Mental Health – the stigma, the shame, the secrecy.
It’s not helping anyone.
Not the afflicted person, their family, their children, their friends, the greater world at large. We need to talk openly and candidly with an aim to educate so that everyone, including our children, understand what it means, can identify the signs within themselves if it be the case, but also and importantly, to pave the way for an informed and easy vehicle for recovery and management.
This is something I lacked when I first suffered from panic attacks in my early 20’s.
I would get around 15 panic attacks a day and sleep was virtually non-existent, as they would jolt me awake whilst I was asleep. Not ideal.
I had no idea what was happening to me, and it was only after 2 years of enduring this ongoing mental anguish in secrecy (yep, 2 long years) and some pivotal moments where I didn’t think I could go on, I finally visited my GP and broke down telling her I was convinced I was suffering from a brain tumour. Yes, I actually told her that through streams of tears. She quickly attempted to reassure me that it was anxiety / panic attacks and I would just need some help getting through it. I wasn’t reassured. I was confused and unsure what lay ahead.
It was a long path, and many traditional and alternative therapies later, I started to talk to some close friends. Slowly and with great trepidation for fear of judgement. The moment I started being open about my personal mental health challenges and that of those closest to me, the world started to look that little bit brighter. I got plenty of surprised looks (as though it couldn’t possibly affect you…), but also plenty of yeah, “my sister is”, “my friend is”, “I am” going through a similar thing (insert own issue here).
The fact I am writing this post and sharing my own experiences would have been the most terrifying thing in the world to me 20 odd years ago. But I have worked so hard to get to the other side (though I still do manage it), it would be a disservice not to share my learnings and encourage everyone to talk openly about mental health in an encouraging and positive way without stigma and without judgement. For those of you who feel they need a helping hand, talk to a friend, a sister, a colleague, your GP – someone you trust. Don’t suffer in silence as I did. You don’t need to. There are plenty of treatment options, both conventional and alternative, that can help you through.
Remember that mental health doesn’t discriminate. It can affect your mum, your dad, your sister, your brother, your friends, your extended family, celebrities, the poor, the rich, the person next to you on the tram and countless faces at a football stadium. It can affect anyone, at any time.
Let’s keep the conversation flowing on mental health.
You never know – your kind, encouraging words may just change someone’s world from within.