I recently pledged to be more open about having a mental illness. In the past I have experienced stigma which I feel has always held me back from being open. However, since writing and sharing my experiences the positive feedback I have received has been overwhelming. I believe that people being more open and raising awareness can contribute to lowering the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and also encourage people to speak out and seek help.
Just because you can’t see a mental illness as you can with a physical condition, doesn't mean it isn't there
Growing up I always felt inferior and intimidated by other people. With age this only got worse however, at first, I was able to hide it well. My feelings of self hatred grew and affected my thoughts and behaviour- I was constantly down, had no motivation to do anything and wanted to withdraw from everyone and everything, but I kept it to myself. It got to the point where I couldn't hide it from anyone, and when I was 20 years old I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I hid it from as many people as I could as I didn't want to feel a burden, and I was aware and had seen the stigma attached to mental illness. As I began to open up, the response I received was mixed. Many people were fully supportive and were there for me when I needed them- whilst a few others didn't understand as they felt I had 'nothing to be depressed about'. Just because you can’t see a mental illness as you can with a physical condition, doesn't mean it isn't there. However, some people seem to believe that as it's in your head you can control it. That couldn't be further from the truth.
I was worried about what people would think of me
After my diagnosis I was put on anti-depressants but was already caught in a downward spiral before they had time to kick in. I had completely lost control of my mind. I would wish to not wake up in the morning and I thought about taking my own life. I kept this to myself as I had seen how people felt suicide was selfish and didn't want people thinking that of me. I was also worried about what people would think of me, worried that I would become an outcast in my friendship group. During the worst stages of my illness I attempted to take my own life three times. I was even named an attention seeker, one of the worst stigmas I feel that there is.
My family were always there if I simply needed someone to talk to
One of my saviours turned out to be simply opening up to people. As well as being on medication, I began seeing a therapist, and opened up to my family and friends. Although they may not have fully understood my illness they were always there if I simply needed someone to talk to or someone to distract me. Speaking out about my illness has been one of the most helpful things I have ever done for myself, and I hope other people with mental health issues can gain the courage to do the same.