May 11, 2016

I wonder how much stigma is all in our minds.

I say that with love, because I know how mental illness can make us think the worst of every situation. Goodness knows, I’m guilty of that.

But after months and months of depression – depression that had encompassed hospital admissions, severe self-harm and four significant suicide attempts – I decided to come clean.

I’d spent 18 months taking my children to school and standing on my own in the most distant corner of the playground, too unwell to even contemplate talking to anyone.

I had been hospitalised four times after attempting to end my life, and needed treatment many more times for my self-inflicted wounds.

I was so, so ashamed.

I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to come clean. A few very near and dear friends knew how I was feeling, and had been amazingly, unfailingly supportive, even turning up to hold my hand in hospital – but to the wider world, I was still under wraps.

But I’d been blogging my way through mental illness, and for some reason, one day, I decided I’d had enough of trying to hide my depression. I posted a link to my blog on Facebook.

I went to bed as soon as I’d shared the link, afraid to see what the fallout would be. But when I checked in the following morning, I had 75 comments on my post.

Some of them were commending my honesty and bravery (not that I felt brave). Some were confessing that they were struggling with mental health problems too. Every single one of them was positive.

That didn’t seem a lot like stigma to me.

Since I opened up about my illness, the vast majority of people have been so very kind. I’ve had messages of support, offers to meet up for coffee and cake, unexpected gifts to try to put a smile on my face.

It has made depression so much easier to bear.

It’s also helped immensely to know that even if people don’t understand completely, they at least know why I am the way I am. I’ve struggled enormously with the thought that people must think that I’m aloof, stuck up, rude; now they know that it’s not that I don’t want to talk to them, or to join in with nights out, but because I can’t.

Over the past month or so, I’ve felt a lot better than I have for a long time. I can’t say it’s entirely because I spoke out about being unwell; I think a change of medication can claim most of the credit. But putting down the burden of secrecy, and receiving so much support and encouragement from so many people, has most certainly played a part.

I realise now that I wasn’t keeping quiet about my depression because I thought people would judge me, but because I was judging myself. I was ashamed to admit to being unwell.

Maybe when we can stop stigmatising ourselves, we’ll discover that actually, the world is more sympathetic to mental illness than we ever realised. I hope that one day everyone will have such understanding towards people with mental health problems, as I now know the impact it can have. 

What did you think of the issues in Lucy's blog? Tell us in the comments: 

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

Depression

Hi my name is Natasha and I have depression and I have suiadal thoughts And self harm myself need to talk to someone that understands what I'm going through

Support

Hi Natasha, I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling. it sounds like you're going through a really tough time. There are some links on our website that might be of use: http://bit.ly/1SzXo4B - and you can always call the Samaritans on 116 123. Have you discussed your mental health with your GP recently? Take care of yourself, Tim at Time to Change

Really well done for this

Really well done for this Lucy - I agree that a lot of stigma comes from our own sense of self worth. So glad you're feeling better, your story shows we can fight mental illness as a community.

hi

hello. Im jessica, and i too have dealt with depression. I have found with my joinery, that it helps so much to talk to people who have the same struggles you have, because it makes you feel not alone, and it sort of makes you feel normal. And that it is okay to talk about. At first I kept it all in, because I've never heard of someone my age (15) having depression. I just thought I was in a stage of sadness. But reading about it, talking to my parents, getting a therapist, I learned I was dealing with depression. So I started reading about it, and then finally talking to people about it. And it helps so much! Good luck on the rest of your journey!

Well Written

When I came out about my illness I face more positive feedback then negative. I found out that many people are also suffering with this awful illness. I started my blog, Finding The Light, to inspire, teach and reach out to others who are I'll and those who are not. It's our job to show others we are not alone and to teach others. Excellent post!!

I m also dealing with

I m also dealing with depression nd now it's ruining my health. I just can't be happy. I want to live a normal life nd forget all about the past but I can't nd its getting worse day by day (sorry for my english)

What did you think of this blog? Tell us in the comments