wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Accept yourself

First of all, I was sad to learn about the death of David Bowie. The man walked to his own beat, which is a rare thing. Only a legend is brave enough to go against the norm time and again, and that deserves both recognition and respect. May his memory live on.

Recently I was reminded of an important aspect of recovery – Acceptance –If you don’t accept that you’re ill then how can you expect to recover? It doesn’t matter whether it’s anxiety, depression or a broken leg. Physical conditions are easier to address because they’re quantifiable to the senses, you can both see and touch them. Can you imagine trying to walk on a broken leg? Once you fell on your face a few times you’d accept the situation fairly quickly. However, mental health conditions are a different story. It took me ten years to fully admit that I had a problem and needed help.

A friend/colleague quit his job recently, due to illness. That wasn’t the official line, but the truth was obvious. His erratic behaviour in the office was a red flag. We went for a drink and it broke my heart to listen to him talk. “It’s a bad time, but it’s all cool, I just need an adventure! My doctor said I’m manic depressive but he’s talking shit, he wants to drug me up. I won’t become a zombie.” When I tried to suggest that having depression is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of, he became angry and snapped “I’m not like YOU. It’s all about the state of mind. I won’t become one of those people who bring the rest of their world down with their negativity.” I took it on the chin. People tend to lash out when you touch a nerve. So what’s the game plan..? Well, he’s booked a one way ticket to Thailand (no seriously). No job, no safety net, no nothing.
I supposed that people deal with things in their own way and who am I to judge? I moved to London to escape my condition, he’s just really pushing the boat out! (For the record, it doesn’t work. I imagine the demons will pass through Customs with him).

Why is it so hard to even consider the idea that we might have a mental health problem? Personally, I didn’t want to because I was afraid, I knew there was something wrong but I couldn’t explain what it was. I was worried that others might judge me. I judged ‘me’ for being so weak. Everyone else seemed to be coping with life just fine, so why couldn’t I? Well here’s a secret that I want to expose… something that might help you. Feeling afraid, embarrassed or ashamed is all part of the mental illness ‘trick’ – it fools you into believing that you’re a freak who can’t be helped. David Carbonell talks about the ‘anxiety trick’ extensively on his website. You believe that you should be able to control your thoughts and emotions, and therefore criticise yourself for ‘failing.’

Acceptance isn’t something that comes easily, especially if you’ve been fighting it for a while. But these are the three key things that I did:

  • Asked myself the following questions; 1. Is this ‘thing’ affecting my daily life? E.g. Stopping me from concentrating at work, or going out with friends. 2. Does it make me feel unhappy every day? 3. Do I want it to stop?
    If the answer is yes to any of these then it’s time to take action.
  • Wrote down a list of symptoms (both physical and mental) to see whether they matched the NHS description of anxiety. They did… I think I got 10/13! http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anxiety/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
  • Tell someone. This is something I find myself repeating this time and again. As hard as it might be, the very act of telling another person can be hugely therapeutic. Choose someone you trust and plan what you’re going to say in advance, (just a few bullet points). If you don’t feel ready to confide in someone close to you then why not ring Anxiety UK  or Mind Both charities provide an anonymous phone service, staffed by people who have actually experienced mental health problems themselves. The first person I told was a lady at Anxiety UK. I just blurted everything out in one clumsy monologue. She was patient kind and talked me through my options. It really helped and gave me the courage to tell other people.

Shame and embarrassment go hand in hand with mental illness, they’re like a nasty side dish that comes with every meal. No matter how many times you tell the waiter that you don’t want them, they still turn up, (bastard).

Being honest with yourself is not an easy thing to do, try and remember that. It’s takes a brave person to admit they need help.
Mental health is 100% legitimate and there is nothing to be ashamed of. The first step is the hardest, but once you do it you’ll never look back.

Take a bit of inspiration from Bowie, if he can wear blue eye shadow then you can talk mental health!

Bowie

 

Categories: Anxiety

11 replies

  1. Quitting a job and buying a one-way ticket to Thailand sounds unfortunately like the behaviour of someone with bipolar entering a ‘manic’ phase 😦 I used to know someone with bipolar, his life was full of these phases of rash decisions and lifestyle changes.

    Acceptance is definitely a big thing. I know I found (find) it difficult to accept that I wasn’t the person I used to be or thought I was, and why couldn’t I just go back to that?

  2. So true, Claire – acceptance is so important. Letting go of the “I should be [fill in the blank]” is so hard but such a freedom when you can just get on with being who you are, without all the self-bashing because of what was in that blank. Lx

    • Omg I say ‘I should be’ at least once a day!

      • ‘Should’ is a very judging and shaming word because it deals in absolutes i.e. there’s only one ‘sensible’ course of action and you ‘should’ know what it is and you’re a damn fool for not doing it etc. etc.

        Substitute ‘should’ with ‘could’ and you have an empowering word that permits unconditional alternatives and respects your right to assert yourself. It lets you off the hook and keeps the perfectionism to a minimum. Try it, it works. I do it all the time…

      • I like it! You’re always full of good advice 🙂

      • I’m working on the ‘could’ today 😉

      • Loving Stuart’s suggestion of “could” for “should” – the actual words and language we use when we talk about ourselves are so important – and revealing, if you listen up! 🙂

  3. Understanding and acknowledging a problem is over half the battle in my opinion. You can not work on getting better until you realize you need help.

  4. It’s easy to talk about acceptance, but it’s equally difficult to actually do it. Let me tell you the reason why people don’t accept their mental illnesses. Apart from shame and embarrassment, it’s something more. Ego, personal ego as we refer to it. “I’m so successful in life; people accept me gladly; then, who are you to tell me that I’m suffering from a mental illness! I think, those who’ve the courage to break through this barrier are set to win at least half the battle.

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