Thursday, 13 October 2016

You Have Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Monday was World Mental Health Day, and while I didn't think I was up for blogging, I ended up writing a pretty long tweet thread and a hefty status on Facebook, too. Thought I'd publish the status on my blog as well because the message is important. No frills, no photos, just copy and paste. Take some time to care for yourself today, pals.

You can't see our illnesses, but that doesn't mean they aren't real, awful and often debilitating. The impact on our lives is huge, we are battling with our own minds most days. We are tired. And we're tired of being dismissed and discriminated against just because our illnesses are invisible.

Three weeks ago I went to a doctor because my depression and anxiety have got a lot worse since the last time I was getting medical help. My GP was ignorant, dismissive and uncaring. After telling him that most days I can't leave the flat, I was asked if I'd tried "going for a walk" to improve my mental health. Spoiler, educated doctor: if and when I am ABLE to “go for a walk”, sometimes my mood will improve, other times it won’t.

More importantly, though, depression and anxiety cannot be miraculously cured by a quick stroll up the road, and more often than not, these illnesses ~literally prevent~ us from doing the very thing we’re being advised to do by the people who are there to help us. When getting out of bed feels like an impossible task, do you really think we're going to be up for leaving the house?

A GP should understand mental illness better than to give ignorant "advice" to someone who needed the help, but this isn't a one off, or even nearly a standalone case. It’s happened to me before, when I was younger and much more lost within my own mind, and it prevented me going back for years. This ignorant and harmful attitude is affecting people every day, I hear about so many experiences similar or worse than mine. These days I am lucky enough not to need a doctor to reassure me that what I’m dealing with is real, and I am lucky enough to know that if I keep trying, I will find the right help.

But what about the people who go to a doctor because they’re scared, alone and at risk? What about the people who don’t feel they have support, who feel alone in this? We are further isolating the isolated, and isolation and shame/fear of seeking help is what kills people.

[edit: I want to add that I know many doctors are great when it comes to mental health patients; I've had some brilliant doctors in the past. I have so much respect for my friends and family who are doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, too, and do not want to tar all with the same brush.

The issue is that you never know what you're going to get, so generally, if you're experienced with seeking mental healthcare, you expect the worse. I also know many people who were deterred from continuing to seek help - help that they need - after a bad experience with a GP, similar to my experience last month.

When you go to a doctor it's generally because you've gotten to a stage where you can't do without medical help, and to get a doctor who, like my current GP, clearly doesn't care, or who hasn't received the appropriate training, is not good enough. It's not enough that the NHS is a mixed bag of doctors who are great and doctors who are ignorant and unhelpful. It's not enough that there's a good chance you'll leave your appointment feeling stupid and ashamed, as I have done on multiple occasions. We need change in general, is what I'm saying.]

This is why I continue to campaign for better mental healthcare and talk openly and honestly about my own experiences with mental illness, and, if you’re able, I urge you to do the same. We can’t magically change the system, but we can have a conversation, we can be open and unashamed and shout about our mental illnesses. We can talk about it, whether it affects us directly or not.

If you know someone dealing with an invisible illness: offer them your support. Ask them how they are today, ask them if there's anything they need, any way you can help. Ask them how they are affected. Learn from them.

For those dealing with a mental illness: this day is yours. Do not be ashamed. You have nothing to be ashamed of, even if you're made to feel like you do by the people who are meant to help. Keep going; you will find the support you need. You are not alone.

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