Concerned Bloggers Association – Mental Health Awareness
August 9, 2012 9 Comments
Something a little different from me today: I’ve joined the fantastic Concerned Bloggers Association whose mission is “to provide direct and accurate information through social media.” Each month we’ll be talking about a different topic of concern – this month happens to be a subject very close to my heart: Mental Health Awareness. What follows is my personal experience and it’s been a little hard to be so frank on here about it so I hope you’ll read with an open mind and heart <3
Everybody’s experience of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder differs, of course, but I bet amongst the forefront of how you’re feeling is alone. Well, you’re not: about 1 in 5 of all people over the age of 18 has a diagnosable mental disorder; 4 of 10 causes for disability in developed countries are due to mental health issues*. And you don’t have to suffer from a disorder to be affected by one: friends, family, colleagues – you’re not alone, either.
I spent many years denying that there could be anything ‘wrong’ with me. I’d seen family be touched by mental illness and was determined that it would never ‘get’ me; at the same time as being shit-scared that it already had. I was too frightened to talk to a doctor for fear of being carted off to an asylum that it wasn’t until a bereavement sparked a major depressive episode that I knew I had to get some help – in the midst of being counseled about my loss it all came out. And I’m so glad it did.
It’s been four years since then and I’ve worked on and off with mental health professionals to really reach an understanding of myself and my condition. I’ve been diagnosed with ‘Cyclothymia’ which most people have never heard of – even spell-check doesn’t recognise it – so I call it ‘bipolar-lite’ as it’s categorised as a milder form of that disorder. Basically, my mood can swing dramatically in the space of a day.. hours.. minutes.. and it’s something I have very little control over. I can be dancing with excitement one moment and primed to hurl myself out of the window the next. It’s an experience.. but one which a concoction of drugs and lots of love and support from family and friends is helping to stabilise.
I have an illness and that’s something, sadly, a lot of people don’t understand – I can no more help it than if I had been born with diabetes. My anti-depressants, mood-stabilisers and therapy are my insulin. I forget that sometimes, too, so it’s hard to be critical of those people who say (and they have, and will) ‘just pull yourself together’ – this is a reminder to those people and myself that it doesn’t work that way. In fact, I tried that way and it nearly ended very, very badly.
If there is someone in your life with a mental health issue – a spouse, parent, child, friend – try to educate yourself about what it is that’s affecting them and what they need from you. What they probably need most from you is patient understanding and a sympathetic ear rather than advice and clichés. Don’t be frightened to talk to someone with mental health issues; don’t pointedly avoid the subject: they are still human beings. And remember to look after yourself, too.. caring for someone with a mental disorder can be exhausting – if you are very close to them get your own support network and make time to recharge.
If you are that person with a mental health issue try to treat yourself with kindness and remember this is not your fault. With the proper care and treatment 70-90% of people with a mental disorder experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life*. Above all remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
*Statistics source: Basic Facts About Mental Health.
This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by the Concerned Bloggers Association. If you would like to become involved, please contact Marleen Vaughan for more information.