An Open Letter To Mental Health Sufferers

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it seemed like an appropriate time for me to write this open to letter to anyone who may be struggling with a mental illness whatever it may be. Whilst I'm addressing people with a variety of mental illnesses, I am largely referring to anxiety and depression which I know a bit more about than many others and have a bit more experience in.

First things first, it's not your fault that you feel the way you do, it's not your fault you act certain ways as a result of those feelings and anyone who makes you feel that way is probably not the best person for you to be around. Whilst some people may not know what you're going through, they should be willing to take the time to listen, help and as a minimum, at least not judge you or make you feel worse.

Whilst it may seem endless now, it isn't! However difficult it gets, it can and will get better with time and the right treatment. Sometimes it helps to take it a day at a time or a week at a time and to find your way through one week and then at the end of that week, reflect and be proud of yourself for making it through and doing the things you've done before pushing yourself through the next week and so on. Eventually, a week won't seem so bad and you can start reaching out for longer periods of time.

If you feel yourself improve and then get worse again, that's absolutely fine. The road to recovery isn't a staircase, constantly leading up to 'everything is okay now', it's a spiral. You start in the middle and work out and sometimes you feel yourself improving, other times you feel similar to how you did at the start but as you work your way up and out of the spiral, these difficult times should occur less often. Hopefully this should provide some comfort in the knowledge that if things do get worse, it doesn't mean you're back to square one, it just means you are going through the motions to getting better.

Speak out. Whether you want a chat about what you're going through with your friends (who may end up sharing similar experiences that you didn't know about), a parent or trusted adult, a doctor or a counselor. All of these people can help through giving you someone to talk to, comforting you, giving you advice or giving you a solution... or step towards a solution. Whilst not everyone will know what you're going through, you may be comforted just opening up a bit and may have someone able to give you the encouragement you need.

If you aren't yet comfortable talking to somebody about it, you can do other things to help yourself including CBT which can be useful when done with a professional but can also be helpful when done on your own accord. To give it a try at home, you can sign up to MoodGYM for free, which was created by a group of Australian students to help improve your cognitive behaviour. If you then find the process helpful but would prefer to get face to face help, you can research getting help or can contact your doctor who will have links as well as a few other solutions.

You aren't alone. However alone you may be made to feel, it isn't the case. Even if you are struggling to reach out to someone you know in person, there is help and support online and over the phone where you can often remain anonymous or semi anonymous. Furthermore, whilst the people around you may seem to not understand or to be slightly against you, a lot of the time this isn't the case. The likelihood is they probably don't understand or realise what it is you are going through and/or don't know how to help so my advice to combat this would be to have a little patience with them over what they may understand and to maybe give them a chance to help out. I know that's not as easy as it sounds, I for one definitely struggled opening up to people but having also been the person offering support and help, I know how people can feel when they want to do their best for you but don't quite know how until they know more about what's going on inside. It's not that they don't care, it's just them finding the best way to help.

Mental health is tricky as there are so many silent sufferers. With the stigma attached to it, which does appear to be in decline, people are often afraid to speak out or don't feel comfortable sharing their personal experiences regarding mental health and that's okay but the more people discuss the topic, the more the stigma can decline and the more help people can access due to a heightened awareness. Anything you can do to help achieve this is great.

I know a lot of these things are easier said than done but hopefully you can take a little bit of comfort or help from this. They key really is to take baby steps. There are so many things I want to say to help people but a lot of it depends on specific circumstance and it's been a little bit difficult to actually collate all my thoughts and the things I want to say in this post, as it's all just whizzing around my brain and not really making much sense. Either way, I hope it's helped a little bit and if not I hope it's maybe made a few more people a bit more aware about mental health and the feelings associated.

Useful links:
Mind
UK Support Links (including phone numbers and email addresses)
MoodGYM

If you have any advice or comments you think I've forgotten, let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading this post.

Love, Steph x

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