Today marks 4 years since I created this little blog. The long standing readers among you may know that it wasn’t until 11th May (Mental Health Awareness Week) that I built up the courage to actually press publish on the first post. Yes that’s right, I sat on it for 10 days. I spent those 10 days wondering what people would think of me if I posted about my mental health problems. Would they think I was attention seeking? Would they think differently of me? Would they call me crazy?
To this day, I can’t answer any of those questions. However, come day 11 when I pressed that post button and put the link on Facebook…I’d decided I didn’t care what the answers were. I was still anxious (the irony) about the response that I would receive but in that moment, it was more important to me to let the world (or at least my friends) know why I’d spent the last 4 months in bed – and it wasn’t just because I was lazy.
The response I got was not what I expected in the slightest. Over the following months, I received messages from people telling me about their problems, telling me how they wish they too could speak out about them. Some of them eventually did and some of them didn’t, both are ok. It’s ok to want to keep your problems private, in fact it is more than ok, it’s very normal. With a mental health problem comes a feeling of a lack of control and keeping that information within a circle of people that you’re comfortable with can be a way of keeping that control.
When I was diagnosed with Anxiety, I didn’t know what I could do about it and within a few weeks I’d given up wondering. If I’m entirely honest – all I felt was empty at that point. I didn’t feel sad or down, I just felt nothing. It took me a few weeks to even comprehend that what I felt was empty and once I did, I felt entirely out of control. Not because I was going around doing outrageous things but merely because the simplest tasks became chores. Getting out of bed and having a shower became an achievement for the day. Going into a lecture became an achievement for the week. The lack of control only fuelled the problems I had and by the beginning of May I had to start spending all of my time at home, 200 miles away from the university I was attending. When I started getting questions from people about why I wasn’t in Manchester, I decided I needed to start talking rather than hiding. For me, the way I could remain in control was to tell my story my way and not for everybody to hear it as a game of Chinese whispers. And so, this blog was born.
The most surprising aspect in the responses I received was that I started being called brave and courageous for speaking out about these problems. I felt anything but these things. Yes, I had wanted to raise some awareness of these problems that affect so many of us, but first and foremost I just wanted to talk. My blog became my way of talking and the more I posted the better I felt. Posting on my blog became my form of relief from my mind; once it was on the Internet I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. (Little did I know that 3 years later I’d be taught the technique of writing things down to put them out of your mind in CBT – but that’s a story for another day).
Almost 4 years on, I don’t regret pressing post on that first blog post. However, I am by no means perfect at talking out about mental health problems; I still find it hard to discuss mental health problems at work and the one time I dared to mention it in an interview I had the worst interview experience of my life (next week’s story). But, the one thing I try not to do is be ashamed of talking about these problems because if talking about them helps one other person feel like they’re not alone then it makes it all worthwhile.