As those of you that have been following my blogs know, I had a big decision to make about the publicity of the blogs and kept wavering about what was the right course to take.
It evolved from writing ‘The Other Side.’ I gradually wrote more and decided that if it stayed anonymous, then great. If people knew it was me, then that was fine too. Once I started accepting what was happening and braving the idea of people knowing (even those closest), I had no problem with this, although admittedly it did make me feel a little exposed and vulnerable. But that is in part, because I am feeling like that anyway.
However, a few people have expressed their concern about the publicity of this journey and this was the only reason I floundered. Despite the fact that there is nothing to clearly identify me, I am fully aware that people may discover my identity beyond those I have chosen to share it with. They are worried about the potential impact if people find out who may not see things in an empathic way; particularly as it is very personally written. ‘What if someone uses it against me? What could this do to me personally and professionally?’ I am grateful to these people for caring enough about me to pluck up the courage to share their feelings about it. I did consider their perspective very hard; and already had actually considered all of this before I even published the first blog.
The outcome was, that I respected their opinions, but I decided to continue for the following reasons:
- For me: First and foremost, it is my own therapy. Yes, I could just write it for myself and keep it for me. But…the support from friends – and even strangers – has been incredibly helpful more than I can describe and is the main benefit to the writing. I am finding I can do very little currently and tire quickly. Writing is something I can do in short bursts and is giving me some motivation and purpose.
- For others: I have had so much feedback from people saying it is helping others. Some people say they can personally identify with it and some have taken steps since to act on their own situations. It has also helped non-sufferers to understand more about what family and friends go through. This is apparently mostly because I am writing whatever I feel I need to straight from my mind so it is completely open and ‘real.’ I am hoping that it can help people further afield understand more about mental health – or rather, illness. I have talked to people with mental illness for many years as part of my job as well as a few instances personally. But, now it’s me, it doesn’t feel anything like I thought it would. As I have seen quoted before, depression is a different entity from ‘sadness’ which I have periods of in the past.
- The ‘other side’ of being a GP: There is another perspective that I also feel passionately about; the GP side of things. One of the triggers for this happening to me relates to interactions with patients. Specifically, although general practice now is very tough anyway with the pressures on the system, I find patient ‘attitudes’ increasingly difficult to cope with. Understandably, many are frustrated and dissatisfied with the system and this makes me feel very deflated and lacking enthusiasm for a job that I once felt was worthwhile and a privilege to do. What grates the most for me, are the people who only appear to selfishly see their own needs and think they are entitled to have everything they ‘want’ regardless of whether this pushes other people out or if we simply can’t do as they wish. There is an apparent lack of understanding of their position within the grand scheme of things and why things are as they are. Hence the writing of ‘The Other Side.’ I may be over-sensitive and care ‘too much’ but this is part of who I am and it also has it’s advantages; I make no apology for it.
- Mental Health Stigma: Part of me, although grateful for the care of friends, also felt a little angry and upset that the reasoning behind wanting me to stop writing publicly was because it may have a negative impact. Because it is mental health. I don’t blame them; it is a perfectly valid point. There is most definitely still a barrier and a stigma around it. How awful that being depressed can be seen as incriminating! If I was currently off work with a broken leg and writing about it, I don’t think anybody would be bothered. (And it would be pretty boring!) Why should I have to hide it because it is not physical?
So, why does all this relate to World Mental Health Day?
The whole point of a dedicated day each year is to heighten awareness of mental health and illness. The stigma needs to go. People need to get help when they need it and not feel forced to hide away for fear of the impact it might have. They mustn’t feel ashamed or judged. It’s ok to not be ok.
This year’s focus is on mental health in the workplace. This is relevant to me in part; there are other reasons too for me. In the pressures of the modern world, it is hard to get the balance right. Most of us naturally tend to push ourselves (or have to for other reasons) at the detriment of our own wellbeing. We hear more and more that employers don’t take kindly to ill health and the workplace is losing the ‘human’ side. We all have illness, whether that be physical, mental or both. The nature of the illness shouldn’t matter. We need to take better care of ourselves and each other. We are all human; we should treat each other the way we would hope to be treated ourselves.
Let’s talk about it; break down the barriers and banish the stigma.