Whether you’ve found yourself in the deep and dark depths of depression and anxiety or you know someone who has/is suffering the symptoms, mental illness is everyone’s business.
A recent study of more than 10,000 women in the Jean Hailes Women’s Health Survey 2017 revealed that 40 percent of women have been professionally diagnosed with depression or anxiety with the worst affected between the ages of 18 and 35. That’s almost one in two women professionally diagnosed, so that doesn’t even account for the silent sufferers who haven’t taken that first step to get help.
According to Beyond Blue, it’s estimated that 45 percent of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with about one million adults experiencing depression in any one year.
This week, as our friends at PANDA raise awareness of Perinatal Depression and Anxiety, a common disorder that affects one in five expecting or new mums and one in 10 dads, I wanted to lift the lid on some reasons why those who suffer remain mute.
Written out of my own personal experience and journey, it may just help us to either recognise the faulty thoughts we hold or provide a clearer insight into how others may be struggling. At best, I hope that in having these open and honest discussions – as uncomfortable as they can be – we can become more aware and as a result, point ourselves/others towards help and onto the road to recovery.
1. I thought I was OK but was actually in denial
When I was in the throes of PND, PTSD and OCD, I had no idea what was happening. I had read statistics and had doctors/midwives in my ear, explaining what having a baby can do to your mental health i.e. make you go batshit crazy. But sadly, I was in denial because “How could that possibly happen to me?” I was a strong and independent person who did not and could not let anything get me down.
What started as a bit of mild anxiety and depression continued to worsen as I endured typically normal occurrences in life: having a baby, moving house, starting a business and managing our son’s bleeding disorder. My denial was doing me no favours and if anything, was only delaying and worsening the condition.
Terri Smith, PANDA CEO states, “Unfortunately, PND tends not to discriminate and can affect any new or expecting parent. Many people still don’t seek help as quickly as they should and suffer for longer than necessary because they don’t know what’s happening to them and don’t know where to go to seek help.”
If you’ve ever wondered what depression and anxiety ‘looks like’, here it is. This was taken in March, 2016 about two weeks before I was admitted to the mental health unit of my local hospital for PND, PTSD and OCD. I was in the severe category, which pretty much means anxious and depressed as heck. May is Mental Health Awareness Month in America. To me, awareness should span 365 days a year across all continents, because it effects more people thank you think. I used this picture to illustrate that being mentally ill doesn’t actually LOOK like anything. Often, you can’t tell if someone is sick unless you make the effort to ask. Even so, getting past the typical “I’m fine” response can take time and patience. From both ends. And for goodness sake, don’t trust what you see on social media. We’re all good at hiding behind the “everything’s perfect” facade, when sometimes our world is crumbling beneath us. We really have come a long way when it comes to identifying, treating and talking about mental health. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done. There are still a countless number of ‘silent sufferers’ out there feeling ashamed to speak up and get help. I would encourage anyone who feels like they’re not coping to take a minute to stop and talk to a trusted friend. More often than not, people are generally sympathetic and compassionate to the situation. Of course, turn to the professionals when needed but remember, the shame and guilt is just a feeling and not a true reflection of how other people perceive you. That’s just your mind playing tricks on you, trying to stop you from getting help and experiencing freedom. From the other end, I think we all could do with improvement when it comes to looking out for each other. We are busy beyond belief these days, but let’s not use that as an excuse to live tunnel visioned looking out for our own interests only. I know, it’s harder said than done. I get that. But simple things like a phone call, a text message to say you’re thinking of someone, a gift, anything to show that you care can open up a door to conversation. #endthestigma #ruokday #reachout #beyondblue #babyblues #blogsandbanter