Sickness Stigma

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There’s a fine line between being rightly annoyed about lack of sympathy and being a needy little bitch. I believe I might be floating around that line with this post, so if you’ve had personal experience in this area, I’d love to know what you’ve been through.

I’ve never been off sick for a long period of time or left work due to a physical illness, so I can’t fully compare the difference between this and being off sick or leaving work due to mental illness, but from my experiences, it smells like mental health stigma to me.

I’m not proud to say I’ve had to move on from different roles because of (at least in part to) my depression. It’s either been an abrupt one due to my condition or after a period of absence and yet both times I barely received a single goodbye, let alone a card or get well wishes.

I’m not blaming particular individuals here because if it was just certain people then it wouldn’t have happened more than once and it wouldn’t have been such an epidemic across institutions. So it’s my assumption that it’s the work of stigma’s sticky little fingers.

Either people aren’t educated enough to know what to say in this circumstance (although a simple ‘get well soon’ or ‘sorry to see you go’ would suffice) or they don’t truly understand or sympathise with people in these situations. Should a colleague feel no other option but to resign due to *insert serious physical illness here*, I believe they’d get a well-deserved send off and sympathy concerning the situation, along with lots of ‘get wells’. Yet twice in my own personal life, it’s like entering a vacuum or going back in time as if I’d never worked there.

So what’s going wrong here? I never actively obscured my illness to colleagues, quite the contrary really, so it can’t be due to ignorance. I think about the closeness of my relationships and consider maybe that was a factor, but when it comes to office gestures, a level of real friendship is barely a factor (happy birthday Sue, I’ve spoken to you once but have a great day!). Then I think, what’s the common denominator? Me. Is it my fault? Am I not worth a goodbye or a get well soon?

And I suppose this is where the power of small gestures really makes a difference. When someone has a dementor constantly yammering in their ear about how little they’re worth, a simple lack of thought can create a huge well in self-esteem. For the life of me, I’ve tried to find a reason why this has all happened, but I’ve come up empty except for blaming myself. Maybe it’s just that people aren’t as nice as I’d hope and, as someone who looks for the best in people, my expectations are too high? Or maybe I’m just completely over-thinking the whole thing – who knows?

But what I do know, is that a simple gesture, even if you’re unsure about how to approach the topic of mental illness, can make a huge difference.


If you’ve had a similar experience, please share it below. 

Quote

For those who have dwelt in depression’s dark wood, and known its inexplicable agony, their return from the abyss is not unlike the ascent of the poet trudging upward and upward out of hell’s black depths and at last emerging into what he saw as “the shining world”. There, whoever has been restored to the capacity for serenity and joy, and this may be indemnity enough for having endured the despair beyond despair.


Excerpt from Depression by William Styron

Wonderfully Bored

Who would’ve thought I’d miss being bored?!

If your depression is anything like me, it zaps all energy and motivation to do anything meaning you can never be bored because you never want to do anything but nothing. I’d never get bored just sitting in front of Netflix endlessly and never interacting with the world. But, alas! Change has come…

Since my dose has increased, it’s made life a little easier to approach every day. But also, I’ve had a few good things happen to me lately, giving me hope – enough to arm up against my dementor. But as I’ve started to feel better, I’ve also started to get really, really bored.

Being bored is wonderful, isn’t it? No? Just me? But it means I actually give a crap about what I’m doing! It means I think there’s something else I could be doing which I might enjoy. Albeit, it’s getting a little tiresome now. I’ve got more energy too, which means if I don’t do something with myself I can’t sleep properly at night – I need to tire myself out! Who knew this could happen again!?

So what am I going to do with all this time I have? Well, I’m starting a new job next week which I’m really excited about and I’m looking into doing a Masters on the side. But for now, I’m going to use it to see my friends and family who deserve to be reminded how grateful I am for their support, patience and love.

When Mental Meets Physical

I’ve been going through a lot lately. I can’t share the full details of the situation, but let’s just accept that even the most mentally stable people would be struggling in my position right now.

Has anyone else managed to keep going even though there’s an endless barrage of bad news? Well, I’ve been doing that for a while but then there’s a point where you can’t cope anymore. One thing will just tip the scales – the straw that breaks the camels back.

I broke. It was the afternoon and I was just gone in an instant. My mind ceased to function – I couldn’t even form sentences properly. I was lying on the bed frozen, physically and mentally. I fell asleep – providing some relief – but when I woke up I was physically gone too. I’ve never truly realised the impact that mental health can have on physical until this point. It’s like my whole body shut down. I was dizzy, nauseated and I could barely stand let alone walk. I had a horrible headache and my eyes could barely open. You know when you’ve got the flu and everything feels…slumpy? It was very similar to that. I couldn’t even eat. In the end, I went to bed, not because I wanted to but because I had no other option.

I couldn’t quite believe what was happening, and I don’t think I could ever understand what it was like if I hadn’t gone through it myself. It was so awful. Thankfully, it passed. That’s the only thought I could hold on to.

I just want to say I’m so sorry to all the people out there who have to experience that too. But you’re not alone.

Reaching Out

A couple of months ago, as you may know from my previous posts, I dropped down to the depths of a black pit called d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n. But then I managed to make it out. I found a rope that’s been there the whole time and climbed it.

But as expected, I couldn’t maintain it for very long without help, support or a change in circumstances. Down I dropped again and now I’m back in the pit. I’m just about clinging on slightly above the bottom – but it’s really tough (understatement of the century).

I was urgently referred to the local mental health centre and something sparked inside me; flourishing change. But two months later and I’ve heard nothing. I feel abandoned and forgotten about. I don’t know what happened and I don’t know why I seemed to have completely dropped off the system. But it’s not okay.

I returned to the doctors today to review my situation. I’ve been bumped up to the highest dose of my medication and my own GP, who referred me last time, was pretty damn angry that the mental health team failed to contact me or offer any of the help they suggested at my meeting.

But the point here really is to emphasise how hard it is to reach out for help. I’ve done it soooo many times and each time is like climbing a mountain and re-living all of the shit that got me there. When I was a teen, I went back and forth to several different GPs who didn’t take me seriously or left it all down to me, the extremely depressed teenager with no motivation to do anything, to deal with. I had an amazing GP a year ago, but I couldn’t stay with her because I moved house and by the time I’d finally got to the top of the list for counselling (6 months later) the letter went to my old address meaning I completely missed out. Now, again my GP has been great but the mental health team has completely abandoned me. If this happened this much with something like treatment for heart conditions, there’d be uproar.

Almost all of the political parties in the election promised to put mental health on par with physical, but do they really know what that means? It means a complete rehaul and huge investment into the sector. Plus a massive drive in preventative care.

What’s awful is that I’m almost sure I’m not the only one. The likelihood is that the staff in the centre were so overworked and swamped by patients & bureaucracy whilst also being hugely understaffed and underpaid that I slipped through the cracks.

I’m not saying don’t reach out – it’s the only way. But it shouldn’t be this hard.

You’re Depressed; You Can’t Be Happy. 

If you’ve read my last mental health entry, you’ll see that I reached a turning point in my condition recently and I’m now pretty damn stable and happy considering the not so distant past.

I’m really trying to embrace my positivity. I don’t want to waste this chance, so I’m committed to making the most of my cheerier disposition. I’m keen to be around people who’ve only seen me at my low points to show them who I really am, and I’m keen to keep fuelling the fire of my happier mood.

But because of this, I’m facing some weird reactions. I know I’ve been a pretty dank person to be around, but I feel like I’m now being judged for being too happy…

I’m allowed to laugh, I’m allowed to cry, I’m allowed to be quiet and I’m allowed to want to join in. I have a mental illness, but I am still a person.

But now I’m scared people are going to think I’m faking it. Aside from how ridiculous that would be, the stigma I’ve faced before proves to me that it’s possible for people to believe that.

But what are my options? Act miserable and then become miserable in response just so ignorant people know I’m still depressed and I wasn’t faking? No, I refuse to allow that to happen. I’m going to continue encouraging my new found sunny mentality because my life is so much better doing so. But my anxiety about what others think nips at my heels still.

I’m sure many others who’ve started to recover, or even just had a good week while living with depression have felt this way too. But I’m going to keep living like there’s no stigma because that’s how it should be.

Well, This is Weird…

I hit rock bottom the other day. I got a call at the very moment was contemplating death from a guy at Hello Fresh who saved my life. He ended up completely ignoring his job and giving me a motivation speech instead. I need to thank him, he was a complete stranger who had faith in me, and that’s what I needed.

That desperate pit I found myself in continued until the next morning and I realised I couldn’t go on. I called in sick and went straight to the doctors. All of the last few months came streaming out of me at my appointment and I was a mess. I was referred for an emergency appointment with the local community mental health team which I got later that day.

In that second appointment, something just clicked inside of me. It was like I finally managed to perform a full-bodied Patronus and the dementor scattered, shocked and terrified. But I have no idea how I did it, it just happened. I walked out of there knowing that this was the turning point; I was going to get better.

I suppose when I got to that point, I realised that I had to stay alive. I made that choice and the power of it lifted me; changing everything.

Since then, I’ve felt like a different person. I feel like I’m finally getting better and I’m the person I’ve been trying to be for so long. It’s so strange, I really don’t know how I’ve done it.

I’m lucky. I know it won’t be plain sailing from now on, but I managed to turn it around. Not everyone can do that, and if something hadn’t just clicked, I wouldn’t have been able to either.

I know my depression hasn’t gone, it never really will. But, suddenly, I’ve got it under control. I’m absolutely exhausted, naturally, but I’m doing it. I’m living, not just surviving.

The Lost Little Teenager

Dear 17-year-old Kate,

I forgive you.

You know you’ve done some bad things. You self-medicated to cope with the feelings which you now know to be depression and anxiety. You treated people worse than they deserved, and you also allowed yourself to be treated badly. But what you haven’t done is forgive yourself for making mistakes.

You’ve blamed yourself for so long. But you are a different person now, and you’ve learnt from your past. But you’ve spent a lot of time since distancing yourself from the person you were at 17, rather than accepting it and forgiving yourself. People don’t always make good choices, but you’re no worse than most people. In fact, you’re a really good person.

I know it’s hard to imagine now, but you are so worth loving. You’ll grow into a person you feel comfortable in, finally, find a skin that fits. It’ll still need altering from time-to-time, but you’ve found a great overall foundation to last. You’re not a bad person because of things you did or felt years ago. Forgive yourself. Forgive.

You’ll fall in love with the most wonderful man who will love you no matter what. But you may never have found him or acted the same if you hadn’t done what you had when you were younger, so aren’t you lucky you made those mistakes? They made you, you. And you’re pretty wonderful, don’t forget to see that when the dementor is resting.

You know in your heart that you’re sorry, now let go. Just let go of the guilt. I forgive you.

Relax. Accept. Breathe.

All my love,

23-year-old Kate

The Long Haul

I really am quite sick. And it’s not an illness I can cure. Depression is going to be with me for probably my whole life, and holy crap does that scare the shit out of me.

I’m scared about what I can do, what I can’t do; what my life is going to me like. I’m scared that some things just won’t be for me and I’m really scared about having to accept that.

I’m scared that I’m going to be on the verge of a breakdown all the time. I’m scared that I’m going to push people away. I’m scared about how angry I am.

I’m scared that I just can’t hack it.

But I suppose I don’t really have any other option except to carry on.

Over the last few days, I’ve had some inspiration for a novel and I’m really excited about it. It’s an incredibly personal story and I hope that it’ll help me work through some things. But I’m scared I won’t have the time or energy to pursue it, and I won’t have the means to research and do it justice.

I was making such great progress and then everything crumbled again. I suppose at least I know it’s possible to get back there. But I feel that I’m trapped by life and circumstance. But maybe that just an excuse.

Perspective

There are two people in this park throwing a ball to each other. Nothing special. It’s raining, but sunny and the floor is covered in beautiful autumn coloured leaves.

And I’m sat here trying to find things to live for.

Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s those tiny moments which feel fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Maybe.

I think about the word perseverance. Such an undervalued ability. Everyone perseveres in some way or another every day. Today it’s just more difficult.