People compare mental health to a broken leg. However, really it could not be more different. Breaking a leg can be pinpointed to a specific event. People will have fun signing your cast. Then it will heal, you will recover and be up and running, as if it never happened.
Mental health cannot be further from this.
Many scenarios can come from nowhere. It creeps up on you. Others come from a certain point of trauma or particular trigger.
The other day I was talking to a friend about mental health, as it was something she admitted she did not understand. I tried to explained by using another invisible illness – asthma
· Something you learn to live with and manage
· People take medication for it and no questions are asked. Nothing like “how long will you be taking it for”, “why do you need it”, “will you be taking it for the rest of your life?” – the medication is just accepted
· Certain things can trigger it, so if you can't go to a bonfire, or do a run, it is just accepted that of course you would avoid it.
· People accept something can set it off it at any time and place.
· People understand you need to be wary in certain situations.
· People know more or less how to deal with it. They take you out of the situation, give you your medication and make you think about your breathing.
Mental health is exactly the same. Except people tend to run from it and question why you can't do things, decline invitations or avoid triggering situations.
You have to learn how to live with it, often taking medication (and for some the rest of their life) but this too can be questioned. People can't understand, like asthma, medication can be the defining point between life or death.
If someone has asthma you would not dream of saying things like “its all in your head”, “come on just breath and get on with it and it will get better”, “you should get off that medication”.
Being invisible many feel isolated, as it is something they feel they cannot talk openly about, and feel ashamed of. This is the reason why I started the CBT (Cake Before Therapy) Café, to create a safe environment where we can share our struggles, and experiences, supporting each other whether we, or a loved one are struggling. It is a non-therapeutic space where everyone understands and we do not need to ‘explain’ anything, we are able to be honest of our true feelings with people experiencing similar things. The added bonus is we get to
enjoy tea and lots of cake.
We need to remember that we all have mental health but as with anything it is unique to each of us, and something we all experience and cope with in different ways. Whatever our background no-one exempt and mustn’t be made to feel it is something we ‘shouldn’t struggle with.