My husband has very bravely agreed to talk about his Mental Health and how he manages his condition with the support of his friends and family. Take a look at his post written from the heart.
My name is Matthew and I have a mental health condition. When I agreed to do this blog I thought how I was going to approach it. Firstly I thought about what I didn’t want it to be – I knew that if I could quickly identify this then I could probably write something useful and meaningful to others. I didn’t want to create something full of clichés and stereotypes, nor did I want it to come across as an attention seeking, sympathy plea (which would only add fuel to an already all too common misconception of sufferers of mental health conditions). Instead I want the piece to be an open and honest account of how my condition affects me from day to day. I want to share my experiences with you on a level which I hope will achieve my goal of dispelling some of the stigma surrounding mental health so people have a better understanding and awareness of the subject.
I first realised that I had a mental health condition back in 2011 which ironically coincided with the birth of my second child. This was a very difficult time as coping with a new born baby, and feeling deeply depressed at the same time made it difficult to bond with my son at that time, and led to me feeling that I was a failure as a father. Going through the journey of managing my illness I’ve learnt that I’ve always probably suffered with mental health issues throughout my life but was unable to self diagnose or recognise the symptoms as mental health was something people just didn’t talk about. Counselling has helped me piece together aspects and past experiences of my life to date and attribute them to my illness which is kind of good as it helps me to rationalise past things better so that I can draw a line under them and move on when before I would find myself reflecting on past events and dwelling on things that I couldn’t change which would bring me down.
I have learned that there are many different faces to mental health illness – it can manifest in different ways and the symptoms I think are personal to the individual (anxiety, self loathing, negative and suicidal thoughts etc). I have a number of ‘triggers’ or warning signs that I recognise which allow me to take appropriate measures to manage the problem. Early intervention is key for me in terms of my day to day management of the illness as it will allow me to take steps to enable me to function properly.
I feel that the danger of a decline into a dark spiral for me is increased if I do not have the support of others. I know that if I let myself slip into a state of isolation this will intensify the feelings associated with my condition and the harder it gets to come back up. That is why the various branches of support are so important to my recovery and continued journey. Support from family, friends, colleagues is very important. It is also important for me to keep connected to people on a day to day basis as this helps my symptoms. Simply by asking me ‘how are you?’ can be so important to me. People sometimes admit to me that they are scared to talk to me about my mental health problems as they don’t want to upset me. From a personal point of view, I find talking about my illness in an open and honest way has the opposite effect-it actually helps me feel better rather than upsetting me. This blog is part of helping me with my condition. Being self aware, honest and open helps me keep on top of things although there are occasions/situations when I don’t feel comfortable
I do get a general feeling of lack of understanding of the illness and a great deal more can be done to help raise awareness. I’ve heard people associate the illness as attention seeking and a made up illness and that people suffering from depression are just ‘lazy’. This kind of misinformed labelling is damaging and negative and shows a lack of understanding. I’ve experienced that people who have experiences or exposure to mental health issues either directly or indirectly are more likely to approach me and enter into dialogue.
I live with a mental health condition and this will probably never leave me, but I am just grateful that I have the support of those around me. There will be times that I feel fine, and other times I will need extra support and understanding. By having the courage to talk about mental health, and making time for people by just asking ‘how are you today’ you can make a real difference to people like me.