Wherever you go, whatever you do this week, you will most likely come across the fact that it is mental health awareness week (8th-14th May 2017).
With 1 in 4 of us in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year and resources being pulled from mental health services year after year, having access to the provision of appropriate help and support is, shall we say, difficult to find and even more so to sustain.
The more we, as a whole community, kick up a stink about the lack of funding and lack of services available to help us in our time of need, the more (hopefully) this important message will be driven home.
All too often people are too scared to ask for help, too afraid to be seen as ‘weak’ or a ‘failure’. Others who have no understanding of what it’s like to suffer with mental health issues, ridicule and undermine us at every opportunity. I think the only way this ever has a chance of changing is to proactively talk about mental health more openly, to raise awareness of just how many of us are affected, directly or indirectly.
I myself need to overcome this fear, but to be honest I have been too scared, put off by people’s reactions on the whole. I have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and complex post traumatic stress disorder. I also have several other issues that are undiagnosed but for which I know I fit the criteria. My problem is the reactions I received on telling a very select few people what my diagnoses were when I first found out, have dissuaded me from opening up to other people.
Firstly, I can’t blame them for not knowing much about either of my diagnoses. I admit I had no clue what they were or what they meant. I was met mostly with a big fat nothing, which I suppose in the grand scheme of things was because those they did not know anything about bpd or c-ptsd. Friends asked how they could help, but soon proved unwilling to understand my requests for reassurance, my need to stick to the plans we made to spend time together, my perceived need for their calming company and the safe feeling of their hugs. Rather than try to understand my reasons for needing these things, they instead put stipulations on every interaction and effectively left me feeling the sting of rejection as they washed their hands of wanting any knowledge of my struggles with mental health or pretended they cared, whilst fading into the background.
When I reached out to my grandmother I was asked if I was violent and do I have split personalities. She has based her views on what she think she knows from the media rather than what I was actually trying to explain to her in person. She still has made no effort to understand what I am trying to deal with on a daily basis. This level of ignorance is not uncommon unfortunately, but it does not prepare you for the shame you feel when people automatically decide you are dangerous and pigeon hole you, unfairly, because of their lack of understanding and unwillingness to educate themselves on a subject that still seems so taboo to so many people. I could not have been more embarrassed and hurt at the same time when my own grandmother assumed I was violent just through me telling her the name of my diagnosis.
I’m not an angry or violent person. Yet I have many reasons to be angry. I try to avoid conflict at all costs. If I get angry at all, it is at myself. I inflict damage upon myself, not other people. I’m not a nasty person. I’m probably one of the kindest people you might meet. That’s my problem, I’m oversensitive! I’m always told I am too nice. Can a person even be too nice?? I think they probably mean a pushover, doormat, naive etc! I worry about everyone else’s feelings and needs and go out of my way, at all times, to try and make others happy, even when this is detrimental to my own happiness.
I would say the vast majority of my fellow borderliners are some of the most empathetic people I’ve ever come across. We need continued support and understanding from the wider community though, in order for us to embrace the fact that dealing with mental health issues is nothing to be ashamed of. Problems with mental health can happen to anyone. It does not discriminate. It can happen at any time.
The reaction I received from people close to me and the conversations I overhear in daily life, from people I know, from colleagues at work, can sometimes be sickening to hear. It has, at times, made me wish I had not disclosed my diagnosis to anyone. But on days when I feel strong, I’m glad that those people have shown their true colours. In a way, I feel it justifies the invalidation I feel constantly because no one seems willing to try and understand me.
I know I need to overcome this hurdle by feeling less ashamed of struggling with my own mental health. I think the problem is, it’s a big step to admit to anyone you are struggling, but to assume that everyone will take it badly is doing a lot of people a disservice. There are many kind souls out there who would not turn you away and would not make you feel belittled or weak for asking for help. We need to continue to talk about mental health for us all to find each other and give each other the love and support we so genuinely deserve.
If anyone reading this can relate and needs someone to talk to, please don’t feel alone there are plenty of us here who will always listen to you without judging you.
Love & peace