I’ve had people look down on me for going to counselling. Friends have even tried to talk me out of it, looking down at me for ‘being weak’. Growing up, it wasn’t normal to talk about mental health; a lot of people didn’t understand why people attended counselling and joined support groups. Of course, there are still people who are like this worldwide. Men are told to ‘man up’, teenagers are dismissed with ‘hormones flying high due to puberty’, women are told that ‘they’re being sensitive/hysterical.’ But these people are no longer the majority.
I have suffered from severe depression and anxiety from a young age. For me, I connoted my mental illness with alienation and isolation. It wasn’t ‘normal’ to talk about mental health, so I didn’t even know I was suffering from an illness until later in my teens. When I did realise, I still felt trapped. I didn’t talk to anyone. I knew that a few people in school had fought with eating disorders, but I genuinely believed that I was the only one to go through depression and anxiety. I was terrified to tell anyone around me how I felt because I didn’t want to be looked down upon.
But it didn’t last forever. I spoke to someone because I knew I couldn’t bottle it up anymore, and I realised that there are people out there who feel the same. Eventually, I went from feeling incredibly isolated in my feelings and choked by the stigma of mental illness, to realising that there were others out there who felt like I did and had the same problems. As I opened up to one person, a lot of my pain went away. It took enormous courage to know who to trust with such sensitive information, but when I did, I found out more about where to seek help and who from.
As I sought help, I realised that counselling was accessible to me – the waiting lists were (and still are) dire, but I could get the help eventually. As I got older, mental health was spoken about more and the stigmas of counselling were discussed and challenged more widely. I started to talk and feel better.
I went to various forms of counselling – art therapy, talking therapy, CBT and hypnotherapy. Some worked better than others, and I began to understand why I felt the way I felt and why some things triggered my anxieties and low moods. I realised that my best friends were actually going through exactly the same thing, and it eased us to talk about it and get our feelings out to people who genuinely understood.
When I got my diagnosis of Vasculitis, I went back to square one in my mental health journey; once again, I felt completely and utterly alone. I was slam dunked with an illness that completely knocked me off my feet. I’d never heard of Vasculitis, let alone knew anyone who suffered from it.
It was extremely depressing – no one really knew how to describe Vasculitis apart from its autoimmune, it’s inflammatory and it’s the blood vessels messing up. I have a strong background in science but nothing seemed to explain why all of my painful and distressing symptoms kept popping up at random.
It was one of the lowest points of my life, but I found my saving grace in an online support group. Everyone in the group also had vasculitis and they were all so willing to talk to me and answer my questions. It was as if they came out from the darkness to tell me that I wasn’t the only one who had to face it – we were in it together.
Because of this online space I’ve been able to vent my frustrations, both mental and medical, in the safety of mutual understanding. If you experience issues with your mental health, speak to the people you trust. Ask for help from teachers, tutors, mental health services, work, anywhere. Chat to people you trust and remember that you’re not alone – it is difficult, but it could be the start of a healing process.
– Who can I talk to? It’s recommended to visit your GP. I personally struggle when speaking about my mental health with doctors, so I always bring someone with me to help me verbalise my feelings. Speaking with a professional about your feelings can be a daunting experience, but having someone you trust alongside you can really help.
– What resources are available to me? Mind.org is filled with amazing answers to help list your options and make the experience of seeking help less confusing and daunting. Read more, here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/#.W-hwchP7SqQ
– How do I know when to seek help? https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/#.W-hvgBP7SqQ
– How can I help others? Mind.org have a whole FAQ which can help: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/helping-someone-else-seek-help/#.W-hvgRP7SqQ
– What help is available in my area? https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Mental%20health%20support/LocationSearch/330
– Can I ring someone to talk about my feelings/concerns/worries? https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/