Should you be open about your mental illness?

After every post I write here, I say to myself ‘ok, you’re done baring your soul now. You’ve gotten it out there to hopefully help someone. So let’s leave it at that ok?’ Then of course I get the urge to write again, and on it goes.

In the last while I’ve been thinking about people who are open about their mental illness, and those who prefer to keep it a secret. There’s pros and cons to both, I think we all know that.

At the moment a lot of courageous individuals and celebrities have come forward to tell of their own battles with mental illness. This type of openness has been badly needed in this country for a long time. But we still have a long, long way to go.

I suppose the problem is fear and stigma. So I can completely understand why many people don’t come forward. Because there is still a strong perception out there that depression is a weakness. And it only happens to weak, sensitive people. Of course I know that’s not true. But it is perceived that way by a huge number in society. I think a lot of sufferers are understandably fearful about opening up because we all know, that there are those who will use it as a stick to beat you with. And who needs that kind of grief? No-one. Least of all someone suffering from depression. So people protect themselves, and who could blame them? Because one of the worst feelings in the world is someone slapping it to you about your mental health. And there are many subtle and not so subtle ways it’s done. So why leave yourself wide open?

I think the truth is you have to be at a stage where you are in complete acceptance of your illness. For me, I simply now feel that it’s the way my brain is wired. However, it took me ten years to get to that stage. So I can totally empathise with those who keep their illness to themselves. The other important point about being open is it’s a way of letting everyone know that you are not ashamed of your illness. It’s one of the many parts that make up you.

I’m not saying I’ve told every single person I know that ‘hey I have depression’, because of course I haven’t done that. It’s not something you just drop into the conversation. It’s a sensitive issue and deserves to be treated with sensitivity. So I didn’t blatantly shout it from the rafters. But my blog was a big starting point. And in the last year or so, I’ve spoken about it when opportunities have presented themselves. Because of this, a lot more people know about me now, than ever before. Of course I knew by starting a blog I would be leaving myself open to possible criticism. But I was at the point where I simply didn’t care about that anymore.

When I started to recover from my last severe bout of depression in December 2013, I had an overwhelming urge to help other sufferers. And even if that meant making a difference to just one other person, I would cope with any negativity that came my way. And since I’ve started this blog, there hasn’t been any negativity. People have been supportive in their own way. And whilst most have never said it directly to me, I’ve always felt their support. This has meant a great deal to me. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to be for sufferers. All any of us really want  is to get well, so we can have the peace of mind that everyone deserves.

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