Mental health issues, they don’t affect people like me. I’m a natural optimist, a giddy kipper who is loud, giggly and excitable.
People like me don’t get depressed. Don’t get anxiety. People like me are ok Jack.
Only it turns out that mental health issues don’t care about optimism or character. They’re not bothered whether you’re old or young, rich or poor, working or at home. They’re not fussed about race, sexuality, ethnicity or gender. Mental health issues strike without prejudice.
When I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression this year, it floored me. For a while I couldn’t accept it, feeling that some mistake had been made. I wasn’t embarrassed, I have many people in my life with a whole host of mental health issues and never judged one of them. I felt compassion for them, I wanted to help them. But I didn’t see myself as the sort of person with depression.
But what is that? What does that person look like? I imagined someone in bed, crying and alone, someone who always looked sad and miserable. A pessimist, someone who saw the glass half empty. I basically imagined Eeyore in human form.
How patronising and judgmental of me. It goes to show that mental health issues need to be spoken about more. I’m a left wing, feminist, socially conscious person who desires to be aware of the struggles of fellow people and who would fight for the freedoms of others. Yet I was holding silly, preconceived ideas of what a person with mental health issues looked like.
Depression takes many forms and has many faces. And it took me having episodes of pure anxiety to recognise it in myself.
It has been terrifying to admit my feelings and one of the toughest things I’ve had to do is to go to the doctors and open up about the scary thoughts and feelings I’ve had. To write about it on this blog and on social media took a lot of courage, but from that I have received nothing but support, compassion and help.
There’s no shame in asking for help and the stigma of mental health issues will only continue whilst we don’t speak out about the reality of it.
For a long time, I thought that mental health issues didn’t affect people like me. Till it did.
On World Mental Health Day, please reach out, learn more, raise awareness and hold out your hand to anyone in your life who is affected.