Recently, someone made a comment about how I shouldn’t discuss or write about my mental health because, in their words, as someone who can work and attend university, my mental health struggles clearly aren’t that severe. It is their belief that I must not suffer as I’m able to go about my life. This mentality is toxic and, quite frankly, dangerous. I don’t just suffer from bouts where my mental health deteriorates. I have a mental illness. They are not one in the same.
IS MY MENTAL ILLNESS VALID?
There seems to be this belief that our mental illnesses and periods of low mental health are competitions. There has to be a winner, someone who struggles much more than everyone else. It’s a competition that I want no part of. My illness is personal to me. No one else knows the full extent of the journey I’ve been on to get to where I am today except for me. The same goes for all of you. Everything we experience, from our illnesses and our trauma, are our experiences and cannot be compared. It is wholly unfair to tell someone that what they’ve been through is not as valid as somebody else.
What you see, especially on social media, is not always a reality. People wear masks. Nobody owes anyone else an explanation. So that person you think has it all together because they work full time might be experiencing suicidal thoughts that you may never know about. That person attending university who always has a smile on their face might have hurt themselves the night before. Just because you can’t see their illness or trauma written on their faces doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Six years ago I couldn’t make eye contact with people. Despite working in a call centre I couldn’t make or take phone calls – and let me tell you it was hard. I suffered from multiple panic attacks daily, had an eating disorder no one knew about, and was being subjected to emotional abuse and trauma. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been left so consumed with anxiety that I’ve been unable to leave the house. Or the amount of panic attacks I’ve had in the bathroom at work, yet dried my eyes and walked back to my desk as though nothing had happened. Yes, I’m at a place where I’m functioning better, but that’s not a synonym for cured. I still have a mental illness and my mental illness is just as valid as anyone else’s.
WHY DO I TALK ABOUT MY MENTAL HEALTH?
It’s cathartic. As someone who has been repeatedly denied access to mental health services because the therapy I require is only available privately, writing about my mental health through this blog has been a form of therapy. There are some posts I’ve written that I’ve never been able to publish (maybe one day) that made me feel lighter after writing them.
The second reason I write about my mental health is because I’ve had, in the past, messages from people telling me that they’ve related and connected to my posts. I’m a firm believe that the more we speak up about the importance of looking after our mental health, and raising awareness for mental illnesses, the less stigma there will be. It’ll become a topic that is a normal part of conversations. When people tell me they’ve related to my post or it’s taught them something they didn’t know, I feel like that’s my very little contribution towards reducing stigma.
Even if no one reads my blog or Twitter posts, I’m still going to write them. I’m still going to share stories about my own mental illness and posts about general mental health. I’ll be doing it because, first and foremost, I’m writing for myself. I don’t expect anyone else to read them – it’s a bonus if you do. But I do hope that someone might come across my blog at the right time in their life. Perhaps it sounds stupid to you but this is the legacy I want to leave.