Strength In Numbers

People with depression often push others away, I did for a long time. The reason being, I didn’t feel worthy of the support and didn’t want to inflict my current self onto people who I cared for. I was also confused and struggling to get my head round how I was feeling, so how could I possibly expect anyone else to understand? Including others, felt like too much of an effort, I was already exhausted, it felt like I was trudging through mud whilst lost in a deep fog, why would I ever inflict this onto somebody else. You feel unworthy of the help and they feel hopeless for not being able to provide it! You might believe that accepting the help is putting an unnecessary burden on them, but for them not being able to help is much more damaging. Why not have strength in numbers and battle it together. Opening up was far from easy for me but every time I felt a huge sense of relief and I was left pleasantly surprised by their reactions.

It’s easy to pre-empt how you think others view you and your illness, but I have to admit, most of the time I was completely wrong with each of my presumptions.

A MOTHERS PERSPECTIVE

strength in numbers

My mum wrote the following passage and I thank her for her honesty.

When a newborn baby is put into your arms there’s a special bond that can’t be broken and as they grow it doesn’t wane at all.

A maternal instinct is an extremely powerful thing, as most mothers would confirm.

From the very first moment of their lives your protection instinct kicks in and you’re lost in admiration of the tiny infant in your care.

All you want to do is protect them from harm, in any way that you can but life is sadly not like that and there are times when there is nothing you can do to take their pain away.

As they grow your concerns are always there as you want the very best for them and when they go to school you leave them at the gates with feelings of trepidation.

Letting go has always been a difficult thing for me and both of my sons would probably tell you that I wear my heart on my sleeve and whenever one of my siblings hurt, I hurt too.

It has therefore been a very difficult time to see one of them struggling with health issues without understanding or being able to help. Broken bones can be easily fixed and although traumatic at the time can soon be forgotten by all concerned. Other childhood illnesses often cause a certain amount of sleepless nights but generally don’t take to long to get over.

An illness that cannot be categorised in a straightforward way seems much more frightening and difficult to comprehend for all concerned. The only way to help I find is to be there for them, when they need you. There’s a fine line between helping and hindering and I have to admit that there are times when I feel that I get it slightly wrong but I try to learn from my mistakes. Sometime having a stranger in your midst is not easy to accept as your son is hidden from view quite a bit due to the illness, which envelops him.

When I see glimpses of him returning, be it a smile that isn’t forced or a mischievous glint in his eyes, I know that he’s going to be all right.

strength in numbers

 

Sometimes you can be so wrapped up in your own personal battles that you forget how your health issues are affecting your loved ones. Living with depression, is not only hard for you but also really difficult for those most close to you. I get questions posted to me all the time, from people desperate for advice on how to help someone they love, who has a mental health illness. Yes it’s hard for them but believe me it would be even harder and more painful if you excluded them all together.

It troubles me when I read my mother describing it as, sometimes like living with a stranger, but I guess that’s the reality at the moment. I can be quite distant at times and when I’m feeling down, I don’t always manage to hide it.

Desperately wanting to help someone but not knowing how to go about it must be extremely frustrating. What’s Important to remember is, often just being there for us can be hugely beneficial.

Brotherly Love?

The first time my brother witnessed me having a panic attack, we were in a busy farm shop. Previous to this I’d felt my anxiety rising. In truth I just wanted to get the hell out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately there were factors that prevented this. Firstly there appeared to be queues everywhere and I wasn’t sure which one we should be in. Secondly my brother was in slow chilled out mode and wanted to browse the store! Of course he had no idea of my urgency to escape and the pending doom that was now suffocating me. Instead he said ‘calm down, whats up with you!’ and even began to laugh. He presumed I was playing some practical joke on him. It wasn’t until I was bent over hyperventilating that he realized it was no joke.   I didn’t blame him for his reaction, you can’t expect someone to immediately understand if they’ve never seen you like this. Later, outside in the car park he was extremely apologetic and needed plenty of reassurance that I was alright.

Obviously now it’s different. He doesn’t make a big deal of it but also knows that me having a panic attack whilst we’re out, is always a possibility. The same goes for my friends who are all aware of my illness. At the time I chose to suffer it in silence and not include people. My panic attacks have become less frequent of late, as I have learnt several coping methods and know what situations to try and avoid. People now being aware alleviates some of my anxieties as they’re no longer shocked by me, instead they know how to respond in a helpful manner. This can include keeping calm and getting me to fresh air or a quieter environment. Using mirroring techniques to help me control my breathing. Most importantly they’re able to offer copious amounts of reassurance, which is precisely what I need in these terrifying moments.

Battling your mental health is hard but made easier with strength in numbers

strength in numbers

 

 

 

 

Hidden Truths

Hidden Truths

Imagine the scene. A young adult on crutches staggers into a department store. It’s clear for all to see that he’s struggling and getting around the store is going to be a challenge. The majority of people will show empathy and kindness to him, if given the opportunity they might even offer him support. The staff are more likely to bend over backwards to help and make his shopping experience as comfortable as possible. Now it’s possible I’m being a tad naïve in this case but I do have experience of pushing people around shops in wheelchairs. All of a sudden you find people queuing up to be helpful, opening doors, moving objects out of the way, even offering to carry your shopping for you! You’re given all the time and space you need.

Getting around a department store would be extremely daunting for me and likely be even more challenging than for the person on crutches. My mental health illness is equally restrictive but unlike the people with physical ailments, my illness goes unrecognised. On first appearance I seem to be in perfectly good health and able to cope. In a busy environment people are not likely to give me space, even though I desperately need it. My anxiety levels, sometimes make leaving the house an impossibility. Though people are becoming more educated and perceptions are changing for the better, it’s still hard for them to understand what they can’t see, so sadly there is no immediate solution.

Maybe it’s time we started challenging the way things have always been. If we lived in a world where we felt comfortable enough to talk openly about our mental health. In such a world it wouldn’t be unusual for someone with anxiety issues to phone up a venue, prior to their visit, to request some help. This could result in a member of staff meeting you at the front of a shop and escorting you around or even meeting you at the entrance to the train station and taking you exactly where you need to go. The possibilities are endless if you just have the confidence to ask for help in the first place. I know I have no right to preach to you when I haven’t even tried this myself yet, but it’s certainly an option I’m going to explore in the future.

Hidden Truths

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, You have as much right to it as anyone else and you might be surprised by the response you get

What can society do?

Media and television have a huge influence over how people view mental health. Now, before I get on my band wagon, Its not all bad! There’s plenty of expert phone ins on day time tele, which are informative and offer good advice and links to support groups. There’s actors who portray mental health very accurately in some of the soaps and dramas. In Coronation street I thought Steve Mcdonalds story of living with depression was a particularly good one and in Emerdale Ashley’s dementia storyline was extremely well written. Both of which brought much needed awareness to the public. But as well as this on the same programs you get so many of the derogatory terms used when referring to someone with a mental health illness.

Brain dead, Insane, Nutjob, Fruitcake, Retarded, Not all there, Nothing up stairs! These are just some of the terms I’ve heard used flippantly in the last couple of weeks, and there normally said in a humorous manner, not intended as an insult! Fair enough, I can take a joke as much as the next person, but you wouldn’t expect a joke to be made about someone with cancer or a brain tumour would you? so why accept it with mental health? and why should we be so surprised that people have trouble opening up when this is how they’re perceived?

Then you get the news stories, regularly including violent attacks by someone with a mental health illness. Of course not everyone with mental health issues is violent, most of us know this, I hope! But what about the younger audience, what must they think?

I think the media need to include more positive stories relating to mental health and I strongly believe that at school, just as much emphasis should be put on the subject, as is already put on physical education. If we can get people talking about it from a young age then hopefully perceptions will change and more people will get the help they need.

asking for help