So apparently it’s “Time to Talk Thursday”, in a bid to get people across England talking about mental health problems and help break the stigma. So! I thought it might be helpful if I spoke about my experiences. For the first time, properly. Deep breath…
Because I am high functioning, an extrovert and a clever clogs, I mostly pass for “normal if eccentric” to the mundane. People find it hard to believe that I have mental health issues because I present well, as they say. I also now have insight into my conditions, on the whole: this has made my interactions with professionals frustrating and off-putting. When you present with suicidal depression and you’re told it can’t be that bad because you have insight into it, it’s enough to make you homicidal. Why yes, I can watch myself going mad. What a treat.
If I was a child now I would be statemented as “on the spectrum”. I know some people think statementing functional kids is a cruelty; I say it’s the opposite. It’s cruel to expect your kid to struggle to be functional and have nowhere to go when they need help. I believe that the lack of a diagnosis or any awareness of what was “wrong with me” absolutely contributed to the development of the mental health issues I live with now. In my day we didn’t know – but now we do. There’s no excuse.
I envy modern kids with their vast vocabulary to discuss their mental states. It’s only recently that I have been able to even slightly articulate the things that I think and feel.
I have anxiety, and compulsive behaviours.
I get depressed. I self-harm.
I have been though periods of my life where I was so suicidal only last minute lucky thoughts saved me. Like, one time I didn’t do it because there was a kid staying at the house and I didn’t want him to find my body. Another time I was about to kill myself but realised I was cleaning the scissors I was going to cut myself with and the irony stopped me. It’s always cutting. I used to visualise cutting my arms open and just letting the blood flow out. It was only years later when I took Champix and suicidal depression was forced on me I realised how ill I had been in the past.
I have interesting “delusions” that I might even tell you about one day.
I can’t control my extraversion, and spend at least half of my interactions with other people wishing I would shut the hell up and stop showing off.
When I’m not pretending to be normal, I stim, I flap, I behave like a kid and I don’t know what I’m doing. I enjoy time to myself because I can indulge all those behaviours without people seeing me.
There have been times in my life where normality is torture. I spent much of my 20s drifting from shit job to shit job and twice dropping out of Uni because I just couldn’t cope with “real life”.
I don’t like being touched.
I don’t like noisy places and I’m terrified of the Tube, despite also being obsessed with it.
When I get distressed by anything, I have to subsume my urge to drop to the floor, clutching my head and groaning. This is why I rant and rave and yell when things go wrong. If I didn’t, I would have a spaz.
I downplay my struggles because I know people have it worse. “Oh yes,” I said during the Champix times, “I’ve been a bit down before but never like this.” It was all lies; I thought if I described what I’d been through before as depression it would be taking the piss out of people who are so sick they can’t fake wellness, like I could.
My faith in God has kept me together at times when I would otherwise have just stopped.
One thing I do know though is that our society’s definitions of sanity are way crazier than I am. Basically the diagnostic rules were laid down by a load of old white guys who defined sanity as “the way old white guys like us are”. This at a time when they were happily pumping housewives full of sedatives to cure their “neuroses” – when really, they were just unhappy because they were oppressed and downtrodden.
We need to accept that all human traits are a spectrum and that most of the problems we have as people with mental health issues are actually caused by society’s refusal to accept a variety of human conditions. Like how people in wheelchairs are actually disabled by the lack of ramps rather than their wheels, we are often disabled by the lack of tolerance for human differences.
Hopefully this is one of the areas in which we will continue to evolve.