“I don’t want mental health.”Mom
These were the words my mom reluctantly told me 8 years ago when she was first told by the GP that she was suffering from chronic depression and needed a maximum dose of medication.
Not fully understanding the complexities of mental health at this point, my first response was to try to do the follow:
- Solve the problem, with my ‘back then’ knowledge, which was non-existent of mental health.
- Assure her that it was just a label used by professionals and did not define her, or make her sound “crazy”, “loopy”, or “mentally ill”. An often common phrase used around that time.
So in true, Aren style, I replied something along the lines of:
“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. It’s only a word”.Me
Now of course, I wasn’t negating the seriousness of mental health at this point, as I knew it was much more serious and sinister. I just didn’t understand it. I was rubbishing the terminology in an attempt to ensure it had no additional pressure on my mothers head.
Now this particular blog post, is not to go into the ins and outs of mental health, which has been part of my own life, longer than I knew and part of my mothers too. But it is more about myself learning a lesson I hope can teach someone in a similar predicament.
Let’s fast-forward 8 years
You see, for anyone who knows me or has followed my journey via Find Your Voice Podcast or my Social media handles, you know I am no stranger to wearing my scars and sharing my vulnerabilities. Anxiety being my biggest one. The shadow that seems to stick around, even when the sun goes down. The monkey on the shoulder I have yet to fully shake off.
So when I was told by a health practitioner, that anxiety was in fact a part of mental health and I too had mental health. Those words, my mom spoke 8 years before, echoed seconds behind my own spoken words:
“I don’t want mental health”Aren
This was quickly met with a huge array of emotions. Not just for my current situation but also for the way I had acted, spoken and reacted. Shame, pain, sorrow, embarrassment, confusion and a realization that it is only when we go through something, do we always manage to emphasise fully.
Which is ironic, as one of my biggest strengths, is my empathy and ability to connect with people. So why did I fall short 8 years ago?
So to conclude my thoughts, before I go off on tangents I want people who have never experienced mental health to be more compassionate to others.
I want people without mental health, to remain grateful daily they never go through it. Furthermore, I want them to be respectful of those who have gone through it, by not pretending to know about it like I did, or be so blasé about it. I also want them to not hashtag MentalHealth because they think it’ll get them more likes and follows.
This is not a social media strategy you should be jumping on.
It’s okay to not care about mental health like those going through it, or advocating for it. In fact, it is also 100% okay to only care for it 2nd, 3rd or 20th on your priority list. There is no shame in that.
But for all the gifts, lessons and experiences anxiety has taught me coupled with the strength and resilience I have seen my mom develop with depression, I wish it upon no-one.
If I could go back in time, I would take this monkey of mine and my mothers back and never have to hashtag about mental health again. That may be cowardly, but it is no joke. Yet sometimes I feel it is seen as a joke, or a key topic people use for engagement.
So accept my annoyance when ill mental health is not something I wish upon anyone and get my back up when it’s hash tagged for selfish gain.
“I don’t want mental health”Anyone with mental health