My dark days made me stronger. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it.Emery Lord
When you think of the term mental health, what would be the thoughts, words or phrases that spring immediately to mind? Would I be right in thinking that a larger proportion of what pops into your head has negative connotations? Rather than the opposite and more positive images.
From my own experiences of mental health problems over the years, I have found myself to have to build this assumption (rightly or wrongly) because of the many interactions I have had with people. Though it is fantastic to see huge quantities of people providing great advice expertise and knowledge around how we can develop our mindsets to live better lives, whether it be through public speaking, books, podcasts or any other medium, I feel as though many people’s perception of mental health is wholly negative. While I’m by no means underestimating the difficulty and strain that a mental illness can have on so many areas of people’s lives, especially due to my own ongoing struggles, the engagements I’ve had with various people have led me to believe that all many associate mental health with is mental illness. They forget that everybody has mental health. That our mental wellbeing can be good as well as bad. That if we are struggling and going through testing times, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. It’s not as simple as she has a mental health problem, therefore she’ll always be that way. Discussions around mental illness and reducing its stimga are paramount, absolutely, yet so are the conversations around improving our wellbeing and how that can be of huge benefit.
Especially when it takes so much courage to express your most personal emotions and show signs of vulnerability, part of me wishes that more people recognised the fact that I don’t feel depressed or anxious 100% of the time. Yes I may be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and your friend may be battling OCD or your work colleague PTSD, but this doesn’t reflect and constitute our entire make-up/ personality. We are people in our right. A mental illness doesn’t define me or my existence. Or anybody elses. As much as you think it might if you haven’t gone through anything similar.
The people around me know I have my periods of low mood, heightened anxiety, self-doubt and numerous other things, but they also know the person that’s constantly taking the piss, saying weird things, enjoying my favourite activities and standing up for what I truly believe in. I probably do cry more than the average man (better out than in), yet I can assure you that I don’t feel that emotional 24-7-365. That would be a painful life. Like everybody, my life has its high and lows. Successes and failures. The problem is we can’t see everything that goes on behind closed doors!
The main point I’m trying to convey from this post is that we should separate a person from their illness. If someone was fighting cancer, heart disease or any type of physical illness, the chances are that it wouldn’t even cross your mind to label a person as just somebody with that certain illness. Because that would be strange and unfair. Correct?
That being said, it seems to have become so normalised for people to say ‘he’s that schizophrenic guy’ or ‘she’s the girl with anorexia’. Battling your own mind every single day is harder than anybody could imagine, so isn’t it time we show people the compassion they thoroughly deserve and end this continous pigeonholing and putting people into boxes. It’s dangerous. So dangerous. I fully understand that labels can be used to describe people, but often all they serve to do is perpepuate negative stereotypes and make people feel like a mental illness is all they are. And all they’ll ever be; a life sentence if you will. And that they can’t achieve their aspirations or the same things other people can as they’re incapable.
Disclaimer: This certainly isn’t true and never will be. A mental health problem may bring plenty of barriers/obstacles to overcome, however with the right commitment, determination and encouragement, there’s no reason why we cannot get where we wish to be.
Wouldn’t it be such an amazing feeling to prove the doubters wrong and show that you can get that dream job or the degree they said you couldn’t? And also to prove it to yourself!
Thanks for reading,