I had tried to broach the subject of my mental health issues, specifically major depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, once or twice with my closest friend. The nearest I came was mentioning that I was taking part in talking therapy to deal with stress. I remember her nodding, agreeing that she too suffered from stress over college examinations and that was the end of the matter. I had gone into the discussion sure of what I wanted to say but, when the moment arrived, my confidence faltered.
The next time I spoke to her about my mental health was from a phone in an acute psychiatric ward, following a breakdown during my first weeks at university. Though my mind is a haze, I remember hysterically crying, apologising for burdening her with the knowledge that I was in hospital and the enormous guilt I felt for revealing my dark secret. The conversation didn't last long. I imagine I was unintelligible.
She was taken aback by my situation, unaware that I had been suffering for the past four years
Two days later, she rang the hospital and we spent what felt like forever on the phone. First discussing my situation and my mental health history but the best part of the conversation was the support and love she conveyed to me in the time that I needed it most. After that, we spoke every other day and she eventually encouraged me to talk to my other best friend about my problems. She was taken aback by my situation, unaware that I had been suffering for the past four years. She too, was more supportive than I could have dreamed.
After leaving hospital, and after further recuperation at home, they visited me. I felt that my health had once again become taboo, my friends were unsure whether the subject was off limits. But over the following months, as I became more open and began to finally answer the question 'how have you been doing?' truthfully, the subject suddenly became normalised and I felt the immense pressure to hide this part of myself, lifted.
Being open and honest with them has changed my life
I have now realised that had I previously confided in my friends, they would have supported me and been just as compassionate. I should have had more faith in two such wonderful people and known that they would not have turned me away. Being open and honest with them has changed my life and I am forever grateful to them.
I would advise anyone who is suffering from mental health problems to confide in those close to them - as frightening a prospect as it seems, the benefits greatly outweigh any drawbacks. I would also encourage anyone who thinks they know someone suffering from mental ill health, to reach out to them and offer your support. The perceived stigma and fear can hold someone back from revealing that they are suffering. You could do the greatest thing for them, simply by lending them an ear.