Mental Health and Stigma: Shame and Therapy

It’s 2017 and there’s still so much stigma surrounding mental health. I’m not saying we’re still living in the Victorian era exactly, but lots of people just don’t take it seriously at all. Many people are ashamed of their mental illnesses or feel like they can’t talk about mental health whatsoever. It’s time to change that! I thought I’d play my part by attempting to debunk some common negative tropes associated with mental health on my blog. Today, I’m going to be touching upon the topics of shame and therapy.

[Disclaimer: I am obviously not a doctor or professional. I’m just someone who’s had experience dealing with a mental health problem and wants to make others feel less rubbish about their own]

The Shame Game

Having a mental illness isn’t your fault. No really, it isn’t your fault – I have science to back it up (science!) According to MedicineNet, ‘Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that (many mental illnesses) are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors – not personal weakness or a character defect…’ The Huffington Post also has some good examples of studies done on anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. In the same way you wouldn’t shame somebody for having a broken leg, you shouldn’t feel ashamed about having a mental health condition. If anything, you’re pretty damn strong to be dealing with it in the first place. Be proud of any steps you’ve taken towards overcoming it and improving your life in the long run.

Therapy Stigma

Depending on your situation, you may consider going to therapy to help with your mental health. Whilst therapy can work wonders for many people, lots of people are embarrassed by the prospect of going. It’s hard to blame them when there’s still so much stigma surrounding counselling (at least where I live anyway).  For many people, the things they’ve learnt about therapy have simply come from what they’ve seen in the media. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t always represent things entirely accurately. Therapy is often portrayed as useless or merely used as a punchline rather than something that could actually (gasp!) help people. What’s more, the people who go to therapy are often called names like ‘crazy’ and made to feel like they’ve ‘failed’ at life in some way. Although therapy by no means works for everybody, it makes me sad that some people who could potentially get help may feel shamed out of doing so.

Going to therapy does not make you ‘weird,’ so don’t feel ashamed about going. At the end of the day, your mental health is a lot more important than some ignorant comment someone makes about counselling, so don’t let anyone hold you back. Choosing to seek help is actually a very strong decision to make (especially when there’s so much negativity surrounding it). It means you have chosen to take a step towards dealing with your condition and giving yourself a happier life in the future. So go you!

I hope this helped some of you feel a little better. Thanks for reading,

ranterwrites xo


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Social Anxiety “Update”

If you’ve read my post Socialising with Anxiety, then you’ll know social anxiety is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Recently, changes in my life have made my anxiety manifest differently from a couple of months ago. I thought I’d write about my experiences here today, so if for some reason you want to read about a stranger’s battle with her mental health, go ahead and read on.

The main change for me is that I’ve worked a couple of jobs in the ‘real world’ now. That’s right, I’ve moved on from being an innocent, naive school girl to a fully-fledged business lady. Now, I’m working hard every day to bring home money for my family. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But I have worked in two different office environments, learnt how to use two different sets of computer programs, and most importantly, experienced dealing with two different lots of customers on a daily basis. It’s a wonder I’m still alive to be honest.

Generally speaking, I think doing work like this has been very beneficial for me. Eventually, constantly being thrown into terrifying social situations gave me less time to worry about them beforehand.  By the end of my first job, I was going into work with no social anxiety at all (unless I knew I had to make a phone call that day).

Speaking of phone calls, another change in my life is that I’m suddenly finding myself making a lot more of them. To most people, this ‘change’ probably sounds kind of silly and insignificant. However, for many people with social anxiety, phone calls are the bane of their existence. Temporarily working as a receptionist for my second job meant taking phone calls was something I had to do all day every day. Yikes. I’ll be honest, the first day was tough and involved many awkward conversations, nervous stutters, and highly ‘unprofessional’ moments. Luckily, by the end of the week I was totally calm – I’d gotten so used to making phone calls that they didn’t give me any anxiety anymore. Success!

In a way, these experiences made me feel like I’d become a lot more socially confident. In fact, at one point I was convinced I could pretty much take on the world now. After my first week of being a receptionist, I remember thinking to myself ‘my socially anxiety is GONE, I’m CURED, talking to people is easy so I can do ANYTHING I WANT NOW. FINALLY MY TIME HAS COME.’

Unfortunately, my slightly optimistic prediction didn’t turn out to be completely true. That weekend, I got invited out to dinner with a group of friends. A few hours before I left, I realised I still felt very anxious for no reason at all. These feelings didn’t really go away all night. While I was at the dinner, I also spent a significant amount of time feeling uncomfortable, awkward and shy. I didn’t feel like this for the whole night, but for a lot of it, the old anxious thoughts I thought I’d finally kicked out of my brain started peering their heads inside my mind again.

Overall, though, I think I am headed in the right direction. My social interactions around ‘proper adults’ (which is how I refer to anyone over 30) appear to be becoming easier while those around people my own age still seem pretty difficult. This may simply be because I’m spending less time around them because they’re all at uni. It does make me wonder what going to university will be like in September when I’m constantly surrounded by people my age… Will I have a breakdown? Will being ‘thrown’ into these situations help me in the long run? Will I be forced to make an impromptu trip to Timbuktu? I guess I’ll find out soon (and I’ll probably write another blog post about it).

Thanks for reading,

ranterwrites

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Socialising with Anxiety

Hey guys. This one’s gonna get slightly personal. Hope I don’t regret putting this on the internet forever hahaha…

I have social anxiety, which means talking to people can often be a challenge. It’s not that I don’t like people, they just make me feel a bit weird sometimes. Lately I’ve noticed some situations trigger my anxiety more than others. This means I enjoy social activities to varying degrees because no one likes having anxiety, obviously.

One thing I’ve always found difficult is talking on the phone. I could be comfortably conversing with a friend, neighbour, or company, but hand me a phone and suddenly I’m panicking about awkwardness, silences, and being annoying. Because of this, if I decide to phone you for whatever reason, you should take it as a huge compliment.

On the other hand, one-on-one conversations with friends are often really fun. Sometimes hilarious even. I know everyone says it, but I’m not a fan of small talk. I love having dmcs with people because I find them so interesting. Or maybe I’m just really nosy. Either way, conversations like these are fabulous.

Casual convos amongst big groups freak me out a bit. This may seem ironic due to the relaxed nature of these chats. However, there’s something about talking to multiple people that’s rather challenging. This fear probably comes from me being narcissistic enough to think my conversation input is more important than everyone else’s. Social anxiety does bring out my narcissism. Sometimes, I worry I’m too quiet and can’t think of enough to say. But often, I simply prefer being quiet and listening to others talk. But then there are the people who confuse my silence for nervousness.

This one may shock you, but I like parties (most of the time). I think going out is fun and I normally have a great time. The conversations I have at parties are usually one-on-one, so I don’t have much trouble with them. In clubs, it’s too loud to have the group conversations which scare me, so I have more time to enjoy myself instead. And then of course there’s alcohol. Simply put, I enjoy having a drink because I find it fun. That’s that. However, recently I’ve learnt I’ve had a tendency to use alcohol as a crutch in social situations. By this, I mean I’d deliberately get drunk to get rid of my anxiety for the night. This worked great in the short term, but would unfortunately make my anxiety harder to deal with in the long run. Because of this, I’m changing the way I view alcohol (or at least I’m attempting to). I’ve started drinking to enjoy myself rather than to cure my anxiety. Meanwhile, I’m challenging myself to socialise at parties more without the help of alcohol. According to experts, this should improve my social anxiety in the long run. I encourage any anxiety sufferers using alcohol for the same reason to try this out with me. Seriously, I need your moral support.

Whilst phone calls and group talks can be scary, I usually feel pretty awesome once I’ve gone out of my comfort zone to order pizza or talk to 7 people. For this reason, I challenge any anxious readers to step out of their social comfort zones this week. Not because I think less talkative types should become more gregarious (I don’t believe in that), but simply because you may end up feeling amazing for challenging yourself afterwards. (Or maybe that’s just me; let me know in the comments below).