September 21, 2012

Girl looking out to seaI have suffered with mental health issues since a younger age that I would like to admit. It was not something I was aware of at the time, of course, but something I figured out with hindsight.

My friends and family know. In fairness, those were easy conversations because they've known me a long time and pretty much all of them have issues too.

My problem is 3-fold, apart from being crazy that is:

1. How to break it to new people, especially those who have never had any contact with people with mental health problems. In my opinion, they're fairly easy to spot after a few minutes of conversation and if that fails the "rabbit in headlights look" is always a good giveaway.

2. Dealing with the problem itself - It's been a long road but I've finally figured out the best way to deal with all my underlying issues. I haven't started just yet but at least the method is now right.

3. Fear 

I'm normally a fairly, ok maybe very, straightforward person. I do my best not to get embarrassed and I am unashamed by pretty much everything. (Those things I am ashamed about I certainly haven't told anyone and I intend on it staying that way.)

I want to be open and honest about my mental health problems because I know that is the only way to change anything and to help people to understand. I get that it is scary for those who don't understand because they've never been there. They assume that if you go slightly nutjob for 5 minutes that eventually the crazed monster inside will take over and you will start shoving pencils up your nose and saying "wibble".

For those of us that have been there, we know that we just want to be normal (whatever that means) and not have to be facing the battle for sanity on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. We also know that sometimes we lose. Whilst we may have coping mechanisms, hopefully healthy ones, which will improve things, there is the delay before it all kicks in where you have no control over it... that's the part that is hard to explain to others.

I've found the best way is just to disappear for a few minutes/hours if necessary

I've found the best way is just to disappear for a few minutes/hours if necessary and if anyone asks just to say "I had a few minutes to myself." Even the normal people get that once in a while and that way no one questions me any further, which brings me back to the fear.

There are a myriad of ways to get out of talking about it, easily enough and whilst mental health is something I consider quite personal what is wrong with saying: "I'm just feeling a bit depressed today"?

If someone was having some big emotional drama and somebody asked them how they were doing there would be no stigma in discussing at least the scant details of what had happened. Why should mental health be any different? The fact is it shouldn't but I refer you again to point 3.

I am scared by how people will look at me

I am scared by how people will look at me. I've seen that look of fear in peoples' eyes and felt them "treading on eggshells" (eugh I hate that phrase but it's the best way to describe it) so as not to set you off.

I am scared that people will treat me differently.

I am scared that it will affect how I am treated at work.

I am a medical student and work in NHS hospitals

Just to add a big dollop of irony to this, or perhaps shame, I am a medical student and work in NHS hospitals. Even during my psych rotation I told no one.

I am scared that the other students will see me as a patient, that the psychiatrists will see me as an uninteresting patient and that the other doctors will see me as someone to turf to psych.

In short I am scared that people will label and devalue me because of something that I am working on but occasionally is beyond my control.

The important thing is that I'm working on it and I've come out of a really terrible year

The important thing is that I'm working on it and I've come out of a really terrible year (in terms of my mental health) and I'm still going.

I'm looking forward to the progress I have yet to make.

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