Today I wanted to write to those who support the ones who are fighting. Whether it is depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or any of the many mental health disorders there is much to be learned. So if you are a solid rock by the side of someone who is fighting then I pass on these words of advice to you. I speak from the perspective of a person who has fought the battle and the person who now helps someone else fight it.
Being open about mental health is hard enough when you are doing it to your dog, let alone to your boss or client. But, as my daughter can attest, you spend more time with the people you work with than you do your own kid. And there, for the obvious reasons, is where most people try to keep their mental health a secret.
Here is a question: are those who struggle with mental health disorders (or who have struggled with them) outsiders? A majority of the world may say that they are because stigma is so prevalent around the topic. I looked at my daughter last night though and told her we are the most amazing outsiders there are, the survivors and the fighters of mental health disorders. We can lend a voice to the world and vast perspectives. Together we can open doors and we will!!
With regards to living with anxiety (agoraphobia) and depersonalization/de-realization, every day is an often silent battle, as is the case with the majority of us. I realize that, logically, a five minute walk to the corner shop may not seem as challenging as getting on a bus and travelling into my local village, but please know that, in my eyes, I have just conquered Everest.
People assumed that since I worked in medicine I had an abundance of support, but to be honest I believe I felt more pressure to keep my dark friend hidden. There is even a stigma that exists in the medical field because mental health disorders still come with a lack of understanding and fear. They are not necessarily something you can see with an ultrasound or view under a microscope, so it is that unknown that causes misunderstanding.
Since my depression and mental breakdown, my life has changed. One aspect is how I now see myself and others. Kindness has become an important aspect of life that I now recognize more readily. I have a more complete understanding of myself and the world around me. Being kind is so important. It’s the most powerful way to have a positive impact on people. And it’s readily accessible to all.
As a registered nurse of 17 years I have worked with many patients who had a mental health diagnosis, but had I not looked at their chart I would have never known. I cannot even count on my two hands how many patients I have cared for whom were struggling. The fact of the matter is they are out there and by being silent we close a door that needs to be open.
I started speaking openly about depression and anxiety the moment I realized that sharing my experiences would help others in the same boat. It was important to me that they know that they’re not alone. If I had someone that talked to me when I was a youngster about his or her own encounters with despair, suicidal ideation and worthlessness, I believe I wouldn’t have white-knuckled my way through life, anticipating a tragedy every moment. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself if I’d known I was dealing with a real illness, not something I conjured up.
Thank you doubters and gossipers. You watched me fall and doubted my ability to get back up. Perhaps you talked about me and told people I was crazy. Maybe you think that I should remain silent about my past journeys. I forgive you. Truthfully, I am grateful for your presence in my life. You have taught me that it is okay to be honest and have a strong voice.