The big thing in the news today is that the Wales football manager Gary Speed sadly took his own life at just 42. Right now no one knows why this happened, maybe we will never know. Twitter is a-buzz with people’s condolences, and people expressing their shock that an apparently happy person could do such a thing. I’m not posting this as a fan, to be honest I couldn’t care less about the football. This post is more about mental illness/depression and the stigma attached to it. I’m not a doctor, a therapist or had any training on the subject – these are just my opinions based on my own experiences.
I’ve battled with my own demons on and off since I was about 10 years old, possibly younger. I count myself incredibly lucky not to suffer all the time from depression and at the moment am not reliant on any medication. In my most recent bout I was taking anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and was told that I probably suffer from Cyclothymia, which for me was worse than being told that I have full on “depression” because it’s so bloody unpredictable. I can go for months (over a year at the moment) where I am “normal”, go to a soaring high and then come crashing down to earth like no one’s business. Then I’m normal again. This particular vicious circle has gone on for about 7 years, and it’s not pretty. I am lucky that The Boy is so understanding, supportive and loving. Without his support I can’t even consider what my life would be like, be there a life at all. I could never have gotten through any of my dark days without The Boy, my cats, my family and my friends. To be honest they helped me a lot more than any of the medical professionals that I have seen over the years. It seems that they are too eager to give you the pills or blame something environmental (work, or divorce) for a person’s depressive state. Talking helps, and this is the reason for this post.
All too often the social stigma attached to mental illness overrides the need for an individual to see help, probably through fear of being called irrational or told to man up or pull yourself together – “don’t be so bloody stupid” I was once told when I was self-harming at 14. Great advice. It is this that makes people hide their illness which in most cases just makes it worse. You can’t hide from yourself. I couldn’t anyway as I was [am] my own worst enemy. Even if you don’t have the answers that someone who needs help is looking for, lend an ear or a hug. On many occasions I found it cathartic just to talk to someone, generally at someone if I’m brutally honest, but once I’d said whatever it was that was on my mind it would feel, albeit temporarily, that a weight had lifted and I could get on and do something else – even if that something else was just getting dressed or doing the dishes.
I can’t forget the times I was at my very lowest – there are physical scars – but I thank everyone who has ever even just smiled at me for getting me through it all.
I hope that the sad news today means that others will stop hiding and ask for the help they deserve. It’s an illness, not a crime.