January 9, 2014

RuthInitially I kept my depression secret, with only close family members knowing. I thought it was something I should be ashamed of and I blame the stigma around mental health for this. However, I am now proud to say I have depression and social anxiety because I know the troubles I have had on my journey to get where I am, yet I have still got here with mental health issues. I hope to inspire others with mental health to get out of the dark and be proud, since being honest my life has been much better.

Talking about mental health can be hard

Talking about mental health is something that is very hard for both the speaker and the listener. Awkwardness over comes faces, people don’t know how to react, sometimes people even look at me like I could be contagious. I think it is time people started to wake up to the concept of mental illness and realise the effect it has on people. I have felt ashamed of who I am for too long.

A core reason I believe that I felt ashamed is the way that people use mental health as a way to describe something as bad. I cannot count the times I have heard people say 'They’re just mad' or 'they're acting mental'. Depression is also used as something that can easily be cured, ‘don’t look so depressed’ etc. Recently I had a very restless night contemplating how I could ‘not be so depressed’. It resulted in me not taking my medication and trying to be ‘normal’. But what is normal? I like to think that I am more normal than people who say these comments that have such a lasting effect.

Having social anxiety means that it is very difficult to make and keep friends

Having social anxiety means that it is very difficult to make and keep friends. Often I have been called rude because sometimes I am quiet. I am seen as ignorant and stuck up because I don't always want to go out or dance in front of lots of people. Worst of all people have said that I am weird because I struggle to make eye contact with people. The question I have to all of these people though is, am I the rude one? My illness makes social situations unbelievably hard, sometimes I have panic attacks all day before a big event. So does it make me rude to want to sit and be quiet or perhaps leave early? Or does it not make me brave for going in the first place. I ask people to think before they speak in future, perhaps the person leaving early has a reason. On the other hand, I am now very lucky, I have an excellent group of friends who are very supportive of me, although it has been a very long and painful journey to get here!

I really hope that, one day, the world can be open enough to mental health so as not to shy away from people when they speak about their issues with mental health. I no longer want to have the awful look you get when you mention mental health. Even though to you it might not seem much, try to think before you call someone mad or mental in the future, it could mean a lot to them.

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