We’re about to go through customs and the back of my neck twinges with a delayed panic at the amount of medication that is in my suitcase. I don’t know how I hadn’t thought about it until I was lugging my case across the airport. Surely all medication need declaring? My Dad, Step-Mum and Step-Sister are two steps in front as my heart tries its hardest to out beat the anxiety medication.
I imagine it all happening the moment after my suitcase slides through the x-ray. The man behind the desk might maintain a static face and brings his shoulder to his ear to speak into his radio. The guard would leave his post and another might join and place his hand upon my shoulder. ‘We just need to talk to you Miss about what we’ve seen in your bag’.
I invested a lot of energy into hiding my mental illness from others
That was three years ago when my anxiety was at its worst. My mind would always overload with panicked scenarios before anything had happened. I was worried enough about breaking the law but the prospect of getting found out by my family was more frightening. I invested a lot of energy into hiding my mental illness from others because I was sure that people would treat me differently because of it. It caused terrible feelings of dishonesty and guilt on top of my low moods. Without that added worry, understanding my mental illness would have been a more bearable journey.
The more we share and talk about mental illness, the more widely understood it will be
Mental illness is as commonly occurring as one in four people in the UK. That’s not something I knew when I was at my lowest. Nobody else seemed to show it so I assumed that no one else felt the same. It was later, when I met a friend who spoke openly about their mental illness, that I began to view my feelings more objectively. Depression and anxiety didn’t hold such the same isolation as they once did. I was determined that one day I would be able to discuss mental illness in the same way that she could. It did feel strange at first and at times I felt vulnerable to be sharing something that had always been a secret. The more time that went on, the easier it became to talk about and the more I understood it. I couldn’t change the way I felt but I could alter how I viewed those feelings. I’m not sure where I’d be now without the confidence she gave me to accept that how I was, was okay. I hope now that by not being ashamed of how I am might help someone else speak openly too.
There will always be people who don’t understand how it feels and that fact can be hard to accept. It might seem easier to give up and not discuss it again. Organisations like Time to Change are so important because they offer that opportunity to speak about mental health without the stigma. The more we share and talk about mental illness, the more widely understood it will be.