The last time I wrote a blog for Time to Change was when I was 19. I’m now 24 and there’s something I need to talk to you about.
Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I started having these feelings when I first went into high school. It all feels like such a long time ago now, but I’ve had time to reflect on the last nine years of my diagnosis.
The first thing I notice is that, suddenly, you become reminiscent of a ticking time bomb. You find that people are walking on eggshells around you because they are afraid that they might say something to upset you. This is okay - not everyone understands, and that’s okay.
From walking on eggshells, you’ll get people asking questions. Again, this is okay. People should be able to ask you questions, if it helps them to empathise and understand what you are going through. One thing that isn’t okay, which I have experienced throughout my diagnosis, is the question of why I feel the way I do.
I asked myself that question a lot when I was first diagnosed. I thought that I was getting these feelings because of my age or because of the stress of school. I thought things would get better in time. After all, I had ‘no reason to feel this way’.
But I soon came to the realisation that this is something I will probably have for the rest of my life, and that’s okay. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a wealth of love and support. I’m lucky to be employed by a company that takes your mental health seriously.
I am a massive advocate of speaking openly and freely about mental health, but the slightest knock-back can have dire consequences. Not everyone in the world is going to be understanding or empathetic about mental health, and a lot of people will be asking you why you feel the way you do and worse; telling you that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do.
The problem with mental health stigmatisation is that often you will be judged based upon your life as it stands. You might have a good upbringing or went to a good school. You might have a huge circle of friends and a wonderful family. Therefore, ‘you have no reason to feel this way’. And they’re right. I don’t have any reason to feel this way. And I don’t need to have any reason to feel this way. I do and I can’t help it.
People will often forget that mental illnesses can be biological - they’re not just based on bad experiences. So actually, in the words of Lady Gaga, I ‘probably’ was born this way.
So, here’s two things you need to know right now:
1. People with mental illness have zero obligation to explain themselves if they’re in a bad way.
2. People with mental illness shouldn’t be judged based on how good they have it in their life.
I had a good upbringing, I went to a good school, I have great friends and a lovely family. I’m also depressed and I’m anxious, and that’s okay.