetes? It is not just the general public who think this but many of the medical profession. (I think it may be time to start making ribbons).

Depression is not the new black.
It is not cool to be depressed. I hate the media portrayal that people use depression to gain attention. There is nothing good about admitting you have depression. Yet it seems that people use it as an excuse for disgraceful behaviour. Subsequently you feel as if you cannot admit to something because what you have experienced is so very different to what you read in print.

Depression is untreatable.
Oh but my lovelies, biological depression is soooo treatable. The drugs very much do work. They take a few weeks to start working (and it may take time to find your right drug and dosage) but when they start working, you will be free again. You will be free and life will be beautiful once again. 

Depression doesn't want to kill you. 
It does, it really wants you to kill yourself. It is conniving, clever and constant. It wants to take my life and it's not particularly subtle about it. So if those thoughts creep or explode into your mind you need to talk to someone. I know that you may not think you have that person, whether they be a parent, a teacher, a friend or a lover but you do. Someone out there cares for you more than you will ever know. 

If you smile you cannot be depressed.
If you met me on on the street I'm not sure whether you would know I was depressed. I can laugh, I can smile, I can offer occasional witty repartee. Do you want to know the secret. I'm a very good liar. I think we probably all are. I can fake happiness incredibly well. I've tried to explain how depression feels for me before. The best I can come up with is it feels like you are in a thick fog and everything is concealed and mysterious. It feels like it has become part of you. Everything takes longer. Your brain is able to confuse itself and is consistently befuddled. The energy you once had has gone because you are trying to push against a fog which feels like it is thick enough to be cut. For me it was (and still is) the fact I cannot be a proper helpful member of society which saddens me the most. I don't want to be at home all day. I hate it. 

Finally this is the important bit.

One of the best things about me starting to write again is the fact I can talk about these issues and let you know talking is important. I started off talking incredibly slowly, in anonymity, revealing these incredibly personal feelings. I really do understand that so many of you can't. I didn't tell anyone close to me for a long time.

Trust someone, there is always someone.

And remember, "the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Never be afraid to talk to someone, whether that be your family, friends, GP or perhaps the Samaritans. You are worth it.

Want to know my truth (or perhaps a dirty not-so secret). I write this as I'm almost certain I will take my own life this year. It almost seems inevitable at this point but I will continue to engage with all the help I'm being offered because maybe there is another way out. Why can I not accept my own advice.

*I think I need to watch the second series of Hannibal.


  1. I'm trying to think of something profound to say and failing so instead, welcome back! And re: the above, LIKE.

  2. Anything I write is going to come across as trite but I wanted you to know that I'm here and I'm listening. x

  3. Thank you Anna. These words are so important, and so beautifully put. As someone who has struggled with this in the past, it is hugely heartening and strengthening to see people brave enough to put it into words. xxx