For years I didn’t speak about my mental health issues. They began to aﬀect me seriously when I was about 14 years old. School became challenging, I experienced bouts of paralysing depression, I developed a panic disorder and had real trouble with pretty much everything from work and relationships to food, sleep and self worth. I didn’t think I’d make it to 30. It just didn’t seem feasible.
I realised that if I were going to survive and if I wanted to enjoy life, rather than white knuckling it through each day, something would have to change. So I started writing about my issues. Tentatively at ﬁrst and then more freely. It gave me conﬁdence. It helped me to acknowledge my problems, connect with other people and to seek the help and healing tools I needed.
I began to feel capable, empowered and reassured when I started talking openly about my mental health and was met with positive responses but, unfortunately, these didn’t last.
People began to roll their eyes. ‘Not everything needs to be about mental health you know’ ‘not everyone wants to talk about it’ ‘not everyone wants to hear about it’ and sometimes ‘no one cares’.
Talking about my anxiety, my disordered eating, depression and toxic relationships began to feel worse than not talking about it. Those close to me were supportive of the challenges I faced but occasionally, strangers online were critical and accused me of over sharing and attention seeking.
I realised that while it helps to talk, others won’t always want to listen. I write articles, post on my social channels and take part in events and broadcasting projects to promote mental health services, coping strategies and the importance of self care. I’ve never pushed any of my advocacy on others and no one’s forced to read or watch the content I create. So why do I receive negative comments?
Unfortunately, we’re not yet in a place where people feel totally comfortable and natural talking about mental health and equally, we’re not in a place where people are comfortable hearing about it either. Stigma still surrounds the issue and makes it an uncomfortable topic for some to discuss.
That’s why Time To Talk Day matters so much. It’s not enough to learn to talk. We have to learn to listen too.
I don’t talk about my anxiety and depression for attention. I don’t talk about my panic attacks to look cool or edgy. I don’t discuss how diﬃcult my teenage years were so that people will pity me or like my Instagram posts. I do it because it makes me feel better to talk about it and it makes me and other people feel less alone. I do it for the friends I’ve made and communities I’ve built and I do it to help assure young women and girls that despite poor mental health and its eﬀects, they’re normal, they can manage and they’ll be ok.
Time to Talk Day is so much more than a campaign. It’s a reminder that stigma around mental health is rooted in the conversations we have about it. Today I’ll be talking, but I’m also pledging to listen and I hope you will too.