Trying to Change

Is Change Possible?

Something that I frequently find myself thinking is what will it take for my mental health to truly recover? I get tired of trying to change and it seems to be an incredibly long journey.  Little things can knock me backwards. Yet everyone says that compared with how I was, I am vastly improved. I don’t feel it though.  But I keep trying, over and over. I do the exercises and activities I’ve learned from counselling over and over, along with taking my medication. A broken leg would be healed by now, but my broken mind? Apparently not. Only recently, it took everything in my power not to end up back self-harming. The crawling shadow of depression has been haunting me for days and I’m exhausted from fighting it. So why do I do it? Why do I keep trying to change what seems to be inevitable?

Stubbornness: My Greatest Character Flaw

One thing many people say about me, is that I’m stubborn. It can be one of my less desirable traits.  Like my dad before me, I dig my heels in and won’t back down. One of his favourite songs when I was a teenager was by a band called Chumbawumba, it inspired him to keep going with his small business even in the face of increasing odds of failure. It kept him going. Last year when he was in a coma after collapsing I played this song to him over and over, trying to get him to come back to us. Sadly, the truth was he’d already gone.

After his death last year, I truly thought I would not recover. My mental health was already devastated. Losing my dad on top plunged me even further into the darkness. But I kept hearing that song. The same line, over and over.

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down.

Every time I think about giving up trying to change my mental health state, I hear this song. Like a whisper from heaven, I hear it and see my dad, telling me not to give up.

Keep Trying to Change, because it’s Time for Change

The reason I keep trying to change is that I want to show that even when you may not ever be cured of a mental health problem, you can change enough of your behaviours to manage it. You can be the person to break down the stigma surrounding mental health by talking about it. By sharing my experience I have come into contact with countless others, and we’ve learnt from each other, supported each other. These are changes I want to continue making. By sharing my story at work, it’s helped others step up and voice their concerns over mental health and how it’s treated in the workplace. To make the change, we have to be the change.

So yes, it’s difficult. There are times I feel it would be easier just to sink back into the darkness. But I don’t. You don’t have to. It’s okay to have a mental health problem, no matter what it is. There will be bad days, there will be good days and that’s okay too. By being honest about it, hopefully we can bring someone else out of the darkness where they thought they were all alone.

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Pretending

Make Believe Pretending

Did you ever play make believe as a child?  Dressing up in costumes, pretending to be something that you weren’t?  Perhaps it was a job that you wanted to do, such as a fireman or policeman, a builder or a businessman.  Maybe it was a fictitious character, such as Frodo Baggins or Gandalf, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.  (Yes, you can see where my interests lie!)

GandalfPretending to be someone or something else was always fun.  It was something done frequently in our house.  Legendary warriors on mythical quests, Jedi fighting battalions of battle droids, whatever we were doing it was always something we enjoyed.  I’m sure you enjoyed it too if you did that as a child.

But what’s my point?  Why am I telling you about make believe?  Quite simply, I want to ask you a question: are we still pretending?

Pretending Now

Are we still pretending today?  Not the sort of make believe pretending that we did as children but one of a much more serious nature.  Instead of pretending to be hobbits or wizards, monsters or Jedi, people pretend that things don’t exist.  Depression, anxiety, bipolar, even things like homosexuality.  People simply adopt the mindset that they don’t exist.

Given how often we see or hear about these things in the news, I can imagine you’re wondering whether I’ve lost the plot somewhere.  How can I say that people pretend that things like mental illness and homosexuality don’t exist?  Quite simply: how often do they deny it?  How often do we see people pretend not to see something or acknowledge something that they don’t want to see or acknowledge?

Take this interview, for example.  Christian theologian and pop star Vicky Beeching recently came out as gay – something that is quite shocking for a lot of Christians, as homosexuality isn’t Biblical.  Check out the conversation between Vicky and evangelical pastor Scott Lively.

As you can see, Scott Lively refuses to acknowledge that homosexuality is a real thing.  He clearly labels it as a lie at 3:24, refusing to agree that homosexuality might be something real.  Now, this site wasn’t set up for combating the issues surrounding homosexuality but I think the same concept applies.

People are pretending.

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Mental Health and Pretence

In the world today, I see far too many occurrences of people pretending that mental health doesn’t exist.  Phrases like “it’s all in your mind” are commonplace, and people don’t believe that mental health is an issue.  As mentioned in Stipulating Stigma, the world is rife with mental health stigmatisation and people treat mental health as inferior to physical health.

They are pretending that it isn’t a serious problem.

Moreover, they are pretending that it isn’t happening to them or to anyone they know.  They would rather bury their heads in the sand and deny it ever existed than to face the issues surrounding it.

Do you agree?  Is it something that you’ve noticed or would you say I’m blowing a minor issue out of proportion?  I’d be interested to hear your comments.

Stop Pretending

So ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to stop pretending.

That’s right: it’s time to stop pretending!

Mental health – depression, anxiety, bipolar, insomnia – are all real issues in our world today.  1 in 4 people in the UK are diagnosed with some form of mental illness.  If that isn’t a major problem, what is?

So let’s take action.

Let’s stop pretending!

Let’s end the stigma and bring acceptance to mental health sufferers around the world.

We can do this!

It’s time.

So let’s stop pretending, let’s take action and let’s bring an end to the stigmatisation of mental health once and for all.  It’s not happening to someone else, it’s not a problem for someone else to deal with, it’s something for us.  We have to do it.  It’s our responsibility.  Ours alone.

You and Me.

Let’s stop pretending and make the change.

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The 3 Biggest Problems with Mental Health Today

3 Biggest Problems with Mental Health Today!

Mental health is such a stigmatised topic in today’s society.  While it’s talked about more, there are still many problems facing it.  Not enough awareness has yet been raised, nor has there been enough support for it over the years.

We need to change that.

Check out the 3 biggest problems for mental health below!

Over to you!

What do you think?  Drop us a comment and let us know!  Or join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter!

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The Onus – We’re Here For You

Connectivity Campaign

For those of you who are connected with Pushing Back the Shadows on social media, you may have noticed that there has been a running theme over the course of this weekend.  For me, it’s been all about tackling what I perceive to be one of the biggest issues in mental health: the onus.  I’d like to walk you through that.

Sometimes you just need someone to tell you you're not as terrible as you think you are.The past few weeks have seen the first few posts in our Talking Things Through series run in our Friends and Family Support section.  In that series, we look at tackling the big issues surrounding mental health.  We also try and equip you for your interactions with people going through mental health struggles.  If you haven’t already had a look, why not check it out?  It doesn’t mention the onus anywhere but it does give you other insights into how you can help people with mental health struggles.

Today’s post, however, is all about looking at the onus that we place on people.  The reason that series I mentioned was called Talking Things Through was because, in my opinion, that’s one thing that we don’t do.  Mental Health is stigmatised.  We don’t talk about it if we can help it.  It’s almost one of those things you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole.

Yet that’s what we need to do!

The Onus

A strange thing to be talking about, I know, but I think it’s an important and integral part of dealing with mental health struggles.  This post probably won’t win me any friends but, in truth, I didn’t start this site to talk about the nice and comfortable subjects.

So what do I mean about the onus?  Well it hides in the almost clichéd line “we’re here for you” or “you know where we are”.  In the majority of cases, I know these lines are well-intended.  You’re offering your support to someone who is struggling.  It’s a nice thing to do.  However there is one big flaw in that.

You’re putting the onus on them.

That’s right, you’re making it their responsibility.  It’s the get-out-of-jail-free card, the contractual sub-clause that allows you to sit back and relax and wait for them to do the hard part.  If they, the sufferer, don’t contact you, then that means they don’t want your help.  At least they know it’s there though.  Right?

Sadly, wrong.

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The Onus Problem

What’s the problem?  You’re offering them your support, you’re telling them to contact you if they need the help…so isn’t that a good thing?

Do you know what?  It’s great, it really is.  I’m pleased that you’re there for your friend or family member.  That being said, there’s something you need to consider.

Can they talk about it?

For a lot of people going through mental health struggles, opening up and talking about it is one of the hardest things to do.  Every time my friend struggles and spirals, the first thing she does is hide because she doesn’t feel she can ask for help.  I’m the same: I find it hard to say “I’m struggling, please help me”.  It’s just not something that comes easily.

Are they likely to talk about it? Not always, no.

Mental Block

Imagine that you live with your brain trying to tell you that people don’t care.  Why should they?  You see yourself as worthless so why would anyone else bother with you?  Now imagine that you don’t hear from people.  It’s rare for you to get messages or phone calls unless a) you message or phone first or b) the person messaging wants something. Is that going to make you feel like they care?  That they are there for you?  That you can turn to them when you need them? Somehow I don’t think it will.

That’s the trap that a lot of people struggling with depression fall into.  They have a small yet persuasive voice in their brain telling them no one cares and they have a phone or social media devoid of messages to support that statement.  It becomes far too easy for them to believe that no one cares.  That they’re alone.

Why?  Because the onus is on them.

My Struggle

Picking up the phone, for me, is one of the hardest things to do.  There are only five people I would ever really answer the phone to or make any effort to phone.  That’s partly because I’m stuck in the trap I mentioned earlier but also because I tend to have an anxiety attack every single time I go to ring.  Combine that with the need to ask for help and I’m more or less shot in the foot before I even get going.

I don’t talk about it.

Which is why I need others to talk to me.  I know plenty of other people who are in the same position, who need help but people don’t reach out to them.  It’s like we’re too content to just sit back and let people struggle unless they ask for help.  Admittedly, keeping in touch with people does take work but even so, it’s an integral and important part of supporting someone.

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Suicide

Something for you to bear in mind – and this is an example I used with both my mum and one of my friends when trying to explain this – is suicide.  Suicidal thoughts can creep into people’s depressions and it’s scary when it happens.  The thing with suicide, though, is that you’re supposed to watch the ones who don’t talk about it.  According to studies and experts, the ones who talk about suicide are less likely to commit to it than the people who hide it and don’t talk about it.

They don’t talk about it.

So what would you do if that happened?  What if someone felt so isolated and so unable to talk to others that they killed themselves?  With depression, it’s a possibility.  Together we can change that though!  We can talk to them.

Breaking the Onus

So what can we do?  Well for starters we can stop putting the onus on the person suffering. Statements like “but I haven’t heard from you” or “you know where we are if you need us” need to become the minority. Instead, send them a message periodically.  Weekly, fortnightly, both work, just try not to leave it longer than fortnightly, especially if you’re not seeing them.

Don’t know what to say?  That’s no problem.  Something simple like “Hi, how are you keeping” or “Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you” will do.  From what people tell me, the majority of us don’t need answers, we just need someone to send a message and listen.  That’s all you have to do.

Over To You

I’m passing the buck now.  It’s your turn.  Do you know someone who suffers with depression?  Have you noticed they’re isolating themselves? Could you send them a message to let them know they’re not alone?

It takes 1-2 minutes.

It could save a life.

Please reach out to someone. You have no idea what difference it could make.

For further information, check out the Onus pt 2 – The Damaging Effect.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.