I think I need to explain that title don't I? I can feel myself getting a lot of hate for this post if I don't. Lol.
To be able to understand other people and the world around you, you need to be able to critically look at yourself. I know that I am privileged. I'm a white, middle class, women who is growing up in a first world country with the incredible advances in technology unravelling quicker than we can understand them. These rapid developments in technology have improved and shaped the way we work, how we socialise and how we are treated when we are ill.
I have a roof over my head, money in my back pocket and food in my cupboards. I have friends and family who care and support me through everything. I have had an exceptional education. I realise how lucky I am to have all of this because there are people in the world who aren't as privileged as myself. These people aren't just in third world countries they are also your next door neighbours.
I don't know what it's like to experience racism because I'm not black. I don't know what it's like to explain homophobia because I'm not gay. I don't know what it's like to experience ableism because I'm not disabled.
This also applies to mental illness.
Don't shun people for claiming that they have anxiety or depression but because they don't have a formal diagnosis, you disregard them as attention seeking or jumping on the bandwagon because you think, they believe that being mentally ill is cool and trendy.
If someone plucked up the courage to talk to you about their physical symptoms. Maybe they sincerely believe they have cancer. You wouldn't tell them to get over it or stop being so silly. You would be concerned for them. Encourage them to see a doctor, get themselves checked over.
Yet, when the same situation happens to Someone concerned they have a mental illness, they don't get the same kind of response.
Most people know when something is wrong with their body. No one knows their body better than you. It's the same for mental illness.
I knew that I was struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder before I was diagnosed. Yet I couldn't tell anyone. I didn't have the formal diagnosis, and therefore people wouldn't take me seriously. In my eyes, this is wrong.
Firstly, it takes a mountain of courage to admit to a doctor that there's something wrong with you especially if it isn't something visible. Afraid they won't believe you, concerned they will just brush it off or even worried you will be laughed out their surgery. What if I don't get the help I need? What if this is just something I have made up in my head? These were the questions spiralling around my end when I went to tell the doctor what I was experiencing.
And there's the dreaded thought of being labelled. Pigeonholed into a category of the mentally ill, the insane or unstable. Stigma. That little word that stops so many seeking the help and support they deserve.
There's not just a stigma attached to mental illness. But with all sorts of minorities within society. Why do you think so many stay in the closet for so long about their sexuality? Or why people being racially abused or discriminated against, are frightened to speak out?
If someone trusts you enough to tell you that they think they have anxiety, depression or any other mental illness. It's important that you listen to them. Encourage them to go to the doctors to get professional help. Point them in the direction of charity helplines, websites and blogs to provide them with comfort during this hard time.
There's nothing worse than people being honest trying to get the help they need and you turn them away because you are too arrogant to realise your own privilege. Put yourself in their shoes, think how it must feel to be trapped inside your own mind, to finally try and talk to someone about it and be belittled because you having got their formal tick of approval from your doctor.
I was fortunate enough to have a good relationship with my doctor. I knew that he would understand and support me, which we did. I knew I was going to be supported by my family and all the lovely people who read my blog. Not everyone is as fortunate though.
Just remember that when you are slating people who have panic attacks or struggle with depression and don't have a formal diagnosis. You never know what's going on inside everyone's head so just be respectful yeah?
Obviously, I don't condemn people thinking they have depression because they've been sad for a few days or people who believe that they have OCD because they like the cans in their cupboard in straight lines. If you know someone who is serious that they struggle with a mental illness, maybe you have also noticed changes in their mood or behaviour, it's imperative you take them seriously.
I always encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to seek support from a medical professional. I know how hard it can be, but trust me it's for the best. I wrote a blog post about how to talk to the doctor about your mental health, which you may find helpful, you can read that here. I do however recognise how much easier it can be confining in a friend or family member IF they understand and are non-judgmental of course.
One day it might be you in that situation, just remember that.