Invisible sickness

Disclaimer: I have been writing this post on and off for the last couple of months. It isn’t very long but it is about something that has taken me a long time to come to terms with and begin to be comfortable to share outside of my circle. Some references may seem outdated by the time I have posted it, but the impact of those events are still as important to remember and recognise as a catalyst for this.

Over the last few months and years there have been a sad number of losses in the music industry and in other areas of entertainment. This is not uncommon. The most recent one that hit me was Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. The thing that I find most upsetting is when comes out that the people lost were living with depression or another mental health problem. For a very short time after that there is a huge speaking out from people saying that we should talk about depression, take the stigma away from it, then it all goes quiet again and becomes something that isn’t spoken about again. I don’t know why this is.

Update: a couple of months on, there has been nothing significant to continue the discussion that occurred in the week following his death. Sadly, this is not a surprise.

In the UK, approximately 1 in 4 people suffers with a mental health issue of some kind each year. It could be some form of anxiety, or panic attacks, or a level of depression. This is a huge number. Huge. Not all of these are diagnosed, or treated with therapies or medication. What I don’t understand is why, where there is such a high percentage of us. that is is such a taboo topic to talk about. When we have a cold or a sore throat or the flu it is perfectly acceptable to talk about it and the symptoms we are experiencing, and we then share tips on how we deal with those symptoms. I wish it were normal to do the same for mental health.

The side effects of any mental health issue are exhausting, and they vary from person to person in what they are and the severity of them. Insomnia, loss of appetite, excessive appetite, muscle weakness, panic attacks and shortness of breath, inability to keep check of emotions and moods, irrational thoughts, and they are just some of the ones that I am familiar with. And when you get the courage to talk about it, to ask for help, it seems to get worse before it gets better.

That is the part that you don’t get warned about. The part when you start getting treatment and everything is brought to the surface all at once. Rough doesn’t even begin to describe it, and it takes everything within you to keep pushing through that. The doctors don’t tell you that bit, the information page in any medication just lists all the possible side effects there might be. All you are told is that it will take 4-8 weeks for it all to begin working properly, but there is no explanation for what that means, how hard it is, how much you want to stop because what you are going through is so much worse than how it was before. I found that out in the midst of my insomnia, I became very good at looking up very detailed analysis of side effects and different treatment options. I found that my loss of appetite was so acute I asked people to check that I was eating because it was so easy for me not to, then feel even weaker. It was up and down for quite a few weeks, until one day I realised that I wasn’t worrying about things, that I felt more me than I had in months. It was the most amazing feeling.

Sure there have been a few wobbles since then and I know that it won’t always be plain sailing going forward, but I have learnt to much about myself and the people around me over this time. I have found out who is loyal to me and who I can rely on. I have learnt that a lot of other people in my life have been through something similar at some stage. But the most important thing I have learnt has confirmed something I have always believed in and been an advocate for, how important it is to talk to others. It makes you know you are not alone, you have people to celebrate the good days and support for the tough days. People to help to organise the rational and irrational thoughts. And people to tell you what to do, because at times, that is needed, no matter how old you are.

Look after yourselves and each other everyone.

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