So here we are. I read something the other day that spoke about how having a mental health illness had become the “in thing”. How it had become fashionable to be mentally unwell and talk about “making it through the battle”. Actually I really couldn’t disagree more. I think it is that now people actually talk about being mentally unwell more. We actually don’t talk about it in hushed tones so much. We don’t say “they were a bit depressed you know”, whilst looking around to see who might of heard. We say “they have depression”.
We know more now about the many mental health illnesses that are out there. To talk about people actually having a negative impact for speaking about their mental health experiences just seems barbaric to me. Yes, feeling down is not the same as being depressed. Being a worrier is not the same as having anxiety. Having mood swings doesn’t mean your bipolar. But as someone who has postnatal depression and anxiety, I cannot even begin to imagine why someone would suggest that people want to have a mental health illness. Why someone would feel people find it cool and trendy? And how anything negative can come from people sharing their stories.
I still have intrusive thoughts sometimes. 18 months on. Can you imagine having thoughts of harming your own child? Your child who you loved more than anything. Your child that you would do anything to protect. Can you imagine having images of them being hurt just pop into your head? Can you imagine making a cup of tea and being terrified they would get burnt, even when they were in the next room? Intrusive thoughts are normal for parents. They are normal for everyone. But what’s not “normal” is having them in your head every single day, all day. You’re not ok if you plan how to kill yourself on a daily basis. You’re not ok if you refuse to put your child down, forever, because you think if you do they will die. I would not wish a mental health illness on anyone.
People talk about it being a journey because it is. Least for me it is. Setbacks and good and bad days. Triggers and overwhelming moments, when you think; “can I really do this?” To be in a constant battle (yes I said battle too) with yourself, with your mind and how your feeling is exhausting in every way. When you find some positive, when you feel just that little bit better, when you find yourself in recovery, why not share your story? Shout it from the bloody rooftops. After I shared my story for the first time on social media, so many people messaged me. People I’d never met, old friends, school friends from years ago. They spoke to me about their experiences and suddenly that very lonely, isolating time becomes just that little bit less lonely. That little bit less frightening.
How can that not be good? How can talking about what we are or have been through not be good?
Yes I know, talking about something isn’t going to change everything. We still do not have enough inpatient beds. Mental health nurses are overworked, understaffed and at times unappreciated. Sometimes you might be on a waiting list for 2 years to get help. GPs still don’t know what to do sometimes when you go to them for help. I know this. I am not completely naive. All this, yeah, it’s crap. But that doesn’t mean we shut up about mental health. It doesn’t mean that talking isn’t beneficial. It doesn’t mean posting a cheesy “uplifting” quote on instagram is stupid. Because actually I believe talking about is helping the change. Because more people are signing up to donate to organisations like Mind and Rethink. More people are becoming volunteers in hospitals. The government are starting to take notice. Because we’re loud. We’re talking. We’re making noise and we’re making a fuss. The NHS needs more money to create more beds. More mother and baby units. To employ more mental health specialists. To allow more employers and employees to go on courses regarding mental health. We need it for more nurses. We need it for more facilities in rural areas. We need it for transport for those who can’t get places. We need more housing, because 75% of those who are homeless will suffer with an mental health illness at some point. In fact, 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health illness at some point in our lives. We have so much more to do, so many ways we need to improve.
So write to your local MP. Donate to organisations when you can. Volunteer in your spare time. But don’t stop talking. Don’t stop sharing your experiences. I won’t. And I don’t think anyone else should either.
Stay tuned for another one.
Love, Kate. X