‘The essential truth is that sometimes you’re worried that they’ll find out it’s a fluke, that you don’t really have it. You’ve lost the muse or – the worst dread – you never had it at all’ – Robin Williams
No matter what anyone says there is still a stigma attached to mental health issues. Think about it, if someone if off work with stress or cancel on your plans because they don’t feel up to it can you honestly say you haven’t inwardly rolled you eyes or thought they ought to just pull themselves together? I know I have.
If someone told you they had the flu, or a broken arm, you’d believe them, because it’s visual, it’s a physical symptom of being unwell, sub-par, not quite yourself, however you want to phrase it. But like migraines and back pain, mental health disorders aren’t as easy to convince people of, because they can’t see them, or, to simplify things, the words I’ve heard all too often ‘but you seem so happy’.
I found the #itffectsme campaign through my cousin Liz who’s friends with its creator Laura and it really struck a chord with me, because even the most emotionally together, stable person gets affected by mental issues issues whether they want to believe it or not. My own person mental health journey is well documented, so I started to look at my wider group of friends. I thought about the closest people in my life, the people who know me, who chose to spend their personal, free time with me.
clockwise from top left: Ang, me, Janine, Steph, Ruth & Meagan
On the surface, when we’re altogether drinking Prosecco (which is often!) we probably look like your average happy, confident women in our thirties. Yet between the 6 of us, just some of the conditions we’ve collectively suffered from are:
- Health Anxiety
- Clinical Depression
- Impostor Syndrome
- Eating Disorders
- Post Trauamatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD)
And between the 6 of us we’ve received treatment from in the form of medication/anti depressants, grief counselling, Relate counselling and cognitive behavioral therapy to name but a few. It’s funny isn’t it, that when I look at my 5 closest friends, mental health conditions, 100% of us are affected by them, yet there;s still so much stigma attached to it. We only really tell each other and our nearest and dearest about these things that so often plague our worried mind. Why can’t we be more honest when about when we’re struggling with something emotionally? We couldn’t be shy about telling people we had a broken leg (or in my case as a chronic over sharer, a bout of the runs!)
When I chatted to Megs about it, she summed it up perfectly:
I’ve been affected by mental illness for, really, as long as I can remember. I first truly recognized my signs of depression in college and sought treatment via anti-depressants…. something no one was really talking about at the time (and it wasn’t 200 years ago, just 2002!). I went through a particularly bad period after I moved to New York and remember more than one person saying I needed to “snap out of it” because it was “affecting them negatively.” The problem with that? I would have in an instant, if I had the capability.
Mental health awareness has come a long way in the past decade or so, but many people still treat mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders like they’re something that can just be “switched off” if we decide to. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. I’ve found the perfect combination of medications that help me keep my head clear without sacrificing my emotions. Everyone needs the opportunity to feel the same, and that is why #itaffectsme is such an important campaign.