“When I was a teenager, my family didn’t believe in psychology. Like superstition or winning the lottery, psychologists were one of those things that people believed in but which had no place in our house.
So no one ever connected the dots in my knotting of everything that could possibly be knotted: plants, hair, shoelaces, curtain ropes… to the point that they had to be cut off or fully replaced, much to my mum’s frustration. No one ever saw a pattern in my not-so-common combination of exhilarating cheerfulness and unprompted deep sadness. No one put two and two together of why I got physically sick every time I got nervous or stressed.
Maybe because it was the other side, the not-so-apparent side, of a kid who was a good student, great memory, amazing attention to detail, incredibly observant, eager to please and be liked… everyone wants to hear that about themselves and their loved ones. Right?
In time I learned that what those I love care about is my happiness. In time they learned that psychology is not witchcraft or something one should be embarrassed about needing.
I learned that being happy all the time is neither possible nor my obligation. They learned that they don’t need a magical solution to support me: being there is enough.
I was diagnosed with anxiety at 18 in a vacuum-sealed chat with my GP, with depression at 26 in a hushed breakdown the financial crisis took the blame for, with OCD at 33 away from my family but surrounded by friends. And decided to break the walls.
I learned that my emotions don’t make me weak, silence does. That feeling bad for sending my loved ones into an unfounded guilt-trip when I mention any mental health issue is not on me but for them to deal with. That those labels: anxiety, depression, OCD don’t define me any more than being loud, wearing glasses or having aches when the weather changes define others.
I know now this will stay with me forever, and I don’t need to find a miracle cure to be happy. Just accept it and accept some days I’ll fail at it. And it’s okay. So long as I don’t let anyone or anything make me crawl back to embarrassment and silence. And in doing so, I’ve found so many people just like me I can’t believe I ever thought (and still do sometimes) I was alone.
One in four people in the world is affected by mental or neurological disorders each year. Close to 450 million are currently suffering from these conditions*. Yet, it is estimated that 75% of people suffering from mental health problems in England may not be having access to needed treatment** and 51% of young people think that being diagnosed at their age would be embarrassing***.
Let’s change this. It’s about time.”
**Source: Mental Health Foundation
***Source: The Guardian