I made a pledge this week. After book club we were asked to make a pledge for Mental Health Awareness month about what we could do to help break the taboo around people with these issues. This was an easy one for me; I pledge to challenge stereotypes. Too often people assume that anyone with a mental health problem is a monster or a crazy person – wild hair and clothes inside out and muttering away to the voices in their heads.
And some people are like that but most of us aren’t. Me for example, I have held down jobs for the 25 years I’ve been eligible to work with a 5 year gap to be a stay at home mother. I have a good well paid job where I spend a lot of time coaching and mentoring people. Yet I have a mental health condition. I am what someone once called a functioning depressive. I’ve been depressed since my late teens with 2 breakdowns to my name. It’s been 5 years since the death of my grandmother who was as much a mother figure to me as my own mum. The rock in my life. I hate Easter for this reason and have spent most of this week trying to get through my work and not burst into tears at any given moment. Most of the time I am quite a happy individual these days, I know my triggers and how to work to minimise the doom and gloom that I can now see coming. But not at this time of year. I try and go away or spend time with people but this is one that can only be ridden like a wave and hope that I come into shore safely afterwards
But try telling this to people with the assumptions of craziness. People with Mental Health issues aren’t crazy – they may be depressed, have eating disorders, ADHD, all manner of things that make them that tiny bit different but many of us can function perfectly well and put our clothes on the right way round well some days I can anyway!). I’m scatter brained and easily panicked but I don’t wear my issues on the outside for the world to see.
Mental Health problems are one of the last taboos to be broken. Ask someone for their definition and then say to people – do you see me that way? And they say no and look confused.
But yet this is what you have just described as me. I have a Mental Health issue.
No no no no no they say there’s nothing wrong with you.
Or they’ll try and make jokes, confusion very clear in their face. You don’t fit the monster they’ve been brought up to believe in. You don’t look like the scary woman with the Einstein copy cat hair. You’re always laughing and joking.
But so is the clown that is dying inside….
If you only do one thing this week, make a pledge of your own. My friends pledge was simply to laugh more. It might simply be to try and be more aware of you friends and family and colleagues and paying attention to the little body signals that they are giving off. Maybe they need a hug or someone to make them laugh and just take them out of themselves for a few moments. Sometimes the smallest actions mean the most.
Make a pledge…..