Mental Health Monday: It’s okay not to be okay

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So we all have times where we’re not ourselves, and if you suffer from mental health issues then you’ll know what I mean when I say sometimes it’s okay not to be ok. It has come out in recent news that Demi Lovato was hospitalized due to a relapse in her mental health, and it truly baffles me as to why people felt it was okay to criticize her for this? Mental health isn’t something you can take a tablet to fix it takes years, sometimes lifetimes to be in a good place…and that’s okay because everyone copes in different ways.

I have had my fair share of experiences with mental illness;  Anxiety, depression, paranoia, post-partum psychosis and BPD to name a few. My experiences are completely different from those of my friends and family members that have experienced these conditions, so to people who don’t have any experience with poor mental health (and I mean this in the nicest way), what might have worked for your Aunt Becky’s hairdresser’s niece isn’t going to work for me. You see, this post isn’t just aimed at mums – as humans we are not expected to hold it together every minute of every day, nobody is expecting you to be perfect and that’s okay.

One thing that really grinds my gears on mental health is the stigma surrounding it. Why are people so ashamed and afraid to talk openly about how they are feeling? Having a broken mind is no different to having a broken arm – both take time and care to heal. Of course, in this day and age you still find people saying, “Oh get a grip”, “Mental health isn’t a real illness” or my personal favourite… “Stop attention seeking.” These are always the people that have had no experience of mental illness and I’m super glad life has been peachy keen for them, and I honestly hope they never do experience it.

When I think back to the time my mental health was at it’s worst, I reflect back and look at how far I’ve come. I would be lying if I said I’m completely cured… I still have a hell of a long way to go, but when I look back and remember sitting on the edge of a bridge over the M20, I tell myself it’s okay. I’m only human and some days I’m going to be a mess, some days I’m going to feel worthless but until anyone has walked in my shoes who the hell are they to judge me?

Recently, I discovered a young person quite close to me was suffering with depression and self harming, it broke my heart that they felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about it. When I asked them why they didn’t talk to anyone they replied, “people will think I’m a freak, I have seen how people at school get treated for being like this and I don’t want that,” and I was left speechless. Why do we live in a world where people, even more so young people, can’t talk about their mental well-being in fear of being bullied for it? Why do they feel they can’t discuss it openly or freely without fear of being judged?

So my darlings, don’t ever be ashamed of who you are or what you are going through, you are NEVER alone and you will get through this. You are worth so much more than you feel you are and it’s okay not to be okay.

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Mental Health Monday: Speak Up

Although we may have all spent our teenage years trying desperately to get away from embarrassing parents, parents are a class of people that we will all come across in everyday life. Hopefully, many of you reading this post are parents – mothers or fathers. It’s so important to understand and raise awareness of not only maternal mental health but of parental mental health generally.

Particularly important is raising awareness in our workplaces, because of the progress that has been made towards diversity and equality across this sphere generally – though much still needs to be done. Gender equality is increasing and this progress cannot be undone by a lack of support or awareness of the issues faced by new mothers and fathers, who, of course, make up a significant proportion of our working population.

Work-related stress is something which has affected so many people, so it is increasingly crucial to make sure that parents have no further stress upon returning to work, either by making admissions that they are seeking help for mental health conditions, or by suffering in silence and perhaps struggling in the meantime. Postnatal depression is not normally a topic spoken about widely enough for others to recognise that it can affect both mothers and fathers equally, and potentially adoptive or other kinds of parents as well.

At the moment, postnatal depression is diagnosed in around 1 in 10 mothers (though the actual number affected may be much higher!) and, according to recent NCT research, it also affects 1 in 10 fathers, though it may sometimes be called paternal depression rather than postnatal.

But I truly believe that nobody should have to suffer in silence in fear of a backlash if they do make a public admission of his or her postnatal depression. Encouraging an open dialogue around parental mental health brings us one step closer to ending mental health stigma altogether.

In some respects, the stigma of postnatal depression is more difficult to overcome, as many people can’t even fathom how a happy event such as the birth of a baby can lead to depression, psychosis, PTSD or anxiety as a result. The truth is that there is no logic to mental health conditions, and the expectations we are given to feel a certain way can make us feel inadequate, or undeserving, which can be where it all begins.

So how do we overcome the stigma surrounding mental health concerns? It’s necessary for the proper functioning of society that we’re able to move forward, and we have to raise awareness in order to do just that.

Personally, I believe that we should endeavour to be accommodating in our lives and particularly in our professional careers for new parents, encouraging and helping people to speak up, as they may be fighting battles unknown to the rest of us.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds campaign.