Earlier this year I contributed to this BBC article. I was supposed to be on the radio too, but instead, they used another lovely lady who to me, her struggle appeared a lot worse. Now, I know that mental health isn’t a competition and I know how the media works, so my anxiety story didn’t and probably never will make very compelling radio and that’s fine. However, the comments on Newsbeat’s’ Facebook when they posted the article were well, very disheartening.
I’ve talked about before in this post, how sometimes I feel like I don’t have a ‘place’ as a mental health blogger as I’m pretty much recovered (apart from the occasional blip) (see constantly trying to justify myself). It was the comments on Facebook that sparked this.
Maybe she should just try not taking the medication, doesn’t sound like she needs it.
Sounds like she’s wasting valuable NHS time through medication, she should just try being happier.
After comments like this started to be posted and other comments from people close to me about my decision to use medication, I started to regret agreeing to contribute to the article.
Now let me tell you, mental health isn’t always shocking.
I had a wonderful up bringing, a loving family, a holiday every year, access to a good education, there is nothing that I could ever pin point as the demise of my mental health. Yes, high school was stressful and I was bullied for a period of time, but I was anxious before that. There was no major traumatic event during childhood, nothing that would ever shock anyone, but I have still suffered from poor mental health.
My anxiety has never been particularly shocking either. I’ve had panic attacks and physical symptoms that including throwing up, the other end and the shakes but it never went a lot further. I’ve never self-harmed, nor attempted suicide. It doesn’t mean I never had thoughts, but to many, my anxiety would just look like an ‘overly emotional’ girl, something my anxiety for years was passed off as.
The most ‘shocking’ part of my mental health struggle was the period of time where I didn’t really leave the house due to separation anxiety. However, I went to school and worked part time as I knew those places. I managed. Just not in certain situations.
I think this is why I’ve struggled to have it taken seriously for a lot of my life, or I’m told to just try and cheer up. The panic attacks I’ve had in the last year have been about things some may view as dramatic. The one about an assignment I couldn’t quite get right, or the one because I was in a part of town I’d never been in before. The attacks last twenty minutes or so, I calm down, I go to sleep and I wake up the next day and continue on with my life. It’s not shocking, never has been and never will be.
In addition to this, I saw somebody state on Twitter that CBT doesn’t work on more ‘serious’ mental illness. This riled me up as what makes a mental illness more ‘serious’?. There was a time my separation anxiety was extremely serious. I couldn’t leave the house or my mother’s side without thinking she would die. CBT re-trained my brain and the thoughts I had around separation and now, for the most part, I cope. CBT may not work for everybody and their individual needs but it should never be suggested it doesn’t work unless the mental illness isn’t serious.
My mental health not being ‘shocking’ or ‘serious’, however, doesn’t mean I don’t need medication, or that I was ever just going to magically get better. My mental health for a large part of my life defined me, the panic attacks make occasional days hard and just because I don’t have a shocking story to tell doesn’t mean I’m making it up, or undeserving of the help I deserved.
Mental health isn’t always shocking, sometimes people are on medication simply for the fact they struggle with being away from home. I’m not being ‘dramatic’ or ‘overly emotional’. I have suffered from mental illness and continue to, whether Karen the Facebook keyboard warrior deems me to be or not.