I had a conversation a while back with a fellow Anxiety sufferer and you wouldn’t believe how nice it is to be able to talk to somebody that actually understands, because without seeming rude, a lot of you, just don’t. This isn’t meant to sound insulting to those of you who have never had a mental health problem because I am genuinely happy for you, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy, but it does make it extremely hard for you to understand. It is very easy to tell who the people are that don’t understand because they’ll make accidental comments that won’t sit well with sufferers of mental health problems or they’ll try to explain it back to you incorrectly. Understanding something is very difficult but it really is a vital step forward to smashing the stigma mental health problems have.
If you are revising for an exam there are two ways of doing it. The first is cramming. You sit there in the days before the exam and learn as many facts as possible. For a lot of exams this will work well enough and you’ll probably find you get a relatively decent mark on results day. However, it doesn’t stick with you for long and actually by the time results day has come you probably can’t remember any of it. However, the alternative, the second way, is to sit down for hours many weeks in advance and go through each section learning it thoroughly, completing all questions set and then applying it to problems or essays etc. This is hard work and you probably won’t do significantly better than the crammer in the exam but a week, month, even a year later you’ll remember a lot more than the first person has. The same applies to understanding mental health problems.
By typing ‘Anxiety’, ‘Depression’, ‘Panic Attacks’ into Google you can find many pages that will explain the symptoms, medication, ways to adapt to life for all of these things. You could learn these facts off by heart but it doesn’t mean you understand, it just means that you might be able to tell if you or a friend starts to suffer from one of them. If you sit down with somebody who does have or has had a mental health problem and actually listen to them explain you’re going to be a lot closer to understanding what it is actually like. Hopefully, once you are a tad closer to understanding mental health problems your views on them will change significantly! Of course the issue we have with this is that a lot of people don’t want to tell people that they have had a mental health problem and do you know why this is the case with a lot of people….because they feel like nobody understands. That is what you call a vicious circle.
Personally, I think it is about time that this circle was broken. So my next post (after a cheerful, happy one of course) is going to be about Anxiety and when I say Anxiety, I mean my Anxiety. It has affected my life in a big way this year and only my closest friends really know to what extent. I’m aware that it’s not going to be an easy post to write or click the ‘Publish’ button on, mainly because this is a very personal thing to me. However, if nobody ever talks about their experiences then that circle I talked about above, it’s going to stay there for a very, very long time. Somebody once told me that if you break a circle you just get a line but a line is what is needed here! Gossip spreads down a line incredibly quickly so if talking about mental health could do that too then we’re going to grow up a generation that isn’t afraid to talk about it instead of a generation that tip toes around the topic.
PS. If you fancy a chat about mental health with yours truly then just ask because I will talk about it very openly and then you might just be a tiny bit closer to understanding!