THE BLOG
06/04/2018 06:13 SAST | Updated 06/04/2018 06:13 SAST

Don't Mock Mental Illness

A few days ago I received an email that repeatedly described the serious mental health crisis I had last year as me being "delicate".

A few days ago I received an email that repeatedly described the serious mental health crisis I had last year as me being 'delicate' (the inverted comma's are the sender's). Twelve months ago, I could barely speak, I was having multiple panic attacks every day, I felt unable to work, unable to express myself, unable to socialise and I deeply felt there was no one in the world who cared about me. Thankfully, I'm now much better. What saddens me, though, is that there still exist aggressive prejudices against mental illness in our society, which is a barrier for many people who need help. I am not too 'delicate' to engage with people who treat me without compassion, I am - I wish I could say this without cliché - too STRONG to allow unkind people to hold sway over my emotions.

If you are unhappy and people in your life mock that, contact anyone who you think might want to help you, no matter how little you have had to do with them in the recent past. Contact me, whoever you are, I will listen, contact the Samaritans, contact someone.

Depression makes us isolate ourselves, and it is difficult to move into a mindset where we can see our own values if we do not keep close to people who care about us. I am lucky, as there are many people who have cared for and cared about me in the last year, and now my life is kinda going how I had hoped it would. I would NOT have been able to get here without removing myself from people who were dismissive of the way I felt, and replacing their presence with people who would, y'know, hold me when I had a panic attack and not mock me for crying without any apparent reason.

DO NOT STAND FOR people who dismiss mental illness or any lived experience you have had. I know that, as a white man, people are more likely to believe me when I recount my experiences, but as a white man who does not conform to normalised societal modes of engaging with emotional behaviour, I am often sneered at and laughed at and mocked by other people. My self esteem and my self worth are much better now than they used to be and I have realised that the way I thought about myself for many years - as a stupid, ugly, charmless, crass, boring, alcoholic loser - was utterly wrong. I am driven and hard-working, I am kind and I am relaxed and I am able to be efficient and charming and creative and - to be blunt - lots of people like me. Not everyone does but, y'know: I don't like everyone either.

I know, now, that I do not have to hate myself.

It is not easy to escape mindsets or situations that crush your sense of self, and when you feel as low as I felt, it seems impossible to do so. It has been hard for me, but now I feel happy waking up. For the last nine months, I have worked almost constantly, I have barely spent any time alone and I have managed to create a social and professional life that I am content with. I am not depressed and I am definitely not "delicate" and nor have I ever been. I have been depressed and lonely and scared and hurt, but I am not those things any more.

If you think feeling suicidal but not killing yourself makes you a wimp: F*!@ OFF

If you think it's lame to want zero communication with people who don't treat you with basic human respect: F*!@ OFF

If you think hiding under beds and hyperventilating for hours at a time makes you 'delicate': F*!@ OFF

I do not think of myself as a victim, I do not think of myself as oppressed, I do not think of myself as anything other than what I am.

Mental illness is still mocked, mental illness is still treated with disbelief.

Maybe I shouldn't have written this, maybe I should have kept my delicate little mouth shut. Thank you to the many people who have helped me over the last nine months. I know I am lucky to have had that. Please click here to donate to Mind, because not everyone has the chances I have had for help with recovery. Some people don't have friends or family who can skip work to look after them, who can offer them somewhere to stay, who can help them get casual work they can do while barely functioning, and some people don't have friends and family who even care. Some people are as alone as I felt I was.

I would not be able to lose my class, race and gender privileges, even if I tried to. So I may as well try and use the platform I have to help other people understand that it is OK to not be OK.

Don't worry about me, I'm doing fine. But plenty of other people are not, and lots of them are worried they'll be mocked if they ask for help: worry about them.

Do not dismiss mental illness. It's that simple.