As a sufferer of a mental health condition one of the hardest things to come to terms with can often be how to talk to others about your mental health issues. I’ve had generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression for thirteen years now and although the majority of my close friends and family know this, many who may be reading this after clicking on my Facebook or Twitter link do not. It’s not that I don’t want to tell people, it’s more how do you tell people? The day I took my first anti-depressant should I have tweeted ‘@DrClarke hoping these pills hit the spot #antidepressants’?
Choosing who to disclose your mental illness to
For me there was never an easy way to tell those who weren’t a part of my day-to-day life (and hence hadn’t witnessed my obvious deterioration for themselves). I found myself pouring out my feelings to people I worked with in a part time job, yet I couldn’t just pop round to my Nana’s and come out with it.
A family history of depression, which resulted in a tragic loss, has also prevented me from talking openly about my condition, particularly with extended family, through fear of worrying or upsetting them. However, I feel if there wasn’t so much stigma and discrimination around depression this tragedy might have been avoided.
Avoidance of disclosing your mental illness
To some, my condition will probably seem a surprise as I’m often told I’m always smiling and looking happy on the numerous photos I post on Facebook. As most people suffering from depression/anxiety will know, it becomes easier to hide the condition than worry about troubling others with it. Earlier this year Mind and Rethink Mental Illness started the campaign #GetThePicture in an effort to banish distorted media images of mental health, particularly the ‘headclutcher’ #GoodbyeHeadclutcher. A post on BuzzFeed advertising this campaign featured a collection of photos from sufferers of mental health issues smiling for the camera whilst facing internal battles.
A smile can mask a lot and I’m betting that in almost all the photos where I’m smiling I can tell you a particular worry that was on my mind at that time. I’m not saying I’m never happy, just that my anxiety and depression is part of me and I carry it with me every day – even on holiday, to a concert, or on a night out. Luckily I have a really great support system and the healthy relationships I have with my partner, family, and close friends allow me to talk through my worries, making a great deal more of my smiles genuine.