Oct 24, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
Please don’t be ashamed of your mental health. I’m not suggesting you stand up and shout it from the roof tops, but at the same time don’t be ashamed of it.
For the first time in my life I belong to a club and it’s a big one! It’s called the I have a mental health illness club.
At least one in four of us are in it, but for some reason it doesn’t feel like that big of a club. Everything’s hush-hush, people don’t want to admit they’re part of it. Sure, there’s lots of great support groups out there but the majority of people are still hiding. I appreciate that this is completely their choice and there might be other reasons for this, such as them struggling to accept they’re ill in the first place (I know it took me a while). But if the reason is down to shame, why be ashamed of being in the biggest club in the world?
Why be ashamed of being in the biggest club in the world?
A friend of mine has type two diabetes and is insulin dependent. She has to inject herself every morning and her insulin needs to be stored in a fridge. This is a very important issue when traveling long distance or going on holidays. Due to her condition, she has to be extremely careful with her diet and has certain limitations. She needs to do regular gentle exercise – overexertion can be harmful. She manages her condition very well – part of this involves refusing to do activities that may be detrimental to her health. She has no problem explaining that her Diabetes is the reason for this.
My mother is a registered disabled due to chronic back problems, caused by an accident at work several years ago. Just like my friend, she manages her condition well and is still able to live a full life. If someone asks her to do something which is beyond her capabilities and will be a risk to her health, she has no problem refusing, giving her disability as the reason why.
I think I speak for the majority of people who suffer with their mental health, when I say it’s not easy for us to do the same. I find myself coming up with the most elaborate excuses imaginable, to get myself out of situations I can’t manage due to my health.
Why can’t I be similarly frank about my health?
Admittedly part of this is to avoid having to explain, but it’s mainly because I’ve felt ashamed. My mum doesn’t have to explain, she can just say “I can’t because of my bad back” so why can’t I be similarly frank about my health? After all, as I said earlier, I’m in the biggest club in the world! So, millions of people will understand, and for those people who don’t, how can we ever expect them too if we’re not upfront and honest about the way we’re feeling.
I couldn’t attend my grandma’s funeral due to my anxiety issues. My immediate family knew the reason for this but other friends and family were simply told I wasn’t well on the day. In truth, I would never have coped in that environment; a building with only one exit, makes me feel totally trapped, and not to mention all those people in such a confined space. I weighed up all the pros and cons and eventually concluded that me freaking out and having a major meltdown right in the middle of the crematorium, was not going to be very helpful to anyone.
Instead I had a close friend take me to my grandma’s favourite park where I could say goodbye to her in my own special way. We did this whilst the service was taking place.
Showing vulnerability is not a weakness.
I’m getting better at giving my mental health as a genuine reason why I can’t do certain things, but I accept I still have a way to go. It’s not easy but when you start sharing you realize there’s so many people just like you, suddenly you feel less alienated and you might even make them feel better too.
Remember showing vulnerability is not a weakness, other people will gain strength from your courage in coming forward.