I am all about authenticity. I can't stand hypocrisy. Yet I feel quite hypocritical when it comes to one topic: mental health. I'm always retweeting tweets about ending stigma, but I still stigmatise myself. This is probably just because of what I learnt and observed as I grew up, but now I'm aware that there is no reason to continue to stigmatise myself for something that is not my fault. That's something that I am still trying to accept.
I’m done lying about my mental health
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is I am done lying: I have mental health problems. Most people say “I suffer from” and I should probably say that because I really am suffering. But if I'm being honest with myself I still haven't fully accepted this, despite it having been more than 2 years. I have quite severe depression and anxiety. I’ve also had an eating disorder and still have problems with body image. I've been hospitalised a number of times (in an inpatient unit for 3 months in total, as well as in general hospital), which meant I missed a lot of school in an important year: year 11. It was really, really difficult.
I have to endure a million negative thoughts every day, which find their way into my mind in every possible situation. Whether it's waking up or going out with friends, my depression will try to ruin it. It asks me: “Why did you wake up Irum? It would be better if you were dead.” It says: “They don't really like you Irum, no one likes you.” These thoughts are so powerful that sometimes, even when people tell me otherwise, I can’t bring myself to believe them.
Against my will, I am a sponge to any negativity or insults I receive from people, yet I seem to have a shield that prevents any positives or compliments getting in. Even though I laugh or say thank you, inside I can't help but feeling paranoid and ridiculed, as if people are lying when they compliment me. This continues the cycle of self-hatred and mistrust. As I can write this I am clearly aware, but there is a massive difference between awareness and change, and that's probably the hardest part of recovering in my opinion. Your beliefs are so ingrained, it can often take years to challenge them successfully.
People who have mental health problems are not alone: there are others that understand
I'd like to make it clear that I am not writing this for sympathy. I am writing this to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness. No one hides the fact they have diabetes or cancer in the same way people hide their mental illnesses, and in the 21st century, that's not right.
I am writing this for the sake of empathy, so that people that don't experience it get a small insight into what it's like, and so they can spot the signs in themselves or others and get help. I also want others that do live with mental health problems see they are not alone; there are others that understand.
So if you want to comment that mental illness doesn't exist or we're all faking it or telling our stories for sympathy and attention, take your rubbish elsewhere. Just because you can’t see an illness doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The 1 in 4 people that experience mental health problems aren’t faking it. If they want sympathy, why do so many hide it from their friends and family? Mental illnesses are real and like other physical illnesses they can cause a huge amount of suffering. Feeling the need to hide it and deal with stigma on top of that is so difficult and unfair.
Mental illness is one of those things you can't fully comprehend until you experience it, but any decent human being would try. All a lot of us need is some love. Well, that's not all - but it makes a big difference.