“You have anxiety? But you look fine. I don’t think you have it”
That’s what I heard yesterday as someone looked over my medical form.
Good job I left out ‘depression’ or who knows what they would have said!
“Oh is that why you dyed your hair black?”
“You’re not crying”
“You don’t look sad”
“You should just try and be happy”
Are just a few of the dumb things I’ve heard over the years…
People, listen up. It’s 2019. Here are some stats:
- Depression is the leading mental health problem worldwide, followed by anxiety.
- 1 in 4 adults in the UK have a mental health problem
- 1 in 6 adults worldwide. (ref)
- More than 16million Americans suffer from depression (ref)
How do mental health problems start? Is there always a reason?
Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. WebMD
Sometimes, the cause of depression or anxiety is unknown or unclear to us. Sometimes, it’s painfully obvious. It could be loss of a loved one, abuse (mental or physical), losing a job or something else. It could be increased stress from work, University or parenting. The list goes on. Sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance, sometimes it’s a combination of factors.
Whatever the reason is does not invalidate a person’s feelings or experiences.
It’s 2019. Wake up. You cannot go around telling people
“You have nothing to be sad / stressed / worried about”
“You should just try and be happy”
“You don’t know how lucky you are”
You just can’t.
It makes you ignorant, uneducated and unkind.
Many people assume that having a child is the best thing in the world. In my opinion, I think it must be too. However, why do mothers suffer from postpartum depression? Well, isn’t it obvious? What could be more challenging than bringing a tiny little life into this world? No sleep, constant crying, nappies, sick everywhere, not knowing if you’re doing the right or wrong thing. Arguments over who’s turn it is to feed / run to the shops / change the nappies, etc, etc. I wouldn’t know. I’m not a mother. But I can only imagine how difficult it must be.
I’m sure it’s rewarding too, I have no doubt about that, but I can also completely understand why postpartum depression occurs. The last thing these mothers need is people telling them that they should be grateful / happier / less selfish / get their shit together when they probably feel like the world is caving in on them.
People who suffer from abusive relationships. Whether it’s inflicted by a family member or a partner, whether it’s a single attack by a strange, it doesn’t change the fact that abuse has taken place. An abusive relationship, or attack, completely messes up your brain, your emotions and especially your body.
Those cold sweats in the middle of the night. Hot flushes. The unbelievable fear you feel that someone is going to attack you again. The near-heart attack you get when the door bell rings or you hear a car pull up outside your house. When someone comes in to wake you up in the morning and you think you’re about to be murdered. The shakes that don’t stop. The inability to think, eat, sleep, walk, talk, stop crying, move on, get over it, work through it. The inability to function normally because you have no idea what the hell happened to you.
Sure, some people may seem fine on the outside. Some people may truly, amazingly work through their situations and live a better, healthier life. Some people may undergo hours, months, years of therapy before they even start to feel an ounce better, and some people may never fully live a ‘normal’ life again.
Who are you to judge?
If someone tells you they have depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia or anything else. Don’t you dare undermine it. Don’t you dare come out with some ignorant asshole comment about how they should get over it or be grateful for the life they have. You probably have absolutely no idea what they are dealing with, or have been through in their lives. Especially if you don’t know this person inside and out and like the back of your hand.
There’s some brutal honesty coming up right here guys.
(First my health blog, now this.)
Exactly five years ago I found myself in the middle of a physically and emotionally abusive relationship and there was only two of us who knew about it. Although it was probably only me, as according to him he never did anything wrong.
Before writing this post, I’m guessing only 20 or so people have heard about this situation. And now, here I am exposing myself completely.
This started with abusive text messages when I took longer than 5 minutes to reply, despite me going to university, working 3 part-time jobs and actually having a social life. I was a slut, a whore, a cheat, a liar, an idiot… and a million other things. My phone would blow up.
One night, I fell asleep, a surprise? well, I was jolted awake by a banging on my front door, despite their being a security door to the apartment some complete moron had clearly let him in. That’s right. He had walked all the way from the other side of town because I hadn’t answered his last text message. The second I opened the door he pushed me back into the apartment and had me pushed up against the wall. Off the god damn ground. Both hands around my throat. Demanding an explanation. Who was in my apartment? Who was I sleeping with? Where was he?
He then announced he was staying the night to make sure this ‘he’ didn’t come back. I didn’t know what to do. What could I do? I know what you’re thinking. Call the police. Call your mum. Call anyone!
I locked myself in the toilet, which soon become my favourite place because it was the only door with a lock. He was knocking on the door, pretending to cry and feign these pathetic apologies.
If I was any higher than the second floor I would’ve jumped out of the window there and then. I text my friend and told her what had happened and her response was:
“I’m sure it won’t happen again. Be careful”
What followed was much of the same. I was punched in the face, thrown (I’m not exaggerating) across my kitchen, hit, punched, strangled, for any reason at all. I wouldn’t cook dinner. I laughed at his stupid xbox game. I wouldn’t give him my phone. I wouldn’t give him keys to my apartment. I wouldn’t let him drive my car. I wouldn’t give him money.
It didn’t matter what it was, if he found an excuse to lash out – he would.
This excuse of a human was so full of anger and hate, and he was a fair size too, so each blow really, seriously hurt.
So, I know what you’re thinking.
Why the hell didn’t I do something?
Well, by the time it hit April 2013, I’d had four car tires slashed, a ‘boyfriend’ who sat outside my house ‘stalking me’, someone who made up stories to my boss, someone who checked my phone, stole from me, hid things around my house, cheated, threatened my mum, threatened any one I spoke to. He sat outside my work, watching me. He broke my things, put things in the oven, like precious keepsakes.
I was trapped.
Looking back on those 6-10 months makes me feel sick to my stomach. I’m still embarrassed that I ever let it happen to myself. I feel stupid, pathetic, useless and I can’t. stop. shaking.
This happened 5 years ago and just thinking about it in this much detail makes me shake like a leaf, even after a full breakfast without coffee.
What happened next?
Well, after finally calling the police, he denied everything of course. They didn’t believe me and when I finally had messages from him saying ‘You deserved it all anyway’ and ‘if you weren’t so useless you wouldn’t have got hit’ the police said ‘We’ve arranged a meeting next week, there’s nothing more we can do until then’.
I gave up. The police were useless. They clearly had no interest in helping me and that ladies and gents is exactly why people in situations like mine, and worse, do not report it. Because you’re made to feel like a liar, attention-seeker, drama queen. So people suffer in silence because there’s no one else to turn to.
“You dumped him. Surely you can just move on now, right?”
What I have endured in the years following that relationship have, at times, been worse than the relationship itself. I became, there’s no other word for it, fucked up.
I jumped into a new relationship and ruined us both (not going into those details) and it prevented me from dealing with the issues from the abuse. I didn’t feel like I was struggling. I couldn’t see the problems that were bubbling up within me.
Until they exploded.
I couldn’t eat, sleep, think, talk, move, function.
I couldn’t do anything normal.
I spent hours and hours crying in my bed, refusing to eat or do anything other than go to the toilet before crawling back under the covers.
I went to Sheffield to do my Master’s degree and I drank away my feelings and my problems. Throwing myself into as many part time jobs as I could find. Studying for hours before going out and getting drunk. I thought I was coping then, until I wasn’t.
I went on a date one night and when it didn’t go too well, I ended up outside a pub crying hysterically, to the point where I threw up. My ‘date’ put me in a taxi and I got out at the bottom of the hill before my house. I thought about jumping over the barriers of the hill, before realizing there wasn’t much of a drop. So after shaking, throwing up, crying and then wanting to jump over the edge of a ‘hill’, I called the Samaritans.
I hung up the first time. The second time I didn’t.
I don’t think I would have done anything stupid that night, but if I was going to, that woman would have saved me. I was on the phone for maybe 20 minutes, 30? And when I finally picked up the keys to the front door I felt an extremely odd sense of calm.
The following morning I called my mum and admitted defeat. I needed to go home.
For an entire year I lay in bed crying, shaking, shouting. I did nothing but eat. I never stopped eating. It was actually shocking, and disgusting. I slept for 16 hours a day or not for 3 days at a time. I was constantly being sick or suffering headaches, back pain, stomach pains. Everything hurt, everything made it worse. I couldn’t face working. I tried to get jobs but lasted a few hours, or a few days. I stopped enjoying everything. I couldn’t read or draw anymore. I watched Netflix for hours and hours at a time.
At this point I’d been on antidepressants for 2 years and towards the third year my mum and I were convinced they were slowly killing me. Around the 8th month of me being at home, my mum helped me slowly come off my medication and by the 13th month of me being at home I kicked myself into gear and finally started to rebuild my life.
Thankfully, it continued to improve from that moment, with only a few little set-backs.
My final point is that you absolutely cannot judge someone by how they seem when they’re standing right in front of you, or by their Instagram photos. Definitely not by their damn internet ‘persona’, because we all know that too many people use them for show.
I feel quite good when I slap on a load of make-up, but god-forbid someone has to see me without it all on.
It’s the same with mental health. I’m not going to pour my heart out to a new colleague, boss or a stranger on the street, but just because I don’t, that doesn’t give them (or anyone else) the right to tell me I don’t have or feel something.
If someone writes ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression’ on a medical form, don’t tell them they don’t have it. Don’t tell them everyone has it. Don’t downplay it. Don’t be an ignorant, uneducated moron. Don’t tell them they seem fine.
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep our heads together some days? Or not cry because a child points out a spot on your face, or tells you you’re fat.
Do you know how hard it is to not scream at the top of your lungs because you feel like the entire world is caving in on you? Or to go out and socialize because you want to make friends, only to turn around at the door of the bar.
Do you know what it’s like to jump at every tiny, little sound? Because your body has wired itself to be on high alert for any sign of potential danger?
I can’t sleep, focus or function with noise anymore. I can’t stand hearing loud voices in apartments around me. I can’t cope with hearing doors slamming or the sound of a cup hitting the sink. The sound of cutlery clinking together or a car horn blaring.
If someone moves too quickly I instantly think they’re aiming for me.
If someone pushes me in a queue or on a bus or train, I go into defense mode and want to react.
People have responded to my ‘over-reaction’ to noise as stupid, pathetic, attention-seeking, made up. I’ve been told to ‘grow up’, ‘get over it’ and ‘get a life’. Well thanks.
So, I don’t have anxiety? I don’t have depression?
and you’re probably wrong about plenty of other people too.
Just because people can, or appear to, live normal lives it doesn’t mean they don’t struggle on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
These issues are real and they’re affecting millions of people worldwide every day. Right now.
Don’t be part of the stigma. Don’t be uneducated.