November 5, 2012

Carol, a Time to Change bloggerI don't really know how long I have suffered with mental health issues, possibly as far back as I can remember. I was only diagnosed in 1984 by a brilliant GP who had taken an interest in my situation because his wife was a specialist in mental health.

This was the first time in my life that someone took my feelings seriously rather than telling me it was all in my head and to grow up. In reflection those people were right, it was all in my head, just not in the way they meant. So, I guess, I experienced discrimination from the very first time I ever told someone that I had had enough of life and just wanted to die.

Initially I was treated as an emotional teenager; that would make me an Emo, right? I was told I was being immature for my age, that I needed to grow up and stop feeling sorry for myself. I decided then that it would be better to put on a front and let everyone think that life was hunky dory. Actually, I was desperately unhappy, unable to understand the destructive feelings that I was experiencing and convinced that the world would be a much better place without me.

the other GP's... asked me what exactly I had got to be depressed about

Aside from the diagnosis in 1984, all the other GP's I approached told me it was all in my head or asked me what exactly I had got to be depressed about. These stigmatising points of view made me even less inclined to be open for fear of being ridiculed. I was referred for counselling once (by the 1984 GP) and that was an experience not to be repeated.

The young man arranged to visit me in my home as I was signed off work and unable to face going out. He turned up wearing his white uniform, I remember thinking of all the jokes about men in white coats coming to carry you off and lock you away.

When he had reduced me to tears he asked me what I was crying for

After finding out some background information about me, he started asking me about my parents, who I love dearly, and then it was as if he was taunting me; asking why I had to have my life approved by them. He then started to point the finger at them as being the cause of my depression. In conclusion, he was tearing apart my childhood and blaming my mum and dad for it. When he had reduced me to tears he asked me what I was crying for and to pull myself together. That was the first and last time I saw him, I refused any further counselling after that.

Over the years I have been ridiculed, taunted, put down and blamed for a character moulded by mental health issues. I have been advised not to tell anyone I have these issues, especially employers as I would never get a job. I have learnt to keep my feelings to myself, which has not always been that easy.

My family still judge me, explaining my quiet, withdrawn behaviour as me 'being away with the fairies'

I still fight with myself over my mental health issues as I can't understand why they dominate my life so much, why I can't just be 'happy’ and ‘normal' like everyone else. My family still judge me, explaining my quiet, withdrawn behaviour as me 'being away with the fairies'!

In fact, since my mum passed last year, I am treated as though I don't exist anymore and this just adds to the torment. Both of my children have blamed me for ruining their childhood by spending so much time locked in my bedroom during severe depressive bouts. I wish I could say that I have my mental health under control but I know that I don't. It still governs my life but I try to get on with it.

How is a person with mental health issues supposed to look?

I believe that the medical profession now respond more positively to mental health issues but it is still not seen as an illness in the sense that, say, diabetes and asthma are. I have been deemed to be 'cured' when I arrive at appointments with brushed hair, smart clothes, clean teeth and a clear diction. How is a person with mental health issues supposed to look? We may be in the 21st century but there is still a stigma attached to having a mental illness. Until this stigma has been removed and the myths about mental illness are busted, people like me will continue to hide behind a smile.

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