‘This time next week I will be admitted in to the Priory. I need help, and soon.’
That was what she had written on her Facebook Status.
I’ll be honest, at first I was a little shocked.
It is not like people to be so honest on my Facebook timeline.
I was taken aback, and then I was hugely inspired by her strength.
She is quite clearly desperate for help, I thought, and where most people would not admit to a mental health problem, instead preferring to hide behind ‘a bad day’, a happy smiling family photo or an inspirational quote emblazoned onto a picture of a murky lake or some such guff, she is openly and with extreme courage, asking for support.
This kind of thinking and honesty needs celebrating, it is inspirational men and women that talk willingly like this about mental health issues that enables huge steps forward in breaking down the stigma in society.
Personally, I was inspired as I saw a Facebook friend who was not ashamed, had clearly worked hard to see depression wasn’t a choice, but a very real and brutal illness, and therefor deserved all the well wishes and support she could gather, and by accepting time in a mental hospital, was most likely determined to win.
If she had cancer She might have been updating her status with ‘only 1 more round of chemo!’ And no doubt we would all be celebrating and supporting her without question, so why shouldn’t she let people know she is ill and seeking help from this illness?
In those moments I had huge amounts of respect and concern in equal measures for her.
My heart went out.
‘Just goes to show you never know’ I said to the Irish one as I clicked on the link to offer my support.
And then my heart sank.
‘Oh me too.’ A friend of hers had commented. ‘I will join you. I am going to sit in archery and art therapy and relax in all of those little groups they do.’
And then I felt nothing but dismay.
‘Ha. Ha. I am going to sit and rock back and forth in a chair, why should I do any work, I need a good rest.’ Was the final reply.
And then I was gutted.
My fingers typed out a few replies.
But I never published them.
I was too ashamed to fight.
I felt a little humiliated.
What if they disagreed with my points of view?
Was I over reacting? It was only a joke. They were clearly only joking.
Why was I so offended? Maybe I needed to ‘get a grip.’
I spoke to the Irish One about it, all worked up and sad.
‘I am so tired, why do people think it is ok to talk about mental health and mental hospitals like they are a joke? No one would ever take the piss so openly out of any other hospital or person suffering from illness? It just re-enforces those feelings of shame, and stops people asking for help! I hate it, and the stigma.’
His calm response floored me. (Smug git.)
‘So what are you going to do? Reply now, emotional and upset, or educate, once you are calmer?’
I didn’t want to do either.
I wanted to forget all about it and move on, I wanted to bury my head in the sand and not remind myself of that awful night in the middle of one hot summer, when I had woken up at 3am in the kitchen, an empty bottle of pills in my hand, and knowingly made the decision to leave my family, a little boy who needed me and everything that made me feel safe, and head in to the Priory hospital. I was not going for a ‘little break.’ I was going because if I didn’t, he would grow up without me.
I didn’t want to dwell on the acute fear and panic I felt as the sun on that first night started to set and I knew I wasn’t allowed to go home. Or the agonising grief that ripped through me as I thought of a little boy crying out for his mummy while his mummy would rather have been dead. The hours I spent with my head in my hands, the pain in my heart so overwhelming I would rock back and forth in an attempt to focus on something other than that and the voices in my head, that tortured me over and over with what a terribly selfish human being I was. The rocking was comforting. Isn’t that simply hilarious?
I wanted to shy away from the sheer torture of remembering my first ever art therapy experience where I had been so broken, that I felt like the world had literally fallen away and I was stuck in an alternate reality where I couldn’t focus on any one voice. The anxiety and depression mixing together making me shake uncontrollably, my heart pounding constantly. This was my absolute rock bottom, in that ‘little group’ while the art therapist spoke softly to me, trying to provide me comfort, I had had to spend the whole time focusing on keeping the world steady and not fainting. The real pity was however, that I did not see any celebrities.
I didn’t want to remind myself of how lost I had been at that time, how scared, how pointless I felt, and how vulnerable I was, and what a hell of a long journey back it has been.
A road that will most likely always be uphill, but I am fucking making it.
I felt like I had a duty to say something, on behalf of me, and on behalf of all the beautiful people I knew and met, in the summer of that year when I was admitted in to the priory, because I needed help and soon.
I felt I had a duty to keep fighting the stigma, on behalf of the ones that lost.
I also realise that prior to being admitted myself, I probably would have said something similar without realising how shame inducing it could be for those who have lived it.
It is not ok to take the piss, refer to in jest, or joke openly about mental illness, no more than it is to take the piss, refer to in jest, or joke openly about cancer.
But I understand this was not meant with any malicious intent, I am hopeful it is only a lack of thought mixed with a dash of Stigma, and that next time, any one who may read this may now think twice.
Taking the piss out of Mental Health stops people asking for help.
It is an illness.
One person every 7 seconds loses their life from mental health related illness. That is brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, fathers, cousins and friends.
Do you still feel lighthearted about the whole thing?
So for my beautiful friends and family that died at the hands of depression and ill mental health, even after a stay at the priory.
This post is for you.
Let’s keep challenging that fucking stigma.