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Forums / Anxiety / Talking about mental illness

Topic: Talking about mental illness

17 posts, 0 answered
  1. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    15 January 2020

    Hi All,

    My anxiety has been quite severe for quite some time now, to the point I have been unable to work for a while. I have noticed that "What do you do?" is a common question when you meet someone. Specifically I am talking about 2 situations I have been in lately where people have asked me that: whilst having a haircut and meeting a neighbour for the first time. On both occasions I was torn between fibbing and saying "I work from home" or being upfront and saying " I have debilitating mental illness and cant work at the moment". I hear a lot that the stigma surrounding mental illness is lessening and I agree that awareness has risen but in a real life situation I believe its still hard to address the topic, like at the hairdressers the other day. I am still convinced that if I were to have told her I had a physical illness I wouldn't get the raised eyebrow. I have read the stats on the BB website informing that a high percentage of the public don't see anxiety as a weakness but I think it depends on who you're dealing with. I know some of you are going to say that in the hairdresser/neighbour situation I should just be truthful and that if more of us did that it lessens the stigma over time, and maybe some of you wont say that. In the end I told both those people in both of those situations that I had some health issues and couldn't work, thankfully they didn't probe any further. I am wondering what others who cant work due to their MI condition do and say ? Likewise, I have often wondered on 'R U OK' day what the reaction is when people say "no I am not." R U OK is great in theory but I wonder if the everyday person is equipped to deal with a no I am not ok answer.

    These forums are great as we are surrounded here by others who totally understand MI and all that comes with it. I am just not so convinced that there is that level of understanding and acceptance out in the everyday world yet. It is definitely improving though. I am hoping for times where you can say " I have depression" like someone can say " I have diabetes" and you can say "I have GAD" like someone can say "I have eczema" or " I have arthritis".

    CS

    2 people found this helpful
  2. Aaronsis
    Community Champion
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    Aaronsis avatar
    1003 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    Here Here!!

    I could have not said it better myself, this is my dream too, for a world that treats MH and MI will the same acceptance and care that if one said "I have the flu"...no stigma, no shame, no fear!

    Keep talking and it will happen.

    Hugs and love to you

    Sarah xx

    1 person found this helpful
  3. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to Aaronsis
    The topic came to mind when I had to come up with a quick answer for the hairdresser and neighbour, then I finally got around to watching the movie 'Joker' the other night. In his journal he wrote "The worst part about having mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don't".
    1 person found this helpful
  4. Aaronsis
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    1003 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    Absolutely calmseeker

    The Joker is such a powerful, emotional and tragic story, they portray mental illness so very well though and Joaquin Phoenix does an extraordinary job in playing that role.

    It is so very true in that the mask people feel like they have to wear to "fit in" or be accepted in society as "normal"...one day, if we keep talking and keep working at it I have faith that mental health will be talked about so freely and those that live with it will be accepted and loved just as anyone else.

    Sarah xx

  5. Katyonthehamsterwheel
    Katyonthehamsterwheel avatar
    279 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    Hi calmseeker (hugs)

    Have had this dilemma myself, having been out of work for over a decade. I'm ashamed to say I mostly tell porkies and hope people don't ask too many details once I have. Occasionally I've just said "I'm not working at the moment", but the response tends to be uncomfortable silence, as society has this expectation that we 'should' be working, so people don't quite know how to respond to that.

    Wouldn't it be great if we could just speak our truth and be accepted? I wasn't even able to do that with my family - hence not having anything to do with them any more.

    I shared a quote by Ram Dass in the thread "words of comfort, encouragement and wisdom", that relates to this. I don't want to repeat it so feel free to have a look if you like. It's the last post atm.

    Kind thoughts, Katy

  6. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to Aaronsis

    Agreed Sarah, Joker was quite outstanding. My only beef with it was the reinforcement of the stigma that mental illness = violent behaviour, when in fact MI sufferers are more likely to be the victims of violence as opposed to the instigators. But we are talking Hollywood and they need to make a buck somehow I guess! Apart from that I was fascinated with this movie.

    Fingers crossed for continued and growing understanding and acceptance in society. Maybe soon I can tell the hairdresser I don't work because I find it difficult to leave the house amongst other issues and she will wont raise her left brow and not know what to say and it wont be awkward.

    Hugs and love right back at cha Sarah xo

  7. Aaronsis
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    1003 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    Hey CS

    ..just with your comment about the hairdresser too, and her response, the thing is I wonder is what if in your honesty she is then able to own her mental health issues and maybe she is struggling too, then she feels comfortable to say "that is me too" or "I struggle to make to work everyday"..you just don't know what conversations you can encourage and help people to share and to open up and to know they are not alone, they are not freaks and they are human!

    That is why I love this space, the ability to share, to talk, to learn and have people KNOW they are not the only ones and that so many people struggle every day with mental health...it can only get better the more we talk, the more we support and the more we love.

    I agree with what you said about the violence element and yes, mostly people who are suffering are not out there behaving like that, but as you said..Hollywood needs a buck!

    Sarah xx

    1 person found this helpful
  8. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to Katyonthehamsterwheel

    Hi sweet Katy,

    Oh yes I have become quite the 'porkies' teller too in order to avoid awkward conversations and explanations. In 'porkie world' lots of people think I 'work from home'. Its just easier to say that. Of course, if I feel I can trust people I will give some detail but there are very few people I am open with about my condition. Whilst I want the world to be different I am not sure I am up for the challenge of standing on my soap box out there and being the mental health spokesperson, it feels too difficult and overwhelming but I guess if I want change I should be braver and take on the challenge. Sigh, I am at odds with myself on this.

    I hear you regarding family acceptance and understanding. My family just see my condition as straight out weakness unfortunately. When I became quite unwell a decade ago my mother said "I don't understand this, you used to be so strong and now you cant handle anything?"! Hurtful and disappointing as they are the ones you want to have your back more than anyone else really. I tried to explain a little but they seem pretty old school in their thinking about it so I gave up. Now we exchange a card at xmas, keep the peace type scenario.

    Working would be much easier if I had a boss who totally understood the fact I couldn't come in to work on days where I haven't slept the night before, and had back to back panic attacks that morning, my vision was too blurry to travel or read and I have to urinate every 5 minutes all day amongst other nasties.

    Any how , on ward and upward with acceptance and understanding.

    I hope you are doing ok Katy, I understand you have had a bit of a struggle of late and have been feeling poorly. Sending you calm vibes for better days ahead hopefully.

    CS

    1 person found this helpful
  9. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to Aaronsis

    Wow Sarah you read my mind. I was just thinking that there is a possibility that if I had of said "Well I don't work due to debilitating anxiety and depression" that she may have responded with "Yes, my brother has been struggling with those kinds of issues also and we are hoping he can go back to work at some stage soon". Maybe she could have responded like that, maybe its touched her life in some way also, maybe she had some insight into these issues, why should I think otherwise? Its likely that my pesky anxiety condition makes me catastrophise everything, predict a negative outcome and question how I will be perceived. Maybe in the future I can gather some tools so that I can be braver and more open in these situations. In the meantime, I will have to stick with fibs for the moment!

    I have lots of hope and faith understanding will continue to get better, like you say, it can only improve the more we talk about it xo

    CS

    1 person found this helpful
  10. Gambit87
    Gambit87 avatar
    47 posts
    15 January 2020

    I always kept everything bottled up, I never shared with anything and just put on a happy face.

    After having a breakdown - I'm not afraid to talk about it to anyone anymore. People may not know how to react/what to say but something as simple as 'im sorry that's happening to you mate - you should check out beyond blue/black dog institute for support information helps.

    IMO - to end the stigmata on MH/MI we need to have conversations. It may be uncomfortable (and im not saying people should just man up and talk about it - I totally understand why people may want to keep details to themselves.) but the more we talk openly about it - the more awareness it creates.

    1 person found this helpful
  11. Aaronsis
    Community Champion
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    1003 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    Hey CS

    You take the time that you need to have these sorts of conversations, it is not easy and the last thing you want to do is trigger yourself in a public space. I think you are very brave in posting here and sharing your story, it is not easy. I think sometimes it does help to consider the other side of the conversation and that the other person may not come at you with judgement or pitty but with empathy and even a story of their own. As you can see there are alot of people here in this community chatting, then there are the ones that read these posts and absorb, the community is so very large that it would not surprise me that the more we talk, the more people talk. As I said though, you do it at your own pace and when you feel comfortable.

    Sarah xxx

    1 person found this helpful
  12. white knight
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    white knight avatar
    6960 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    Hi calmseeker,

    Here are my thoughts on this important topic.

    People with no contact with mental illness, when it is mentioned, often feel confronted because a/ they cannot see the illness b/ they cannot offer advice c/ they feel less happy as they feel it is a negative topic and there might be other reasons.

    Birds of a feather flock together- in this case forums are the ideal place to vent, seek support and learn.

    An example of this. You are the hairdresser and you ask your client how their day has been. Your client is a brain surgeon and she begins to rattle off medical terminologies- "well, my day has been challenging, first off, my patient has a transmitter lopendage isotoping grifficania and it was pressing on the rectoanalism. Of course I couldn't stop the bleeding as it was leaking grey caulitiffanges". You get the picture. Now as you pick yourself up from the floor from fainting you might be swayed not to ask for anymore detail in fact I bet you change the subject- "apart from that how was your day...do you like mohawks"?

    Perhaps however this sums it up, because regardless of my suggestion you refrain from letting strangers or acquaintances know it still hurts we cannot get some basic understanding.

    LEGS OF SPOKE


    How can I let them know?
    When the dark exceeds the glow
    When the sun hides behind the clouds
    Silence they hear...but I scream so loud.

    Some stand beside a 6 foot hole
    Shake their heads and see its toll
    They ask how he could have dropped
    Out of the circle -a forget me knot

    Yet they seem to see clear and there is hope
    When they sight a person with legs of spoke
    A crippled girl pushing her chair
    A man be manic- there's no one there.

    "Storm in a tea cup" hurts so bad
    Like the cyber crow who remains so glad
    Keeps flying and in full flight
    Achieves his art...in the middle of the night

    For some in power see it their way

    Even at the side of a 6 foot grave

    Shake their head and call out "why"
    "Why on earth- he didnt have to die".

    So kind some be they reach out so true
    Smile away "we want to meet you"
    Bring along your vintage car and your smile"
    But leave - what's behind your dial.

    So we laugh and dine and all's ok
    Leave at home come what may
    If I be saddled with legs of spoke
    They'd lift me around- bloody good bloke.

    But as my mind hurts so bad
    Cannot hide my feelings- mad?
    Can no longer be bloody good bloke
    Sometimes I wish.....
    I had legs of spoke......

    TonyWK

  13. Step Twelve
    Step Twelve avatar
    21 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker
    Hi calmseeker,

    It takes a lot of courage to be open and honest about mental health issues, but I've come to believe it's an important thing to do. Of course, if it causes you undue stress or discomfort, you're under no obligation to reveal your personal struggles to strangers (just tell them you're and Embalmer or something and there'll be no further questions).

    But if you do embrace the vulnerability and reveal your situation to someone publicly, I sincerely thank you on behalf of all of us who suffer from any form of mental condition. Each time you talk about it publicly with confidence you gradually erode the stigma and start to reduce the general expectations of shame and embarrassment that our culture continues to hold.

    There have only been a handful of occasions that I have stated my anxiety condition openly to someone. I always stored an entire arsenal of arguments, counterpoints, and scripted defensive responses for all the horribly inconsiderate and dismissive things I imagined people would say to me about my condition. I have never had to use any of them. The response has always been (to my surprise) perfectly understanding and respectful. I keep my scripted retorts handy anyway, but my point is that the fear and embarrassment we feel is rarely warranted.

    Thanks for raising this, it has been a good reminder for me to speak out assertively more often on these issues.

    Cheers,
    12
  14. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    15 January 2020

    Tony WK - That's a fine piece of writing there! I totally agree that people with no previous contact with mental illness may feel confronted by the topic, it may come out of a place of fear as us humans fear what we don't understand. Therefore, who better than to educate than the sufferers themselves I suppose.

    Gambit - Talking = awareness for sure. Its always refreshing when someone who the country holds in high regards discloses their battle with mental illness, it reduces so much stigma when they do so, especially when there is a positive recovery story to go with it showing people its fine to disclose, there is help and there can be recovery and management of whatever the condition may be.

    12 - An embalmer, that's classic, gave me a giggle! You are so right, maybe peoples responses may not be anything to fear, and besides, how else do we erode the stigma.

  15. Lady Nova
    Lady Nova avatar
    99 posts
    15 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker
    My declining mental health was, for a long time, a great source of ridicule and emotional abuse. When I left my marriage I made myself promise to always be honest about my mental health as no body could be as horrible about it as me ex and his family. I also felt I should model resilience and honesty for my sons as well as give them an exercise in compassion.

    I have since found that a completely blurty transparency is not the way to go. In general people are not ready for it. I now allow some getting to know me time, whilst also being honest if my psychology conflicts with events or catch ups. Once people know I indulge in psychology the paths are open to inquiry and I answer any question they have. I think these days we have to give others the opportunity to say #metoo. One in three of every group has someone who is a victim of abuse and then there are those non abuse traumas. We cannot be the only one in a room who struggles with mental health challenges.
    1 person found this helpful
  16. Leel
    Leel avatar
    6 posts
    16 January 2020 in reply to calmseeker

    It really is a tough dilemma. If we keep silent, the stigma will likely remain because people won’t be educated properly about the effect of MI. If we do talk about it honestly we run the risk of telling an insensitive or intolerant person who can’t wrap their head around what they can’t “see”.

    i was diagnosed with depression, personality disorder, panic disorder and anxiety 2 or so years ago. On Monday I was admitted to a mental health unit. Today was the first time I ever told my mum about my MI because of how I thought she would react. I have to say, it somehow felt freeing.

    There are certain people I have been upfront with and with every person I do tell I feel like a little part of me becomes free. Like I can actually be me instead of wearing a socially acceptable mask.

    i also have to say that the time in thins MH unit has to be the first time ever I have been able to be completely me.

    i think you should only say whatever you are comfortable with although I think you would be surprised just how common MI is.

  17. calmseeker
    calmseeker avatar
    81 posts
    17 January 2020 in reply to Leel

    Yes this can be a bit of a dilemma, depending on who you're talking to and what the situation is. Do you make an effort to explain your suffering to a parent? well yes if you can, a friend? more than likely, a neighbour? maybe ? I can usually gauge pretty quickly if a person would be unjudgmental and receive a conversation about mental health well. But when a hairdresser or a neighbour who you have known for 2 minutes asks where you work and the truth is you don't because your mental health is so bad, its can be slightly awkward to decide on the spot if you should start the whole conversation. I suppose its situational. In saying this I understand and cant see any other way the stigma can be broken down unless we do be brave and tell that hairdresser the truth and start that conversation.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this topic Leel, and I really hope you're doing ok after whatever difficulties you have had recently and I am so happy for you that you had that chat with your mum. Sending calm vibes your way.

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