Time to change?

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Last year I signed the ‘Time To Change’ pledge initiated by MIND and Rethink mental illness. I joined the thousands of people who agreed that it’s time to talk about mental illness. I felt strongly that it was time to end discrimination towards people with mental health problems.

Since then I have done no public talking about mental illness whatsoever. If anyone has asked how I am, I said ‘fine thanks’. Even if things were as far from being fine as they could possibly be.

I can’t speak for the other people who signed the pledge, but I’ve often struggled with what to say and when to say it. I’m never sure when it is appropriate to disclose the mental health problems I’ve faced, or even join in with a general discussion on the topic.

So I’m going to be brave and start right here. I’m assuming I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to begin talking. I believe wholeheartedly that in order to deal with the massive issues mental health problems create, it needs to become normal to discuss them in general conversation. I’m going to step wildly out of my comfort zone which at the moment consists of sharing only with a handful of people and a therapist. I have to say that I’ve become extremely adept at discussing my issues within these tight parameters. I’ve flourished within the walls of this safe group of people and I am extremely thankful to them for listening all these years. But what good is it if everthing is still behind closed doors? I sometimes feel I am living a double life, hiding vast swathes of myself until I figure I’ve got to know someone well enough to share the details of my ‘dark side’. Part of it is my own nervousness, but maybe I am underestimating people’s capacity to understand and my own ability to cope if they don’t.

 I know that one in four of us is facing some kind of mental health problem at any point, so I’m not alone. My challenge is to fulfil the pledge I made last year and see if anything can change as a result.

I’ve been trying to come up with reasons why I am not more generally open on this subject. I know I am embarrassed, fearful and ashamed but I also know that mental illness isn’t my fault. It’s not something I wanted to happen to me and I’ve done everything I possibly could to cope with it. In fact I think I have worked really bloody hard to understand why I’ve had problems and what I need to do to move forward.

My problem has always been Depression and Anxiety. It’s all relative, but in the way I’ve had them, I think they are a particularly evil combination of disorders. I’ve suffered on and off for most of my adult life, but the period I want to talk about covers the ‘great mental crash’ of 2009. After a slow build up of unpleasant circumstances, illness and unhappiness, topped off with the sudden death of my Dad, I ended the year with a massive breakdown, which was completely shocking even by my own standards. I often think about the metaphor that mental illness is supposed to be the equivalent of a broken leg, in terms of it’s debilitating consequences. My experience felt like I had been in a car crash and shattered every bone in my body, including ones I didn’t know I had. I’ve spent the last 3 years in mental body braces, working hard to fuse myself back together. 

It’s difficult to admit that, but I have to say, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. So I’ll carry on next time and meet you in the next post.

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About laurajaneroche

Greetings and salutations! I'm here in the blogosphere to share my thoughts about living with various troublesome illnesses. After a great run of blogging on Wordpress, I'm now in the middle of moving house to my own website. Why not come and join me? I'm at www.lauraroche.co.uk and you can keep track of all my new blogs from there. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter, which you can subscribe to on the home page and never miss a new blog post or article! Hope to see you there 😀

17 responses »

  1. Better late than never 😉 Personally, I think it’s hard to talk about mental illness because it affects every inch of your life; and it’s so hard to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. I only truly talk about it online, and with my boyfriend, because it feels uncomfortable in any other situation.

    • It is indeed very hard but I do feel more confident after just 2 posts. Having you and another person follow my blog is very reassuring, so thanks for that! I think it is also hard to talk about physical illness. Do you find it easier to talk about your fibromyalgia? I am just as uncomfortable talking about my long term health problems, but I’m going to discuss them on my blog in the hope it will become easier 🙂

    • I totally understand. I have a rare blood disorder called neutropenia and I also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E). I don’t mind telling people, but I never talk about how badly I am affected by these conditions. At least we have been brave enough to discuss them here, it’s a start!

  2. It is! It has to be much better than nothing, right?

    Do you ever find you’re reluctant to speak about M.E (in my case fibro) because you worry other people will think you’re just lazy? I worry about it a lot. I assume they’re going to think “oh, just get on with it, we all get tired”.

    • Yes, I worry about being perceived as lazy all the time. I hate people coming to the house as it is often messy and I don’t want to be judged. It is very hard to explain that illness tired is very different from ordinary tiredness. Until I got M.E, I had no idea there were so many levels of being beyond exhausted.

  3. This has been hard for me to read, not because I am shit at reading, but because I remember how much mischief we used to get up to in our youth, and because I remember you as an energetic loon. I think CBT is a marvellous process – I went through various episodes of being let’s say ‘out of control’ in my 30’s and CBT helped me to adjust my erroneous thoughts. Keep writing this down. I think not only is it a good source of debate, but it will help you to organise your thoughts and get feedback. See you in the laundry basket xx

    • Thank you Bobbins, I have discovered the wonders of CBT for myself but am not up to that bit in the story yet! Sadly, the medical profession decided to send me on a wild goose chase first before doing a proper assessment of what would help me.
      The ‘energetic loon’ you knew is still in there somewhere, it’s just been submerged under a load of shite for a few years xx

  4. I think we need to write a joint bestseller called ‘see you in the laundry basket’. It is based in real life events, such as hiding in laundry baskets, but can also be read metaphorically. Laundry – as in a soiled and sullied life, and basket has echoes of basket case – raising the issue of the euphemisms that people use to refer to people with mental health issues. Having journeyed through depressive episodes etc, I really do question the notion of mental health, to be honest. I think more people suffer from problematic thoughts and states of mind which prevent them from reaching their potential, than we are led to believe from the statisticians. I think everyone has their demons, but as you well know, life events can conspire to make them unmanageable. It’s all down to luck, and unfortunately, you can’t argue with luck, the shit.

    • I would be delighted to write a bestseller with you and I agree that lots of people are struggling to one degree or another. I think if life treats you badly enough, anyone has the potential to become a basket case. Please inbox me on the Facebook to discuss making this book a reality. Maybe you should start your own blog Bobbins? I think lots of people would like to read your musings. Thanks for reminding me that when conditions are good, I can be in laundry baskets with the best of them.

  5. Laura it is a privilege to read this – you are so self aware and your analytical style throws more questions and thoughts as I read. It is a very brave step to take and though I know you are one brave woman I applaud the gigantic step of going public heres to your journey of openess and revealing your entirity in all your glory.

    • Thanks Sallyann, it means a lot to hear you say that. I don’t know how brave I am as I constantly question whether I am being ’emotionally slutty’ but I will continue to chip away at this belief. I really think if it became normal for everyone to talk like this it would end a lot of the problems people face.

  6. Hi, LauraJane — Welcome to the diabeticredemption.com family of readers. We have a very interesting group, and I know your presence will be a lovely addition to the group! If you’d like, please find my Friends page, and tell me and my readers about yourself and your blog. I’m looking forward to getting to know you. Welcome!

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