10 January 2017

The Stigma of Mental Health

This is one of those posts where I am starting with no idea what the end will be.  I am just talking, through my fingers tapping against the keyboard.

When you have a headache, you take an aspirin.  When you have a cold you take Vitamin C.  When you wake up in the morning feeling really ill, you call in sick at work.  Mental health is different.  It is stigmatized by society in a way that you feel that you have to hide it.  Are obliged to.

My work is great.  I have never had any indication that if I called in with a mental issue, that they would be anything but nice about it.  But yet, I hide it.  

Last night, I was having major anxiety.   I have not had an episode for a while now, but like a boomerang, eventually, it always comes back.  At 1.20am this morning I posed a thought on Twitter which still plagues me now, whilst my anxiety ravages me once again.  I was praying for physical illness today.  To have a "real excuse" to call in sick.

I got to sleep around 3.00am and awoke with the same feeling.  Sometimes my anxiety lasts a few hours, sometimes a few days/weeks.  The feeling is always the same.  Irrational worry, fear, panic; tears.  When I woke this morning I begged my head to sort itself out.  But instead, I cried when my eyeliner broke, whilst simultaneously thinking how utterly pathetic I was for crying about eyeliner.

I wasn't crying about eyeliner,  I was crying because my damn soul hurt.  For reasons I did not know or could explain.

Yet, I got ready for work.  I piled on the makeup to cover my ravaged face.  I put a nice dress on to detract people from looking directly into my eyes.  I stood at the bus stop, wondering how the hell I was going to get through the day, eyes streaming from pain I could not, can never, understand.

9.00am hit and my "I'm fine" personality kicks.  I smile, I joke, I overcompensate.  No one notices.  I have played this game so many times before that I wonder if my personality has split, like the pieces of a Horcrux.  Regular happy Vicky, mentally screwed Vicky, work Vicky.  

There are so many pieces of me, so many images that I portray that sometimes I wonder who the real me is.  The real me is the one I was at New Year.  Drinking cocktails, sharing fun with friends; throwing death stars; shoulders utterly relaxed and my mind clear.

It is midnight now.  My heads is clearing a little as I write.  Writing helps me.  But yet I know that as soon as I stop tapping the keys, the cogs of my mind will start turning again.  The fear, of what I do not know, will come back.  The tears.  I am tempted to use my coping mechanism, which can work on the second night of an episode.  A complete brain switch off.  My mind locked away whilst music plays in my ears.  An escape from me. 

The cycle will start again tomorrow.  Either I will wake up and my anxiety will have left me, or it will keep its hold, while I fake my way through the day ahead.

It should not be like this.  Someone with mental health issues should not have to do this.  Yet we do.  Some people, every damn day.  We should not have to hide, which only makes us worse.  We should not have to fracture our personalities to hide what we are going through.  Someone with the flu is visible, we are the invisible.

I guess one way to combat this is through awareness.  Being as honest as we can, as I am being now.  Yet I am a coward, because tomorrow again I will hide.  Because we know what society thinks of mental issues.  How those who do not understand will never look at us the same way again if we admit our struggles.

Writing at this time of night gives me clarity.  Honesty.  I say how I am feeling, without a filter.  It is my sanctuary, for a short time, until the laptop lids closes.  But I have recorded me tonight.  My feelings.  No filter.

Someday, I hope, that the filter will be gone.  That I will not be ashamed of something that I cannot control.  This is a small step.  It is the second step though, not the first, that takes us where we really want to go.

1 comment:

  1. I was listening to one of my favourite songs this morning that spoke about some of these thoughts. 'Why must we all conceal, what we think, how we feel?/ Must there be a secret me I've got to hide?'. I know that feeling and it hurts sometimes when the people around you can't begin to fathom whom you really are on the inside and the pain you feel but are afraid let them in for fear as being dismissed as daft or ingenuine. Many people don't understand what its like to go through mental episodes like that. Its not that we're barmy but we feel more with our minds than with our body. You're really brave to admit all of this, I'm sorry you had to go through it but its going to get better I promise you. I went through and Love brought me through it. Someone cares, and won't judge you. I believe you feel better when typing because its a form of communication and you need to communicate with someone to ease the mind which is sometimes all we need, someone who cares enough to listen, someone we can trust.


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