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The Stigma of Mental Health

September 2, 2013

All Mental Health has a stigma attached to it – good or bad. The reason for this is because we are using the term ‘Mental Health’ and as soon as we suggest the health that is hidden, the aspect of ourselves that we have less control over – we start to secretly crap ourselves.

Mental Health affects all of us. This is my first blog since May and the reason for this has been practical rather than emotional. I experienced a mental breakdown (which I shall now refer to as a breakthrough) in April which resulted in an in-patient stay in a suicide prevention/crisis intervention unit. It saved my life. The breakthrough actually started much earlier than that but I had failed to notice. The breakthrough was triggered, apparently, by massive financial, social and emotional loss. My life imploded around my ears and I was powerless to stop it. During the early signs of breakthrough I blogged almost daily and even during the breakthrough, including whilst staying at the crisis centre, I still blogged and used this as a process of recovery. I haven’t yet ‘recovered’ but am certainly eighty, maybe even ninety percent ‘better’. I say ‘recovery’ and ‘better’ because I am now seriously questioning whether I was actually ill at all. I am questioning if in fact we are all ‘in recovery’ from something or other and thus maybe we all are experiencing our own breakthroughs in differing levels of intensity. What really surprised me when I was in the midst of crisis was the attitude of friends and professionals – this is where I lead on to discuss the stigma around mental health and exactly what this means and exactly what it has meant to me.

We talk about the ‘stigma’ but do we really, actually know what this means? I knew back then that friends were abandoning me in droves because they did not know how to cope with my world collapsing around me. I saw clearly through the fog that doctors and counsellors were often giving me bad advice, incorrect medication and were, in the main, powerless to help me due to a lack of capacity on their part. The problem with how this clarity is perceived is simple – I had been labelled ‘Mentally Ill’ and thus had ‘no sense of reality’. This – is the stigma around mental health. We all have our own sense of reality and there is something about a breakthrough that actually enhances, fine tunes and enables us to know exactly what is and what is not right for us. The problem for others – friends, family and practitioners, is that their sense of reality is often different and because they haven’t been labelled ‘Mentally Ill’ they assume that their sense of reality is superior. I have found this particularly prevalent in Counsellors, Therapists, Doctors and Coaches. I am myself trained in Counselling and Psychotherapy and I am red-faced to tell you that my entire belief system around this modality came crashing down with the walls that encased me in delusion. Seeing clearly can be a lonely place.

Help, I am very, very pleased to report, is at hand. The help I truly benefitted from was non-therapeutic from two organisations whose ethos is rooted in creativity, uniqueness and giving people space to ‘be’. The other help I finally received was the correct combination of medication for anxiety, clinical depression and mood swings that I (eventually!) managed to get due to a change in doctors. I combined these interventions with daily exercise, group activities, writing (a book – it’s on submission, wish me luck!), walking, meditation, monthly ‘bodywork’ with a healer and socialising with the two remaining friends who had the balls to sit with me in the eye of the storm (and helped me to moved physically from my old apartment where I had been served ‘Notice to Quit’ – to my new local authority flat where I am now. It’s grotty, it’s basic but it feels right for now).

For now, this post is pretty much done. I will blog again next week and over the coming weeks we will look at not just mental health but hope, dreams and creativity. I will also elaborate on the organisations that I am now involved with, as a service user, and just how it is that their help has been far more effective (and life saving) than any therapy I have ever had. It’s good to be back. I am a little anxious about being back ‘out there’ and ask you to be gentle with my online presence. I welcome your thoughts, I embrace your feelings and I ask that you be honest with me, yourself and our wider community. I ask this of you because I now ask this of me. I have touched many times on vulnerability and openness on this blog but I have yet to scratch the surface. Reading back at some of my posts, although gritty in honesty and forthright in opinion, I sense a degree of delusion. I see that, especially when I first started out on this blog in January, I had modelled myself (unknowingly) on Motivational Gurus, Speakers and ‘Positive Thinkers’ but now I can tell you that oftentimes the world and our experiences within that world are far from positive. Our responses to those experiences also are often not positive. They are, however, essential and real responses to essentially real experiences and together, free from judgment, absence of pressure to be ‘Positive’ – we can embrace what is – and see where that takes us.

Until Next Time and with Much Love,

Matt xx

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