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Mental Health: An Open Letter from Someone Struggling

If there’s just one thing that I have gained from even the worst of my experience, it’s an understanding, or at least an idea of one. My understanding is that I have an illness. That illness effects my life in its entirety; day or night, it’s a part of me. A part of my brain to be specific. If I want to function to a comfortable and happy standard of life, there are steps I need to take and processes I need to go through to help myself. It comes in waves, some days are good, some days are great; and some days I can’t even make it out of my bedroom. And nope, that’s not an exaggeration; sometimes finding the energy to walk the three meters it is from my bed to my shower can seem like I’m preparing myself for a 10 mile run. Does that make me lazy? Does that make me unreliable? Does that make me weak, or crazy? No. It makes me human. It shows that my brain has decided to pump out a little less of some particular chemicals than usual and my energy levels and rewards system have been effected by that.

To me, this seems simple. I feel like the pure simplicity of this should be easily accessible to the majority, but for some reason it isn’t. For some reason, I am supposed to feel a sense of shame when discussing the way these chemicals effect my brain and behaviour. I gather this from widened eyes and furrowed brows when I discuss this topic. The what-an-attention-seeker glares. The mockery, or dismissal, of public coping mechanisms I may use.

Stigma attached to mental health is now at a point where it is effecting people’s jobs, their friendships and most importantly, their recovery. If the majority of society can’t be open to learning some facts about something that is most likely effecting at least one of their friends lives drastically, how can these people ever be able to discuss, find support and try to recover from the illness they have? If they are stuck feeling embarrassed about what’s going on in their brain, how will they be able to get the help they might need or the advice that could save their life? If we really care about the people we know, on-going recovery should be supported. And if that is supported, open discussion of mental health needs to be too. We’re not trying to ‘put a downer’ on your day, we don’t want all of your attention and we don’t think you’re our counsellor; we just need to be able to be honest with the world, so the world can understand us.

I am not struggling with accepting my mental health anymore. I have accepted its role within my life and how to cope with the ups and downs it brings. What I am struggling with is society’s attitude towards mental health. I am struggling with seeing people afraid to discuss their issues. I am struggling with seeing people go undiagnosed because they are afraid they will be labelled as ‘attention-seeking’ or something else. I am struggling with the lack of a willingness to learn that I see in people. I am struggling with constantly seeing people stay quiet; so I’m not anymore. You shouldn’t feel like you have to either.

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