March 27, 2013

Charcoal drawing of a womanI was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and anxiety when I was 14 years old after years of very strange behaviour had gone overlooked but everyone in my life. My parents were both mentally ill and unable to communicate that with anyone, so we were three individuals all struggling in the same house, in our solitary bubbles. How sad and unnecessary that seems.

For many years I lived much as I imagine a closeted homosexual might, “There’s something different about her but we can’t quite figure it out.” There was no way I was going to ‘out’ myself, for then it would be official ‘Merrin is crazy.’ But as time went by I thought surely it’s better that people see that it’s got a name, it’s a medical condition so therefore it’s not my fault I should just tell people and they would accept me, right?!

But the word ‘depressed’ is used in such a flippant way, as many words in our language are these days. It has been watered down to the point that when it is used it is often not taken very seriously.

Even if people do want to understand and push through what seems strange to them there is no logic to depression. If I told people I had diabetes, epilepsy or even cancer then there some point of reference but “oh you can’t get out of bed in the morning!? Well join the club!” “Can’t bring yourself to eat?! What a great way to lose weight!” “I don’t like myself!” “Well who does?”

I can totally understand people’s confusion. Depression makes no sense. On the surface it’s not logical in anyway. So how can we expect people to ‘get’ us when the main problem, is that we don’t ‘get’ ourselves.

Over the last few years high profile performers have come out and shared their struggles with self worth, that even through all that fame and money they can’t always cope with themselves. Let’s hope this continues and that it does make a different to people’s perception of mental illness.

I have a dream that I have a lovely husband, a large group of supportive friends and a career that is both challenging and rewarding and I don’t think has should have to be a pipe dream for me.

Though I have never had verbal or physical taunts I have had many people just give up and put having me in their life in the ‘too hard’ basket. In hope of finding a new me, new start, new life I have relocated many times in my life but of course everywhere I go, there I am.

I don’t know how those with mental health issues can truly integrate into society or what allowances really need to be made. What I do know is: no more running. There is no magic wand and I have to keep dealing with my secret inner life on my own for now, one day at a time and that’s tough.

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