Today is World Mental Health Day. And as I said to a colleague recently I am very open about my mental health. For years since my health has improved, I have written blog posts about my illness and diagnosis. I have even written about mental health for The Mighty. I will talk to anyone about it. Friends and family, colleagues and customers. I have talked to my niece and nephew about my self-harm and even strangers. I’ve posted on facebook and twitter when I’m suffering from depression or anxiety.
I am open.
You don’t have to be. I am recovered for the most part. As recovered as I may ever be. I’m in a better place than I have been for years. I feel capable of being so open about my past and my current mental health.
If you are not me (seems likely), and not past the worst of your illness, your suffering, your problems, that’s okay. I know everyone says people should talk about mental health more and I do that in spades. But that doesn’t mean you have to if you can’t if you’re not ready.
If you don’t want to.
There is one thing you should do though.
You don’t need to tell everyone your problems. You don’t need to confide in the world that your depression has kicked your ass today. You don’t need to admit to suffering from anxiety, Or bpd or psychosis or social phobias (all things I suffer or have suffered from).
You just need to open up to one person.
Find one person to trust, to be strong when you are your worst. People cannot carry this sort of emotional and mental suffering around with them without someone to talk to. Whether it be a friend, a family member or a stranger on the internet even. Someone to unload on.
Not everyone has help, advice or even words but people can and will listen to you talk or type for a little bit.
I know because I’ve been there.
Even without suffering from mental health problems people need to talk. Everyone has problems and talking help. Sometimes it’s just the connection to another human being we need, sometimes it’s actual tangible support we need.
Whatever it is you need, find it, take it.
One day you’ll be able to pay it forward.
I am definitely at a place where I can be open about my mental health.
Before I would barely talk to anyone about anything. I hid everything. It took me years to even admit to my mum and sister that I suffered from mental health problems and that I self-harmed. That was not an easy conversation nor one I want to repeat but it was necessary.
It meant that I could count on these people for support. Not that I couldn’t before, but now they could support me with my mental health problems. I needed that. Other than my ex-boyfriend they were the only people in the real world that knew about my illnesses (not including doctors).
I did, however, have an online support network. I have been blogging since I was nineteen, though back then it was more of an online journal. I had a Diaryland and a LiveJournal, and joined a forum for self-harmers. I’ve met a lot of friends through these places. Including my best friend and son’s godmother.
For while it was all I had.
Over the years that network grew and improved and so did my mental health.
Now I’m a mostly functional adult human of the real world. I have a job and a family and a house and mostly manage all three.
The thing about mental health recovery is that it’s never complete. I feel about 80% most of the time. But that is enough for me, enough to be living a good life and to be happy.
It is enough for me to be open about my past and my present mental health people. At first, it was hard. Writing about it was easy, writing about it will always be easy. What was hard at first was hitting the publish button, letting those words out there and sharing the posts online. Now I’ve been doing it for a while it’s much easier. I’ve even been open about my personal hygiene problems while suffering from depression.
Now it’s easier and I feel like it’s important. Not just because it helps other people know they’re not alone, not just because it help destigmatise everything. It’s important to me too, To keep writing about those years, the worst of it and the best of it. To document how I survived and how I continue to live.
I hope everyone can reach this place too. But if you can’t that’s okay and if you don’t that’s okay too. All you ever need to do is be yourself and live.