I wasn’t planning to hit such a heavy topic so early on in these blog posts, but after some recent events came to light I felt like I had to sit down and write about this. I was deeply saddened and shocked recently when I found out that a popular health food instagrammer, whom I’d had several interactions with over the last couple of years, had passed away after a struggle with depression. Looking through her posts, you would never have guessed what she was really thinking and feeling behind closed doors.
Social media is a great invention and tool, but it is a false representation of a person’s real life. Mental illness is hard to see and I guess this is the reason there is still such a stigma around discussing it and treating it.
It appears to me that mental illness is becoming more and more prevalent, especially amongst the 18-30 age bracket. And it’s easy to see why: for many it’s a time of change and incredible stress. I remember reading a report when I was in law school stating that after a survey they conducted, they found that 40% of students reported feeling depressed or anxious for extended periods of time. Everyone I know either knows someone close to them, or has themselves experienced mental illness. So why are we still so ashamed to talk about this?
I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say I have struggled with mental illness since I was 18. I’ve had bouts of what I deem to be circumstantial depression: once at a time I was in an abusive relationship and working a job I didn’t like, another time when I was stressed about my future and wasn’t sure if my life was going in the direction I wanted it to. The most recent time I suffered from depression, I tried to ignore the symptoms for as long as I could, and told no-one (except my boyfriend at the time). Imagine I had cancer: what would happen if I ignored the symptoms and didn’t let anyone close to me know what was really going on? Ignoring it over several months, my health got worse and worse until it was at a point where I realised unless something changed, I was going to die. I sought treatment from my doctor, talked to people, focused on mindfulness and started practicing yoga – some of you who have been following me on Instagram for awhile may remember when I went to my first ever yoga class – this was when I made the decision to start getting better. And my goodness! How my health changed.
I’m writing this now from a place of very good mental health: in fact, probably the best it has ever been. Because I know I am prone to getting ill when certain things happen in my life, I am now pro-active in making sure my health is at the best it can be – as you would if you knew you were prone to heart disease or high cholesterol.
Mental health should not be stigmatised. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not as real as any other type of illness out there, and as humans we are just as prone to getting mentally sick as any other type of sickness. Not many people know about my situation (until now), but I thought if I can reach just one person through writing this, then it will have been worth it. Look after your mental health, it’s just as important in keeping you alive as your physical health.
If you or someone close to you is suffering, Lifeline offers a 24-hour free, confidential support service.
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