Talking About Mental Health - Mental Health Awareness Week

It's Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the messages that have echoed throughout social media have affected me far more than they ever have previously. I've taken the opportunity to really look at my mental health and ask myself: how do I feel about it? Why am I so quiet about it? The truth is I haven't come to many solid conclusions.

I'm somebody who is passionate about activism, and when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues I put my voice out into the world without any hesitation. So, why don't I approach mental health the same way? I guess I'm confident in regards to my sexuality and my understanding of a lot of queer issues, whereas when it comes to mental health I often feel overwhelmed. The thing is, my bad mental health means that my thoughts can be all over the place, and sometimes I have to not trust what's being said in my brain. Therefore the idea of being an advocate for mental health issues, when there's so much I'm uncertain about, can feel terrifying. Sometimes I get stuck in thought processes that question everything I think about my own mental health, and I sit there battling the idea that I'm 'attention seeking', becoming increasingly anxious about my own validity. It's seemed almost contradictory to try to offer a clear perspective on something that clouds my head so much, however I'm realising this isn't the case. We can all speak for ourselves and our own experiences, and the importance of raising mental health awareness has been resting heavily on my mind this month. So, I'm making steps forwards in order to truly accept the state of my mental health, since I'm trying my best to love myself entirely, and I'm feeling the urge to start communicating this openly.

My first step was an Instagram post that I uploaded last week, with a caption that read:
"You may or may not know that it’s #mentalhealthawarenessmonth and because of this I wanted to talk about something that I don’t tend to share very often at all. I have OCD, which may be a surprise to people who know me because I’m not very neat or tidy, and you won’t find me instagramming an incredible colour-coordinated wardrobe with the hashtag #ocd as if it’s fashionable. Fun fact, the idea that having OCD automatically means that you’re addicted to cleaning and are extremely organised is false! People who have OCD may experience obsessive compulsions that can consist of a wide variety of things; whether that be excessive cleaning, having to check things multiple times, following a certain order, hoarding, going through specific mental patterns etc. OCD is different for each person who has it and I tend not to mention my own experiences much, partly because I genuinely forget that not everyone deals with intrusive thoughts like mine since it’s become so normal to me, and also because it’s hard to feel like there’s something “wrong” with me. One of my 2018 goals though was to become even more comfortable with myself and sharing this here is part of me fulfilling that. I’m also going to be performing a poem I wrote about OCD at #VidCon’s spoken word open mic next month which I’m excited for! So here’s to spreading mental health awareness - remember that you’re valid, you’re important and you’re worthy no matter where your mental health is at."

Posting this, I felt a certain sense of relief, like taking off a heavy backpack. Sometimes in life, we're not deliberately keeping things from people, it just doesn't occur to us to be vocal about said things. Some of us can be private people, and whilst in one respect I feel like an open book (you don't blog about your life if you're not okay with people knowing things about you), I can also be reserved. This isn't because it's an active choice I'm making, it's just that sometimes it doesn't enter my brain to speak about my own experiences, and occasionally I have to push myself to be more vocal in order to try and make a relationship with someone more equally balanced. In regards to talking about mental health, you might find that by opening up online or talking to someone, you unintentionally relieve some weight from your shoulders. Your vulnerability isn't a burden, it's a gift that allows someone to get to know you better, and maybe even helps them too. Sometimes I forget how much of a positive impact can be had from a really good, deep conversation between people who trust and care about each other.
  
Having said that, no one is ever obliged to share anything they don't want to, and in terms of sharing online, there's a constant debate occurring about whether 'oversharing' is a thing we should be worried about. In my opinion, whether it be online/offline, what I've learnt from 2018's Mental Health Awareness Week is that sharing is mostly positive. Having the confidence to open up about a part of yourself that you've felt shame in is a huge step, and I'll be doing my best every day from now on to remind myself that my mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Opening up can be therapeutic, however whilst it's good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, never put yourself in danger and always trust your instincts. If you're considering telling the world about your mental illness but don't feel ready, you should never force yourself. Listen to what your gut is telling you and make good decisions for you before worrying about anyone else - we all have the right to be as private or as open as we wish to be.

Mental Health Awareness week/month is an excellent opportunity to spread awareness for those who feel able to but nobody should feel pressured into doing so, and if you choose to talk about your mental health online, try to do so in a productive way. If you need a space to purely rant/vent and want to use social media as a place to do so, consider using a private Twitter or Instagram account. I've known people who have used social media to publicly vent constant negativity and have regretted it later when their mental health improved. Also, remember that your friends are your friends and not your personal therapists, and if you are struggling you should definitely seek professional help as soon as you're able to.

I'm really happy about the conversations I've witnessed and taken part in over the last couple of weeks. I feel so proud seeing how many people are fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness and spreading awareness about various issues. We need to be mindful of the way we talk about mental health, but talking about it is without a doubt what we should be doing more and more of, and I'm so glad that's the direction we're going in.


Until the next post,

Em x

Photographed by: Eli Johnathan Photography




5 comments

  1. Nice, it was interesting to know about it

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  2. As a sufferer of both anxiety and depression I appreciate reading posts about mental health and spreading awareness about mental illnesses. We are always told "You're not alone!" but still no one wants to talk about it, or listen to us. I'm glad you've taken this opportunity to be a voice for not only yourself but those of us with a mental illness and help spread awareness about the topic! Thank you. Such a great post!

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! It's so true, often 'you're not alone' isn't enough when there's no visibility of those who suffer from mental illnesses. I'm really glad you enjoyed reading :)

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  3. Loved reading this!! Thanks for clarifying about OCD, because I'm a victim of thinking it just meant compulsive cleaners. Also, very brave of you to express how you feel! I know how that feels. I've suffered from anxiety and depression. In an Arab household, mental illness is a joke and not taken seriously. I feel like it is our generation and the next to destigmitize mental health! Great post!!

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    1. Thank you so much! It's great that you learnt something from my blog. I'm sorry you've had experience of mental illness being treated as a joke and you're right, we'll do our best to see that this changes in the future! Thank you :)

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