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The off button

The off button

An entire week is dedicated to raising the awareness of mental health. I can’t help but feel that this highlights not only how many people are affected by mental health issues, but also how much more work is needed to be done in order to break down the stigma surrounding them.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot has improved since revelers paid to visit asylums and gawk at people who were suffering from various mental illnesses. But isn’t mocking such conditions in the name of ‘entertainment’ for a few likes or views the same thing? If you take into account the fact that teenagers now have the same anxiety levels as psychiatric patients in the 1950s aren’t we the ones who would have been in the asylum? Are we the ones who would have been laughed at? Are we still?

My mind is uncontrollable. It is constantly abuzz and whizzing at 100mph that if I think about it too much I fear I may get motion sickness. When I’m trying to relax and switch off I get myself worked up because I think about how much I need to switch off but how I can’t switch off because I’m thinking about switching off too much thus never actually enabling me to switch off. It makes me dizzy just writing that sentence let alone actually living the reality of it all.  If only someone could invent an off button which I could just switch and have at least a few minutes peace, a break from myself if you will. 

Alongside the never ending internal podcast, there are also extraneous variables. One in particular springs to mind. The virtual conversations, the updates, the instant access to other peoples’ lives, the opinions that everyone is entitled to – even though they may cut deep, the desensitization to whose eyes are reading the words that are full of spite, the world at our fingertips –  in the form of a touchscreen.  

There are both positives and negatives to the technology available to those of us who are fortunate enough to access it. It allows us to stay connected whilst simultaneously detaching us from the sensitivity of humanity. It can have toxic effects – especially when in a bad place. Seeing the picture perfect lives projected on social media can lead to negative comparisons. Belittling and questioning ourselves based on curated content in the form of pixels behind a glass screen. Emoji’s have a billion and one interpretations, and if you’re anything like me you tend to think of the most destructive, even if someone sends an innocent smile I could interpret that as being a subliminal message for their distain towards me. A picture tells a thousand words – so does an emoji. Don’t even get me started on what a message without an emoji or being left on read or how people word themselves via instant messages can be interpreted as. There is no winning. It is all just too much overthinking for my poor brain to process on top of my every day-to-day struggles. The lack of face to face communication (in the form of body language and tone of voice) means that, in my experience, the gap is just filled with paranoia and overthinking which then festers and rots my self-esteem.         

The media has a habit of depicting those with mental illnesses as being violent, ‘the black sheep’ (I literally just heard that on TV as I was typing) or the ones that always seem to be on the receiving end of ‘locker room banter’- kind of like in the asylum huh? It stereotypes the complexity of mental health; by fueling such stereotypes, the consequences can be devastating. People may feel scared about talking about their mental health for fear of being typecast as one of the media depictions. Which in turn means they don’t speak up. An individual who feels lonely and trapped in the inescapable prison of their mind. They feel alone even though 1 in 6 of us are in the same boat as them but 1 in 6 aren’t portrayed in the media, at least not as being ‘normal’- whatever that may be.

It didn’t hit me until recently. But we can turn it off. The notifications, the read receipts, the comments, the television shows and even the device itself. Unlike my mind, they have an off button. Maybe we should use it sometime. Instead of looking at filtered images of doctored landscapes maybe should take a few moments to be present and see the world in all its beauty through our own eyes. Focus on the real people behind the real stories. The people behind the screens and the online personas.  The everyday Jane and John Does. The 1 in 6.

I have no doubt that this week is going to do a lot of good in the field of mental health. Speaking up and changing perceptions is how the stigma will end. There is a vast amount of online materials available from mental health charities (one of the many positives of technology) all of which can be incredibly educational. However, one of the most powerful things you can do is quite simple really. Talk. Give a hug to a friend who’s in a bad place. If you don’t understand what they are going through – ask them. We can become so immersed in external factors, like our phones, that sometimes going back to basics can help ease our buzzing minds. A break from the information overload. Time to ourselves. Time to heal.  

Did you enjoy this amazing piece from our blogger Louise, check out her other pieces on our share platform AMHA | Autism Mental Health Awareness. Read More via AMHA

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Labels are for jars. Not People.

Labels are for jars. Not People.

Well. If you would be telling me back 4 years ago while I was in the darkest time of my life and start of my recovery that I was going to be an award-winning mental health blogger. I probably wouldn’t believe you at all and would tell you to clear off in a polite manner.

I was fighting mental illness undiagnosed since I was 14. I got told I had suspected Social Phobia Disorder & Depression when I was 17 but I wasn’t allowed any medication as I was under 18 so they just made me go to camhs and I’m not being ungrateful at all but they just said it was a teenager phrase that I’d grow out off and didn’t offer me any support as it was just “hormones”  then I finally got diagnosed properly in 2017 at 20 years old.

About 7 years, thinking I was going crazy inside my brain and people just blamed it on my hormones as I was a teenager and said it was a phrase I needed to get out of. Which made me feel so more alone that I wasn’t being taken seriously as I was just a 14 year old and they just blamed it on the teenage years.

Labels are for Jars, Not People.

 

This isn’t a hateful rant to the NHS as they are doing an amazing job with low funding but I just wish I had some support when I kept going back with the same symptoms and maybe I would be better?

But who knows?

I was too scared to talk as I knew that it would be blamed on hormones as I was a teenage girl and of course periods.

I wish I kept going back and fighting for a second opinion but at that time I just didn’t have the energy or confidence to get my opinion across and shout that I needed help and support. I used to be so ashamed of being ill. I used to blame and punish myself for feeling low and crying till 2am on school nights as I didn’t want to go to school as I felt so low.

You wouldn’t have been stuck in a house for 365 days at seventeen years old just because of hormones, would you? I know I’m no doctor, but I knew something was wrong. Since finally being diagnosed with depression and social phobia disorder I feel like a rock has been lifted and that I’m finally being listened too and being taken seriously.

I used to be so quiet and shy as I knew I’d get a weird reaction if I told people I was battling depression and social phobia. But now, I’m like if you can’t take my bad days you don’t deserve my awesome days.

I never had a voice then as stigma and my illness took over my voice. Now it’s my time to make sure mental illness and stigma what is attached to mental health knows that I’m the boss and I’ve got my voice back and it’s not going anywhere even when I’m having low days.

It’s not the best news I’ve ever had, and I was upset and angry for 2 days when I got told my diagnosis, but you know what? I’m happy that I’ve got my diagnosis because I knew, that I was right, and everyone was wrong. I knew what I was facing, and I knew what I was battling and I knew my recovery is going to be around the corner one day.

I’ve gained so much confidence since speaking out that I am ill, and I’m not scared of the stigma anymore.I’ve gained so many friends in the mental health blogging community. I’m writing for charities and back when I was 17, I thought I had no hope and I thought that I wasn’t good enough to be writing about a subject what is so close to my heart.

But I am good enough.

I’m speaking up for more people who need their voices back.

In the Aldridge/Brownhills community, I’m finally speaking out in my own hometown about mental health and it feels bloody amazing!

  • I’ve had relapses in my journey.
  • I’ve had bad times and good times.
  • I’ve had tears and smiles.
  • I’ve had horrible thoughts and happy thoughts.
  • I’m not a victim of mental illness. I battle it, yeah, but it isn’t me.
  • I define me. No illnesses will define me.
  • I’ve had times where I hated my body and myself but times where I love my body and myself.

Last week was so intensive and bad, I thought I was going insane in my head and I didn’t want to fight anymore. But this week is a new week and I am determined to make It a good week. But you know what? That’s completely fine. As It’s okay not to be okay!

Stigma use to get me down so much and use to make me feel ashamed. But when someone does say something nasty to me about my illness, I don’t listen to them as they probably aren’t educated enough and that’s upsetting really as they could be going through with it, and they wouldn’t even know. I tend to educate them and they thank me later!

  • I’m a stigma fighter and proud.
  • I’m a mental health advocate and I’m so bloody proud to be one.
  • I’m Shannon and I bloody define me!
  • Labels are for jars. Not for people.

Talking does save lives. I’m the living proof that it does even on my bad days.

Big thank you to Samaritans for last week being my shoulder to cry on when times were so exhausting at 4am when everyone was asleep.

Big thank you to my family for looking after me when I was so low and I didn’t want to talk about what I was feeling but you managed to talk to me and you helped.

Big thank you to my Nan for noticing the symptoms that I was getting worse and booking me that most important doctor appointment last Friday what saved my life.

Big shout out to my amazing doctor! Dr Flenley as he finally listened to me and I probably wouldn’t have been here today without his kind words and actually helped me. He’s a credit to Aldridge and Portland Medical Practice.

We need more doctors like him!

Till next time.

Love, Shannon Diana x

Read more from Shannon DIanna via AMHA

 

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