Two general elections, a referendum, fourteen official exams and a depression diagnosis are a few of the things I have witnessed and experienced over the past two years, the latter being the topic of this blog post. I wanted to write and let the words flow from my mind onto the computer screen, so that’s what I’m going to to, freely and unapologetically.
Too many of us these days are apologetic and remorseful about our mental health situations, especially because people underestimate, stigmatise and back bite about them, none of which are helpful to the sufferer. The only thing we need is support, not isolation and alienation, which is what I feel like I’ve received for the past two years: people who will outwardly support me but behind my back act as if I want people to pity me, which I do not. This was part of the reason I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling between November 2015 and January 2016; I quizzed myself on whether the negative judgement would make people see me as an alien, or an example of someone who wasn’t fun to be around. Either way, it did; two years on I can hold my head up high and say that I did lose good family and friend relations, not because of my mental health, but because of the stigma my being depressed and anxious brought people – it made them anxious and uncomfortable to be around me. Furthermore, for the cynics then in my life, they felt I wanted pity, attention and mollycoddling.
Perhaps it’s my paranoia, but when I became comfortable talking about my mental health, I felt people inwardly roll their eyes, ‘ugh’d’ internally and wanted to converse about something else because they felt my depression wasn’t legitimate, or even real. This issue just reminds me of the first blog post I did on mental health and the assumptions around it; the view that someone needs something to be depressed about persists and I can’t understand why. Even the most politically correct and savvy of individuals will internally hold reservations regarding someone’s mental health despite knowing that biologically for some, possessing a mental health issue cannot be helped, in some cases, it is unavoidable. How can we move forward in becoming accepting of all people when we can’t become empathetic of this?
Most of my anger regarding this issue is derived from people commenting that an individual ‘isn’t really depressed’ or mentally ill, they just want attention and to use it as an excuse. I’m not sorry, but if you have done this, how dare you? I know of MANY people who have said this about me and I cannot understand why. It’s as if people think having a mental health issue is easy to deal with, brings volumes of positive attention and makes the sufferer feel somewhat good, when it is the complete opposite.
To reiterate, from January 2016 to the present day I have suffered more than three relapses, have been isolated and have felt pretty shitty since December 2016 to around June; leaving the house on a weekly basis can be the hardest task. In the blink of an eye, or one negative thought, you’re back to square one again. This small example shows that people do not want to have mental health issues like depression and anxiety… again, how dare someone label another’s health as an attention and pitying ploy.
Why even snub someone if you don’t know them on personal basis, moreover, regarding their mental health?
Nevertheless, emerging on the other side of depression, I can say that it toughened me up as a person, making me less sensitive to negativity, criticism (the uncalled for and bitchy type) and upset. An example people recently when someone who I thought was a friend accused me of being ignorant, calling them stupid, not smart, making them feel stupid, when really I conclude it was a personal dislike for me. I didn’t reply after the last message I received because I knew it was not true. I hardly saw this person over two years, was isolated from their friendship and reacted badly to quite horrible things this person remarked about others. Of course it upset me, but if people felt this way about me they would tell me – I showed a few people at my college, some of whom I know well and others who I am acquainted with. The result? They completely disagreed with what this person had thrown at me. Instead of letting it get the better of me, I just forgot about it and moved on. It doesn’t hurt me, I’m never going to see this person again and I wish them all the best. Anyway, back to the issue at hand, this links to mental health because it was these types of people who assumed things about me, deemed me as a bad person and horrible when they hardly knew anything about me, leading me onto my next issue.
Judgements based on assumptions? We all judge, it’s innate, first nature and just a human thing to do. But as mammals and with evolution, shouldn’t we judge on hard evidence, rather than what we see in front of us and preconceptions made by others? My point is, take time getting to know someone, then judge. For a person on the receiving end of a bad judgement (for no good reason) their mental health and well being can really be affected purely because of a negative attitude, spitefulness and personal reservations held when one hardly knows another. Experiencing this after news got around regarding diagnosis really did make me think – why did I judge people on what I saw and heard of them, rather than getting to know them? Now I can say I have the most beautiful souled and kind friends from all backgrounds (none of who, I assure you, get the vibe that I’m arrogant, as I was accused of) purely because I stopped judging people based on my reservations. I really think people need to start doing this, not only for the well-being of others and the fear of being negatively judged, but for one’s own sanity and experiences – get to know people with your arms wide open, make positive connections and friends!
In addition to the former, one thing I would like to address is isolationism and the difference between wanting to be alone and being isolated. The lines between these two states of being are blurred, sometimes people will interpret someone being isolated for them wanting to be alone. When one has severe depression, it might seem like we want to be alone, but on my part I didn’t want to be alone; my depression was dark, scary and as a friend said to me a few weeks back, “it felt like being alone in a room full of people”. Sometimes I do still feel like this, alone in a room full of people; this feeling is worsened when those who you deem closest to you cannot recognise what is going on, do not give you time and ultimately assume you are in a ‘mood’ and proceed to move on thinking their friend is disgruntled and not worth spending time on.
This is isolation. I can go further to say that it is a symptom of bullying when it has been flagged up on numerous occasions, that someone’s mental health is fragile and yet that group of people will ignore, exclude and stigmatise you. Perhaps it is or it isn’t intentional, but it does feel to a sufferer of depression as if the world is against you, doesn’t want to spend time with you and that you are worthless. Regardless of the intent, the message of this is that people need to recognise the symptoms of mental health issues and take consecutive and educated decisions regarding how they treat their friends and family who they plainly think are just acting ‘off’ or assuming that they will be ok in a few weeks. My relapse in December lasted until spring of 2017 with people thinking it was me distancing deliberately, which led to the breakdown of four close friendships and my developing anger issues, severe paranoia and periods of being mute. To this day I know that those people have ‘a strong dislike’ for me and continue to talk negatively about me, especially regarding our mutual friends “defending me” due to their apparent victimisation caused by my (unapologetic this time) anger due to the isolation they caused me, when in fact, I did nothing wrong. With this point, though it might seem like a rant, illustrates that it is this ignorance surrounding mental health which needs to be removed from society – the isolation, low level and subtle bullying culture we possess which is deemed as normal and acceptable.
People I knew went further to say that “I should have told them about it”, which makes absolutely no sense at all if i was isolated at the time and had previously on several occasions told them my mental health record. This plainly illustrates the lack of empathy some people possess. Although I must note that some friends, who I’ve hardly known as long as others, have been absolutely fantastic and understanding of my struggles. These people do exist and I’d urge everyone if they feel surrounded by negativity to find people who are accepting, loving and friendly to you. Positive best friends can make the best people to be around in truly awful times, they are the light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps the light that was or still is being blocked unbeknown to them by negative, self centred, ignorant and presumptive people.
I have talked, tweeted, blogged, cried, screamed and punched the air with my words regarding this issue for so long, because it still hurts me inside. It makes my fists tense and my heart pound, giving me this unexplainable fire in my belly like a roaring furnace, to address this issue. Doesn’t this show how much people around us can help or hinder the state of our mental being?
That there are HUGE differences between isolation, alienation and inclusion; between sound judgements and misconceptions; positivity and negativity; empathy and pity…
Please just think about it.
Depression: Extract below from another posts
It may be cliché to say, but although someone might always be smiling, laughing, talking and genuinely appearing as if they are fine, just remember, pretty much everyone is fighting a battle no one knows about. The reaction of many of my close friends, after my clinical diagnosis of depression went along the lines of: “You aren’t depressed, you’re usually happy, always grinning” and that, “You [I] have nothing to be depressed about”. In truth, I could go on about how people have these premeditated ideas of what depression is and who experiences it – it is these stereotypes which need to be eradicated.
Ask yourself what you think of when you hear the words, “depression” or “depressed”, if you just think it is sadness, bleakness and loneliness, it is not just that – the symptoms and effects are not as narrow, or even wide in some cases. People can experience: numbness, sporadic change of feelings, fatigue, insomnia, weight loss/gain and many more emotions or physical changes.
I’d lastly like to say thank you to all of my family, friends, and supporting staff at college (as well as my previous school) who have helped me through the difficult academic year that this has been.
Please remember that there is someone who you can always talk to, whether it be myself, your friends, family, place of education/work or organisations and charities which are set up to help those who are going through tough times (contact details of them below).
The stigma, discrimination and stereotypes around mental health are detrimental to those who are experiencing them and it is the former we need to work on.
Peace and love,
020 7336 8445
Provides information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person.
The Very Important Kids website has been created by YoungMinds for young people affected by mental health problems. Here you can get advice, share experiences and feed into the work they do.
Free, national helpline for children and young people in trouble or danger.
Listening, support and information service run by students for students.