April 8, 2013

Laura blogs about mental health stigmaMany people would look at me and not realise I have a mental health issue, I’m not a different species or a green spotted monster, the last time I checked I was still human.

I am a 24 year old female, living in Yorkshire and enjoy music, art, reading, films and gaming.

I have severe depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive eating disorder and have self-harm issues and have done since the age of 11.

It’s only 3 years ago that I started medication and started various therapies, until then I had only told one person how much I suffered but didn’t want to seek help. So why did I leave it that long to seek help? Why didn’t I speak out and say I’m not ok? It was plain and simple, I was scared.

I didn't want people to think I was 'crazy' or 'insane'

I was scared of the stigma that surrounds being diagnosed with a mental health issue, I didn’t want people to think I was “crazy, insane, not on this planet” etc. I was also scared of having to tell people that I wasn’t well and having to explain why I needed help. I felt weak, stupid, vulnerable, ashamed and frightened.

Don’t get me wrong it was hard and sometimes it still is but I have a supportive fiancé, family and friends. It was difficult sitting down and saying “you know what I’m not ok, I need help and I’m scared” but it was one of the best things I have ever done, it was like a weight that lifted from my shoulders. Now I choose what and who I tell and how much I tell people. It’s my choice and I no longer feel the need to hide behind closed doors like feeling like an alien not of this world.

With a support structure, I can speak up and ask for help

My depression can fluctuate a lot and sometimes the smallest of triggers can send me into the deepest darkness but now I have the support structure in place I don’t have to suffer like I did. I can speak up and ask for help, a hug, to talk or whatever I feel will help. I have found that work helps a lot. It keeps me distracted from getting lost in my thoughts and keeps me in a routine.

When I’m not working I am an artist. I can express how I feel, no rules, no words needed, just complete freedom to express my emotions and passions.

People shouldn't have to fear discrimination

I’m still a regular human, I just have an invisible illness. I have different ways of coping with everyday stresses and my illness. For too long I kept everything bottled inside, didn’t seek help because I was scared of the stigma but 1 in 4 people have a mental health issue.

I think people shouldn’t have to feel like they have to hide and fear the discrimination or the stigma, I think we should be able to speak about it like we speak about most illness, like the weather or what you watched on TV last night. Don’t suffer in silence, break the stigma and seek the help you deserve!

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