Talking about mental health issues seems to have been swept under the carpet a bit, don’t you think?
(It’s just semantics, but I prefer to use the term ‘emotional health’ in this post…hope you don’t mind…bit tough if you do. Soz about that)
Thankfully, the brick walls are coming down; there’s more and more people willing to talk about their experiences; more and more media coverage – especially recently – and, in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
And it’s Mental Health Awareness week this week…so I thought I’d have a chat with you about it.
In my book (although I haven’t written a book…yet!), talking may not only help someone experiencing emotional ill health, but hopefully should spread some enlightenment…make the subject less taboo, maybe less scary, even.
No-one’s exempt. Absolutely no-one. Not you. Certainly not me (I’ll get to that bit) and not even your loved ones: your parents, your children, friends, colleagues….even the people who you might approach for help to treat your emotional ill health.
mind.org.uk state that approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year; generalised anxiety and depression being in the top two mental (emotional) health problems.
For me, the statistics (for many reasons) probably don’t give a true picture of what’s going on…I’d suggest there’s more people out there, suffering in silence, too scared to reach out for help…and that makes me really sad. But the stats give us an indication that many of us are affected/living with/have gone through emotional ill health at some point.
If you fracture a limb (I hope you don’t, btw!), people will probably sympathise. A plaster cast/NHS crutch combo is a perfect visual cue that somethings a bit…well…broken. People might hold a door open to allow you through, they might not want to see you struggling. They might help you out in other ways until that cast is removed.
That’s maybe not always the case when that ‘break’ happens in your head!
Now, I’m no expert on emotional health issues and please don’t take this post as such. But what I AM expert on is my OWN experiences of emotional ill health and its impact.
…and I’m sharing this (rather personal) post in the hope that someone, somewhere, will read this, maybe relate to it a bit and then reach out for help.
…because there IS help out there. And I really do hate the thought of someone (a) being too scared to ask for help (b) suffering in silence and feeling very much alone.
My emotional ill health manifested itself many years ago. I won’t bore you with all the details, but it was triggered by historical stuff. Whilst able to function ‘normally’ on a day to day basis (whatever ‘normal’ is, that is) I experienced years of chronic anxiety – which threatened to rear its ugly head in certain situations – social occasions, eating out, crowds, lifts, waiting in queues, sometimes doing new things…things that ought to have been fun.
Sometimes it was debilitating.
Sometimes I felt very much alone.
Sometimes I felt really scared and not in control of this ‘thing’ going on inside my head but manifesting itself very unpredictably in physical ways – a Clinical Psychologist explained it to me as being as close to a near death experience as you can get. Ergo, it’s not AT ALL something to look forward to!
Sometimes I felt so damned tired of it all.
Sometimes I felt like I was dying…although I wasn’t. Thankfully!
Sometimes I felt that other people just didn’t understand AT ALL…thought I was making it all up (why the HELL they thought that, I’ll never know)…maybe I should’ve just ‘pulled myself together’ shouldn’t I?. It’s amazing how many ‘experts’ come out of the woodwork in times like these, ain’t it?!
But I couldn’t just pull myself together…it’s not that easy *tuts and rolls eyes*
Whilst I’d sought help early on – initially through prescribed medication – the chemicals just masked my feelings and thoughts (tbh, though, sometimes I didn’t think I was thinking anything at the time for these attacks to come on!).
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) helped – so much so that I managed to get on a plane…alone!…Yay! Go Me! (Just to be clear though, the pilot and a few other people were on the plane too) – as did counselling – because I then began to understand who and what triggered my anxiety and who and what helped perpetuate it. But every now and again I could feel that anxiety simmering…lurking, ready to pounce…and, ironically, that raised my anxieties, because I never, EVER, wanted to feel the way I had done.
I was getting anxious about the prospect of being anxious.
As far as I’m aware, there’s no one ‘wonder cure’ to treat all emotional health issues. Medication may work for some, whilst CBT or other stuff may work for someone else. We’re all gloriously different. When I found out Hannah was on her way into this world, I tried hypnotherapy as a last ditch attempt at a ‘cure’. Initially sceptical, it really helped, but didn’t completely cure.
I’m still socially inept…but hey, that’s perhaps not such a bad thing and probably due to the fact that I’m not great at small talk! I still live with anxiety and it’ll probably never totally go away, but I feel like I’ve just about tamed ‘the beast’ *touches wood*
…and it’s a damned good job too! Because as a mama to a child with significant additional needs I have a LOT to deal with and I certainly don’t want any of my stuff/baggage/issues rubbing off on Hannah.
I think most parents would probably say that being a parent is pretty tough…and a bit relentless sometimes:
The sleepless nights, school uniforms to sort out, squabbling siblings, parties to attend, kids to entertain (constantly), cooking meals that don’t get eaten, scrubbing uneaten meals off the floor/walls/your hair, providing taxi services to venues, coping with the teenage monosyllabic/you-know-nothing-and-have-never-lived-because-you’re-old years (old = over 25) etc. etc. and etc.
But, caring for a child with additional needs is a WHOLE other ball game. I promise you that.
It’s not just tough. It’s 24/7 and 365 FOR. THE. REST. OF. YOUR. LIFE. TOUGH.
Parents who care for a child with additional needs need to be resilient. REALLY resilient. Teflon/Kevlar coated resilient, probably.
And it’s not our kids that intentionally cause that stress or that need for resilience. Not at all. It’s just what often comes with the role of being a parent carer. Here’s some of the reasons why we have to be Teflon/Kevlar coated:
The external stuff – perhaps significant drops in household income, appointments, juggling life, navigating through bureaucratic red tape, fighting for services, chasing up services, coping with difficult behaviours – autism, ODD, ADHD, self-harm and societies inability to accommodate and accept disability – be it physical or emotional. To be perfectly honest, the list is endless.
The in your head stuff – worries about the future, worries about the present, worries about the unknown, self-blame or feeling that others blame you for what’s happened, coming to terms (or not) with what’s happened or will/may happen, worrying about relationships with spouses and others, trying to be all things to all people and maybe feeling like a failure. Again, this list is endless. (btw, YOU are NOT a failure! *gives serious look and points at you in a pointy way*)
Oh, and THEN there’s often the physical stuff when caring for a child (or adult) with additional needs. The lifting and carrying, bathing, feeding, moving in the night, keeping a kid safe who’s about to do something dangerous to themselves or someone else, administering and monitoring medication, sleeping on hospital chairs (or not sleeping, actually), lumping equipment about…and, yet again, another overwhelmingly endless list which requires oodles of unwavering energy; often from a pretty jaded, but absolutely magnificent parent.
Now, if all that doesn’t impact on someone’s emotional health at some point, then I’ll eat my hat (I totally won’t be eating any hats though!).
Now, before anyone tries jumping on the keyboard and shouting at me, I’m not suggesting that all parent carers will have an emotional health issue. But what I am suggesting is that our life can be tough…and sometimes we might have a blip here and there. Sometimes (like me last week) we might have a 5 minute cry/meltdown combo because there’s only so much we can take without bursting a bit. I burst a bit with the leaky eyes last week because I was just SO DAMNED FRUSTRATED (and scared) with stuff relating to Hannah’s impending surgery. For the ‘experts’ amongst us, having leaky eyes and a red head for five minutes doesn’t mean by any means that I’m depressed….just very, VERY p*ss*d off right now…excusez mon francais! *coughs*
So, regardless of whether you’re a parent and regardless of your gender, if any bit of this has resonated with you and you’re suffering in silence with emotional ill health, please don’t suffer any more. Please, please, PLEASE, take that step and reach out. Get some help…proper help….from people who know their stuff.
If you’ve been unable to function over the last few days and manage to wash your face tomorrow, then give yourself a MAHOOSIVE pat on the back. You’ve achieved something for YOU!. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe tomorrow you could open the curtains or change your PJ’s or put some clothes on or eat something really nice and refreshing or whatever. Small steps, my love (but actually big ones!). Small steps.
Never, EVER be ashamed of your emotional ill health. Never, EVER allow others to make you feel ashamed, either. If they think your suffering is worthy of a titter, then just let karma do its thing…1 in 4, remember? No one is exempt. I’m sure you’ll have more empathy if the tables are turned!
Having a loved one suffering from emotional ill health can also be challenging. Be kind to each other. You might not fully get to understand what someone’s going through, but just being there might help. Be kind to yourself too!
So, I guess that’s all for now my lovelies.
Just before I go though, I’ve included some links below which someone somewhere might find useful. Sorry I can’t add links for support worldwide…it’d be an extra-long post if I did!
Until next time…and thanks, as always, for stopping by.
P.S. It’s the BAPS Awards on the 18th May…wish us luck! ❤