On why I am still banging the mental health awareness drum…
Growing up, I didn’t really know that mental health was a thing. I knew I had to eat healthily and do sport. I was told that I shouldn’t smoke or drink too much. As far as I was concerned that was how to be healthy. I didn’t associate checking and worrying, intrusive thoughts or panic attacks with health. I didn’t have the language to talk about anxiety or compulsions. People could be a bit OCD if they had a tidy bedroom or all the cans in their cupboards facing the same way, but it was a badge of honour, a demarkation of organisation, rather than a problem. (As well as being a terrible misrepresentation of what OCD is.)
Thanks to a supportive husband and family, good healthcare, and time, I learned about mental health and learned that, like physical health, it is not static. Mental health isn’t a label or a diagnosis; everyone’s mental health exists and changes. Like colds span from a sniffle to deadly flu, different mental health conditions also exist on a spectrum. We readily accept differences in physical health. It is important we do the same with mental health.
And we have made great leaps forward.
I am delighted to see mental health getting column inches and am glad to be part of it, in whatever small way. Just this week, The Secret Illness project has got coverage in The Independent and Bustle. I am proud to see my stories appearing in these articles. I don’t think it’s more important than other issues, but it is an issue I have worked hard to understand. It is an issue that, by understanding more, I’ve been able to become happier, and importantly, healthier.
I don’t want to preach or get into political correctness. I can live with people using the I’m a bit OCD without understanding it – I mock my own ‘mentalness’ as a means of coping with it – but I do appreciate that some people find that hard to stomach. That is why mental health awareness is important. It is about understanding and appreciating to support those around us. More importantly, perhaps, it is vital for taking care of our own health.
I am grateful for my mental health awareness. I can safely say it has changed my life. I can only show my gratitude by sharing my experiences for those who might be interested.
Recent links about The Secret Illness, to which I’ve contributed: