I talk about my mental illness, a lot. I’m not ashamed of that. Living with mental illness is a huge part of my life and I can’t ignore that fact. Unfortunately, being so honest leaves me open to criticism. Mostly, that I’m attention seeking. Why is talking met with such ferocious negativity? People think we’re exaggerating what we go through for a reaction. Some people assume we must be ‘cured’ by now and somehow by talking about it we’re damaging our chances of recovering. In reality some of us are just trying to learn to manage our illness. I’ve caught myself thinking “should I really be saying this?” or “No one really needs to hear this” which all ties in with me believing I’m a burden to my friends and family. It’s people accusing me of attention seeking that make me feel this way. Instead of helping, it causes many of us to shut ourselves off and isolate from the people around us that could help.
Everyone needs attention
No one likes to feel ignored, or that their opinions don’t matter. We all have our own unique perspectives on life and it’s important that we share them with others. It’s the same with mental illness. We all have our own story to share. The world needs more stories. Stories that are real and full of raw emotion. Even though I don’t like to be labelled as brave for speaking out, I do know how difficult it is to open up. It makes us feel vulnerable and exposed. It’s a difficult and uncomfortable feeling to sit with. Anyone that publicly talks about mental illness has been through a long process of confusion, self doubt and fear. To then label them as self serving and just wanting attention and sympathy is frankly insulting. You might as well tell that person that their journey is meaningless. I want to hear about their journey and cheer them on for taking that leap.
It helps us get the support we need
Talking at it’s core, is good for us. I could go on and on about how talking saves lives and how important it is to open up. It seems though right now, it isn’t helpful. It’s an empty gesture. The lack of resources and professional support available is shockingly bad in the UK. Talking, even if it’s only to family and friends can still help. Opening up and being honest about what we’re struggling with means we’re allowing people that care about us to figure out how they can offer support.
It helps reduce stigma
The idea that talking about mental illness is attention seeking is a result of stigma. Explaining and describing how you’re feeling and how it impacts your life can help reduce the stigma we face. I don’t want sympathy, or pity, or attention. What and many of us want is acceptance. We want people to have a better understanding of what we live with.
Being open raises awareness
Making people more aware of mental illness can only be a good thing. Raising the profile of mental illnesses leads to more people in the general public realising it isn’t an isolated problem. If they know about the long waiting times for support, the stories of very poorly people being let down whilst in hospital or under the care of a mental health team it might result in change.