This subject is extremely close to my heart, not only because I have struggled with my own mental health, but because I’ve seen friends struggle too. Friends who if you knew them, you would never have guessed.
So, how do you fight mental health stigma?
It’s a perplexing process.
The thing with mental health is you don’t necessarily realise it’s declining, you can make excuses for it by brushing it off with thoughts like “I’m just tired” or “I’m just having an off day“.
Before you know it you’ve fallen into the big black hole of depression.
I started to suffer from depression from a very young age, I was roughly around the age of 11 and I know exactly what the trigger was, it was as a result of my parents difficult and painful divorce.
I was torn between two parents that I adored but the divorce was as a result of my mother having a second affair. I’d always been close to my father, and I’m not ashamed to admit to being a bit of a daddy’s girl, even now. But the divorce put so much pressure on our family. As I was the eldest of two children, the courts asked me who my brother and I should live with. How could I make that decision as an 11 year old girl?
It was the early 1990’s, I was about to start high school, but mental health wasn’t spoken of back then, or not that I remember anyway. There wasn’t any awareness classes at school, there wasn’t any media posts on the television or in magazines, there wasn’t any support lines that I recall.
I fell into a stigma of not knowing why I was feeling that way I was, I figured I was just grieving the break up of our family crossed with the jealousy and hurt that I felt of my mother’s new boyfriend, the boyfriend she’d continued a relationship with after breaking my dad’s heart with their affair.
The darkness became darker and darker, the sadness became grief, the grief became depression, the depression engulfed me.
I didn’t know what to do, who to talk to or how to make this better. As I got a few years older, I heard bits about mental health from speaking to people at school.
But I felt ashamed, I worried that society would disapprove, I worried people would think I was crazy, I worried that I’d be locked up in a mental hospital and never see daylight again, I worried that I’d be bullied, I worried that my friends would hate me, I worried that I’d need to see a therapist, I worried that I’d be given medication that meant I would be zombie-like, I worried that I’d never be accepted at college or get a job, I worried I’d be a complete failure. I was stigmatising myself with my own thoughts.
I punished myself for the way I was feeling by not eating and quickly fell into the vicious cycle of having an eating disorder. I starved myself, the pain in my stomach distracted me of the pain in my head.
In my early twenties, I consulted a doctor, he surprised me at how lovely he was about how I was feeling. He put me on anti-depressants and I tried so hard to believe they were working so I carried on taking them for years. But in reality, they weren’t working.
As I continued through my twenties and early thirties I still struggled with my weight, if you’ve read my last post ‘Why doesn’t she just leave? you will already know that I spent most of my adult like in toxic relationships who took advantage of and abused my mental vulnerabilities.
However, upon ending my last relationship 5 years ago, I realised that I was almost 35, my teen years and my twenties had passed me by in a dark grey mist of depression, insomnia and anorexia. I decided I needed proper help.
I went back to my GP, we had an amazing yet emotional conversation, he decided to try me on a new medication, this one would also help me sleep. At this point, I wasn’t holding out much hope that a little brown pill wouldn’t help me, but what did I have to lose?
Let me tell you, it was one of the best things I ever did. I was able to sleep, my mind became clearer, I found I was more confident, I found that I didn’t hate myself anymore. I found that because I was happier, my children were happier In fact, I’d never been happier. .
I’ve spoken to many friends over the last few years who aren’t open to trying medication over the stigma around it. Some are worried they well go through each day sedated, some worry they won’t be able to care for their children, some worry that they will become addicted, some worry they are admitting defeat, some worry they will be seen as weak, some worry medication will make them incompetent at work.
Some people respond really well to talking therapies, counselling, CBT. Some people respond really well to the first medication they try, some people don’t and they have to try several until they find the right one for them. Some people respond really well to a combination of medication and talking therapies. It’s about finding the right treatment for you.
What I have learnt is that depression isn’t a choice, depression isn’t a lifestyle, depression isn’t ‘the blues’. It’s an illness, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.
If we went to the doctors and we were diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, we would take a synthetic vitamin to increase our levels of that specific deficiency.
An anti-depressant is a similar analogy. It’s taken to replace missing chemicals such as Serotonin, Dopamine and Norepinephrine.
If you have a headache would you take a couple of paracetamol? If you broke a bone would you take prescribed painkillers? If you had an infection would you take antibiotics? Why would you deprive yourself of replacing the chemicals missing from your brain?
Mental health is health, mental health is just as important as your physical health, metal health is your well being. Treating your mental health is the first steps to self love and self care.
But in answer to my question ‘how do you fight mental health stigma?‘ my biggest lesson was to stop worrying about what other people would think, what society would think. The only thoughts that mattered were mine.
I love me, do you love you?
Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional, my story is just that, it’s my story. I understand that medication isn’t an option for everyone for various reasons. This blog is relating to the stigma around mental health and treatments only and how I changed my own mindset on it.
I’ve included a few links below of highly recommended self help books, CBT & mindful journals.
https://amzn.to/3AYMwxd – The Only Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Book You’ll Ever Need: 2022 Life-Changing CBT Strategies to Overcome Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, Intrusive Thoughts, and Anger by Andrei Nedelcu
https://amzn.to/3pTPn4n – How to Heal Yourself from Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Scher & Amy B.
https://amzn.to/3RnPh0w – The HappySelf Journal – Grown-Up Edition – For Adults to Develop Positive Habits and Mindfulness Through Journaling
https://amzn.to/3RobA6k – The HappySelf Journal – The Award Winning Daily Journal for Kids Aged 6-12 to Promote Happiness, Develop Positive Habits and Nurture Enquiring Minds
Disclaimer – As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I have not received any free products from Amazon associate.
To be notifiedof updates & new blogs that I share, please subscribe with your email address below.
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly
Leave a Reply