There’s no balance with how people treat you once they know you have mental health issues – I hate how that sounds, and I hate using the word mental health. There feels such a taboo with it. But of course there isn’t. There should be no feeling of stigma or the sense of the unmentionable when talking about mental health.
I fully understand mental health is hard to understand. There’s not always physical symptoms or a real way to really diagnose someone with mental health problems. There’s no education on mental health yet we’re always told if we feel unwell with a broken leg to go get a cast at hospital, or had a headache for a few days, we’re encouraged to take paracetamol and sleep it off. If we fall over and graze our knee and blood is pouring, we don’t just simply ignore it. We treat it, make sure it doesn’t get infected and nurse it for a couple of days until the scab does it job and it starts to heal.
Yet with mental health, I have witnessed first hand very rigid views, pitiful looks and some obscure comments. It seems that a broken heart after the end of a relationship is understood and treated so much more than those who are suffering from mental health problems.
In the past two weeks since I got my diagnosis and slowly told those around me, bare in mind only those that I need to or feel I can trust or if I am in a situation where I need to, I have received a various amount of reactions. I want to say everyone tried their best to understand how I was feeling and what I was going through but I don’t think anyone truly did and that’s fine. I don’t think you can fully comprehend depression or anxiety unless you have suffered from it yourself or someone close to you has.
For the most part, the people I have told have had positive reactions. However, I have also had a few weird ones which have made me feel uncomfortable.
Firstly, the reaction and treatment from my parents. This has been the hardest reaction to come to terms with. They must be very old fashioned in their way of thinking because I find it very hard to believe that any parent can honestly sit there and watch their child break down, no matter how old they are, and not want to help them or talk to them about what it is that is troubling them and making them feel this way. I can’t believe that a parent would let their child deal with the situation on their own from calling the doctor, going to the appointment, organising therapy, how can a parent be so ignorant?
I’ll give it to my mum, she has maybe once or twice listened when I have told her something and she did try to comfort me on my original break down. But ever since that break down, she’s in a round about way ignored it. I don’t get a goodnight from her anymore when she goes up to bed, I don’t get asked how my day was, I don’t get asked what I am up to or even really looked at.
As for my Dad, well I fully expected his reaction. He has always been of the stiff upper lip type. He never shows emotions. Me and him struggle to make conversation at the best of times so I didn’t expect any support or words of encouragement for him. But I haven’t even had the odd conversation with him like what we used to have. He hasn’t once asked about my situation. All he seems interested in talking about is how stupid the people who he works with are, or about sports, or complaining about something or other. I feel even more uncomfortable around him than I used to. Last night I went with him to go grab some chips and well, he couldn’t walk ahead of me quick enough! It was obvious he wasn’t comfortable around me nor did he have conversation. It was the longest five minutes of my life.
I don’t think they’ve told my brother about my situation. But then again nor have I. We’ve never been particularly close so I’m not too bothered about telling him.
Having people around you who won’t acknowledge it or talk about it is hard, especially when they’re the ones who should be there for you. They are family. They should care. But maybe that’s why it took me so long to realise I needed help? Maybe it’s because of them and their attitude on mental health that has convinced me for years that it was just a part of who I was and I can’t do anything about it. But there is something I can do. I can talk about it, get help, get tablets, get sorted. Stop the moods, the anxiety, the depression, the emptiness with or without their help.
As well as the those who won’t acknowledge it, I have also had the opposite reaction. I have had the pitiful look thrown upon me on multiple occasions. I know, I know people mean well when they do this look but I hate it. It makes me feel inferior and that I’m on a lower level to them. I don’t need pity, the sorrowful looks, the comments said in a voice with a hint of compassion. I want to be treated like they used to treat me. Say hi to me in cheery voices, rant at me about whatever is going in their life, laugh around me and smile, not sit there and speak softly and carefully. I have depression and anxiety but I am still human. I can still converse. Yes I find it difficult at times and I won’t always be smiley and happy and laughing but being around those who can laugh and have a good time is a good influence and can only help to bring up my spirits. Better than the pity.
I popped into work yesterday to pick up a few things and thankfully I dodged most of them as I really wasn’t in the mood for chatting. However one of them had to serve me and as I approached their till, their face changed to just looking sorrowful. They proceeded to say ‘It’s good to see you out and about.’
It’s not like I have had surgery and been bed bound. I’ve simply been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. But I suppose since my diagnosis I am no longer me, right? I’m no longer capable of being human and doing human things. Yes, sometimes it is so hard to get up and move out of bed, but I’ve felt like that for years, just because it now has a label, it’s odd how people treat you differently. I am also not comfortable with the fact that my manager has informed some of those I work with of my diagnosis. But everyone loves a bit of gossip right. Even as I was walking out of the shop I was told to take care of myself, and then someone else I worked with caught me going out and said the same thing with the same look of pity on her face. I know they only say it to be nice but it doesn’t feel nice to hear. I wanted to be treated and spoken to in the same way that I used to be before I was signed off sick. I want them to cheerily say goodbye, have a good day etc, etc. Not be pitiful.
I’ve also had the comment. The comment everyone always gives when you’re having a ‘down day’. And that comment ladies and gentlemen is ‘there’s always someone out there who is worse off’.
I know this. I think we all know this. I’ve never once sat there and said my life is the worst. I know it isn’t. I didn’t choose to get depression and anxiety and feel this way about my life. I’m not comparing myself to everyone else in the world, I don’t think I have it worse off. I just have periods where I feel really low and think life isn’t worth all this.
I don’t think you should ever compare anyone’s life to another, whether they have depression, a broken heart or fallen over and broken their arm. It doesn’t help the situstion. It doesn’t make someone feel better. It makes you feel worse. It makes you feel as though you don’t deserve any help and that you have no legitimate reason to feel that way. You start to feel you’re taking resources from someone else who others believe need it more because they’re worse off.
Everyone deserves help. No matter who has it worse. If you need help and acknowledge this then you deserve the help. If you put the help to good use and you will benefit from it then there should be no comparison on who has it worse.
It infuriates me how people behave towards those with mental health problems. I feel because there’s not always physical symptoms it is hard for others to compute and understand. We’re still human. We still want to feel good. We want to laugh and smile. We want to be normal or as society expects us to be. So please don’t look at us with pity,that doesn’t help anyone. Don’t treat our problem as a taboo. If you have a question ask. If you want to know more. Ask. We don’t mind. If you don’t want to ask then google. There’s a lot of information, not always accurate information, but still some that can answer questions. We’d rather those around us understand it a bit more than treat us like we’re wrapped in cotton wool and can’t handle questions or life’s difficulties. Laugh with us, smile with us, tell us of your successes and good times and when you’re feeling sad. We’re still the same person we just have our up and down days.
Not Quite Made Girl