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Stop creating a stigma that isn’t there

Some of you may or may not know it was World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October 2014 and when I opened up twitter that morning my feed was packed full of tweets, retweets, and favorites surrounding this topic. I spent the day fearing an apocalypse was near and if we all opened our minds to mental health illnesses, then the world would magically become a much more sustainable place to be. The word ‘Stigma’ was being brandished around like a samurai sword. The five hundred people that I follow all seemed to have a relatable story to tell. I began to wonder whether everybody suffered from mental ill health. Had it really become epidemic overnight whilst I sleeping?

Now, I feel that I can comment on this truthfully and honestly because I do have a very long term Mental Health Illness. I am diagnosed, medicated, have a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse and a frazzled husband that puts up with my constant demands. I am legit. I have the self-harm scars to prove it. But what I don’t have is the need for every single person on the planet to stop what they are doing and be aware of my struggles. It’s my health. I can’t help it and I can’t change it. And I don’t give a hoot whether other people understand it or not. The only thing I care about is the organization of my health care team, and that I remain grounded like I am right now. So I am writing this to ask you? If you are going to celebrate “awareness days’ why are you grabbing onto Mental Ill Health? Why not have a PMT Awareness Day, or a Bladder Infection Awareness day? Is there really a great need for a special day to be spent wondering if the man next to you on the bus is suffering ‘mentally.’? Does it really help when that man confesses to feeling slightly miserable on the odd day and then proceeds to twitter diagnose himself with something like depression? I don’t think it does. And I know, that all the talking and promoting of these events does very little to help people understand and have patience with those who have legitimate mental illnesses.

Lately I have been involved with some charity work for Postnatal Depression Patients. This is an important subject to me as I have had it four times. I have an illness called Puerperal Psychosis, which basically means that when I give birth, my hormones and serotonin levels rocket uncontrollably. This change in my chemistry has caused me to have a psychotic breakdowns when my babies are only days old. I hallucinate, have rapid mood swings, forget who I am, make viable threats against my babies life and eventually when I am admitted to the psych ward and had medication forced into me, I drown into a deep sadness. This is the sadness that caused me to attempt suicide several times. A sadness that put me into intensive care after taking an overdose. A sadness that is depression, serious depression, the type that needs emergency medical attention. I have had my last child now and he is nearly seven years old. There will be no more births in this house, which was not my choice, I just couldn’t risk the psychosis again. The problem I had working with women that have been diagnosed with Postnatal Depression was that whilst they were certainly down in the mouth, fed up with the lack of sleep and having body image issues, I only came across two that had actually suffered with clear hormonally induced mental illness.

It made me question that diagnostic criteria and how it was being used. For the woman that complains to the doctor that she feels like dirt after pregnancy and birth perhaps a prescription of rest and relaxation coupled with a diagnosis of exhaustion would be better than anti-depressants and a diagnosis of postnatal mental illness. This diagnosis and treatment should be strictly reserved for the woman that thinks her baby is a spider (this was me on baby number 3.) This behavior suggests that she (or I) is clearly having a mental breakdown and needs psychiatric care. What astounded me the most and ultimately stopped me wanting to carry on with this work, was the new addition to the postnatal mental health spectrum. This addition is at best laughable and at worst damaging for the women that are truly ill. Now it seems that Fathers can get PND and I have no idea how. The research already done into the causes of PND have brought back chemicals and hormones in late pregnancy and after birth as the only causes. As far as I am aware, men haven’t found the means to have babies yet, but there are at least 10 percent of new father’s every day being diagnosed with PND. I would love an awareness day about how men can get female hormones. That would be an eye opener for sure.

My underlying problem is a Personality Disorder. My family have to live with it and so do I. I am a good girl though. I take my medication, I eat normally, I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t sabotage my public image. If I am mindful of my behavior. I know that other people don’t need to be ‘aware’ why I am crying, having hysterics, being risky, or overtly aggressive. Obviously strangers have no idea why I am upset at that particular moment anyway nor do the majority care. But I like that. Why should they? And I really don’t want to explain that I have just dropped my ice cream and I am upset. Nor do I want to share that my twelve year old dog just died. My reactions are never predictable and I could react equally as badly to either of these scenarios. But my family and I just deal with it in the moment and then move on. No external awareness needed.

What I am trying to say is that the people that know me, don’t need a special day to be aware of how my condition affects me. Terribly for them, I need to be cared for, helped to do simple daily functions and even be forced to eat on occasions. If you are involved in the life of someone with a ‘real’ mental illness, you do not need an awareness day to get the public to take notice. What would be more positive is an offer of help. Spouting generic coping mechanisms and the quite frankly useless advice from life coaches that have no business advising on a medical problem anyway, should be kept to a minimum. It would be much more productive to have an offer help with caring, just for the day, so that you, as the carer can get some much needed rest. Is it impossible for a ‘volunteer’ and not ‘awareness’ day? I wonder…

But like I said, instead of respite and offers of support, mental health is now flooded with ‘stigma’ warriors, bloggers and ‘never seen a psychiatrist in their lives’ sufferers. It is very annoying. Firstly, the ‘stigma’ warriors don’t seem to understand that the more they bring up ‘stigma’ the more ‘stigma’ they are causing. Years ago no-one really cared for mental health, but only in the way that they never cared for lung cancer. There were no warriors around then and humanity still survived. ‘Stigma’ warriors are like the over played pop record on the radio, the more you hear it, the less you listen to it. I just think ‘BACK OFF, find another cause,’ if my fellow mentals and I need something, I promise you, we will ask for it.

Secondly, the bloggers. The mundane, self-important, I can change the world with words, section of society. Mental health blogs are beyond dull. Hi, my name is ……. And I have …….. I feel like I want to …… I am so sad and desperate to ……… Yes, yes, we know you feel depressed, we get it. But, are you mentally ill? My argument is that if you are well enough to run and market a successful blog, then your illness is either mis-diagnosed or you’re like me, on the best cocktail of drugs to treat your condition. If you are the latter, then let it go and start enjoying your life again, that’s what the medication is for. Move on from your illness, faux or otherwise and start blogging about something less morbid. If you are the former, then stop what you are doing and get a life, dwelling on an illness you haven’t got just to meet a trend requirement is sad, and extremely insulting to real patients.
Finally on to the sufferers, or would be sufferers. These people are like parasites. They crawl around in a virtual world trying to find a cause to hang on to. It makes their lives seem more relevant. These are the people behind these awareness days and support groups on social media. Whilst they may seem depressed as they listen to Green Day or Mariah Carey (depending on age,) they are actually just fed up and need to be involved in a group that will provide them with a label to live up to. It’s crippling the NHS financially. GP’s are over prescribing and people are becoming mentally (not physically) dependent on useless anti-depressants. They are useless because the treat low serotonin levels, most of these people have normal serotonin levels and are therefore popping pills needlessly.

I know I sound cynical. I probably sound like a mentally ill snob. You’re probably thinking ‘she doesn’t have any sound evidence, and she thinks she knows it all.’ That’s not true, I don’t know everything. I know just enough about mentally ill individuals to say what I have said and believe it as the truth. As I said earlier, I have no problems with people offering constructive assistance, I beg that families with mentally ill members get the appropriate support. I just want the witch hunt to stop as it doesn’t help. Stigma has been created by people who are calling for stigma to end. They are also getting badly researched personal stories about mental ill health, making it impossible to send the right message to potential patients and thus letting their illnesses go un-diagnosed.

So on behalf of my fellow occasional and permanent in-patients, we don’t need awareness, we don’t feel stigmatised, we just feel ill when our medication needs changing and that is all the general public need to know. We would love to have your help, but please keep your personal ‘journeys’ to yourself. We wish you would support our families instead of using them as counselling service for your own problems because they have ‘experience’ in the subject. But finally, we wish you would get some sleep instead of polluting Twitter, because if we ever do need to raise awareness for ‘real’ mental illness. We want to use Twitter as our mental platform to the whole wide world.

Love Keels xx

Comments

  • Anna says:

    Best article I’ve ever read, hands down. …and you’re someone I read with high expectations as it is. Jeez, lady. LOVED THIS. xxx

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