October 19, 2011

Amy - Time to Change bloggerHello.

My name is Amy. I'm 22 years old. I have red hair. I have a great Family. I love films. I love cake and I have a mental illness.

Mental illness to me is just a small part of who I am. It is no longer something I fight, but something I live with and accept. Mental illness comes with a strong stigma, and people are too quick to judge people just from those two words.

We almost take a step back from someone that has a mental illness because “we can’t understand it” or “we can’t relate to it” so it becomes scary instead. I always think people do this because we can’t physically see it; it’s not like having a broken bone which we can clearly see and understand.

The funny thing is, we can all relate to it! How many times have you left the house, locked the door, but you still spend the day thinking that maybe it’s open? How many times have you imagined a really bad scenario in your head about something - a meeting or a date? You pictured the worst in your head and got in a panic about it and then it actually turned out fine. How many times have you been so down that you can’t get out of bed one day? We all go through these experiences, just some of us have them daily. If we really look at the stigmas that we associate with mental health, we would actually see that we can all relate to them. They’re not so scary for us now right? However, what about the people that have them all the time? What about the people that can’t live their lives because of it?

I was 15 when I was told I had severe OCD. I had 6 months off school, probably at the most important time, when being cool was actually cool. When makeup and straight hair was the be all and end all and boys became more than just idiots.  When you discovered your dad's liquor cupboard and when exams took over. I had never been taught about mental illness it was just something that separated you from being normal, or so I thought. Over the next few years, a lot of people I came across treated me as if I wasn’t capable of much and I lost some friends because I became “weird”. Boys?  Well I had ginger hair and a mental Illness so I wasn’t really the talk of the boys' changing room.

Then I met my lovely and brilliant Doctor. He helped me mould my illness into something that is just a small part of who I am. He made me accept that it’s just something you have to live with and gain control over. He made me see it as magical and quirky. It was like I had a little world of my own. I know it sounds cheesy but he gave me the chance to talk about it and he understood it.

“Why wouldn’t you swill your glass 3 times?” He used to say. We laughed about it and he spent time teaching me how to change it into something useful.  How to cope with the tough times it brought. He gave me a lot of time - a few years to be precise.

Today, you wouldn’t even know there was a time when I couldn’t get on a bus, I couldn’t eat out, and I couldn’t go to sleep before 3am without doing routines. I now live in London with 3 girls, some rather messy, but I eat out, I work and I’m having fun. I speak openly about my mental health problem and the more I learnt to accept it, the more I realised that people around me did too. It’s something we can all talk about. We are allowed to ask questions and it’s ok to not understand, but talking to someone about it really helps.

Time to change is an amazing opportunity for people with and without mental health problems to learn, speak and teach each other about mental health. If you know someone that struggles with a mental illness, don’t be scared to ask questions. Give them your time. I bet they could really do with someone like you, someone to talk to. Someone to listen and someone to let them know it’s OK.

If you struggle yourself, then talk to someone about it. You’ll be surprised at the amount of times you’ll hear them say “I have something a bit like that” or “I sometimes do that.”

I want my story to be one of hope. I live life the way I want to. I have been able to take control and so can you. A little help along the way and the chance to talk about it is half the battle.

Talking makes it less scary.

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.