If you’re reading this, you probably have a brain (unless you’re a weird robot from the future, in which case this probably won’t apply to you). If you have a brain, you can be affected by mental ill health. That is the reality of being a human with a brain. Sometimes it gets poorly, just like your physical self does, and you need to take care of it. When I talk about mental health, I notice a LOT of stigma, misconceptions and a lack of understanding of how mental ill health can affect people. So, I’m here to debunk some of the misconceptions that I have heard, based on my own experiences. I’m not here to tell you that my experiences speak for anyone else, because they don’t. But I am here to remind you that generalised statements that such as the ones below only add more stigma to the subject of mental health, which is something we all should be fighting to change.
People with mental ill health don’t work: I can kind of understand why this misconception exists, because mental illness can be incredibly debilitating and some people are unable to work for periods of time whilst they seek help for their mental health. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. A lot of people do work, in fact there’s a chance you actually work with someone who has experienced mental ill health. I worked my ass off for my work placement when my depression was at it’s worse, and the reason for that was because it actually kept me going. Although it was incredibly difficult, it was the one piece of my life that made me feel “normal”, so I carried on working.
People with mental ill health can’t have functioning relationships: Whilst it can be difficult at times to manage your own mental health on top of contributing to a committed relationship, I can promise you that it is still possible. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are blamed for their mental health problems when a relationship falls apart, but it doesn’t mean that they are in some way incapable of loving or caring for someone. If anything, a relationship can bring a lot of love and support when you need it the most.
Mental health problems are a sign of weakness: This is soooo far from the truth. In fact, since I experienced mental ill health, I feel like I’ve become stronger as a person because I’ve been at rock bottom and I’m still learning to build myself up. I’ve overcame things that I never thought I could, so no, I am not weak, and neither are you.
You can only be mentally ill or mentally healthy: This is difficult to explain, but it is a misconception. People can be “mentally healthy” and still experience instabilities and issues which do set them off track for a while. Remember that we all have good and bad days, but when these bad days are becoming more severe and really beginning to impact on your mental state and your life, this is when you really should try and seek support for it if you feel comfortable to do so.
People pretend to have mental ill health: All I can say to this is it isn’t your place to decide. You don’t know what is going on inside anyone else’s brain. You don’t know how they think or feel or how they cope with situations, so it isn’t your place to judge on whether they have mental health problems. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. Absolutely DO NOT invalidate someone else’s struggles because you don’t understand how they are feeling.
You cannot recover from mental ill health: You absolutely can recover. Just because you can’t always see the recovery in the same way that you see a broken bone heal, it doesn’t mean that recovery isn’t happening. Recovery doesn’t mean being 100% “mentally healthy” (whatever that is) and never having a bad day again, but it does mean reaching a point in your life where you can function with the right amount of support and care that YOU need. Everyone’s recovery is different and no amount of relapses or blips are going to devalue the level of hard work that you put in to make yourself better.
I want to end this post with a reminder that there is absolutely no shame in experiencing mental ill health or mental health problems or whatever else you want to call them. The brain is just like every other organ in your body, sometimes it doesn’t work as well as others and it isn’t your fault. You are worthy of love, worthy of recovery and worthy of staying here for another day to keep fighting. Today is not the day to let it take you away, you’re strong enough to keep going.
All the love and hugs, from Kara xoxo