Today is World Mental Health Day, I only became aware of this via Twitter and read a number of articles about anxiety, mental health as a hidden disability and so on.
I then started to think about how mental health and depression has affected me thought my life. I believe I was severely depressed from a young age, having lost my father suddenly aged ten and struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness as a child with a disability. I remember waking up regularly from night terrors and developing a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I have a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones) and have had hundreds of fractures and multiple operations. I was a very anxious child and my OCD became a huge factor in determining if I would have a fracture or not in my own mind. If I hadn't done something a certain way then I would think I would break my arm.
As a teenager my anxiety worsened, although I did not show it. I preferred to be the disabled kid who was always funny and had a smile on her face, the positive attention I received from being bubbly and a 'trooper' helped me to connect with others, particularly in high school. I internalised much of my depression and anxiety, which made being me sometimes unbearable.
Disabled people seem to adopt this role, whether they want it or not, as being inspirational to others and to be emulated by others. We are the ones that make other people's problems seem insignificant, and our courage inspires people to be proactive in their own lives.
As 'inspirational people', I sometimes feel that we cannot let anyone down and the concept of us being depressed or down is just not acceptable. We are, don't forget, other people's rocks, and if we are depressed, what hope is there for others?
A few months ago, I was asked to go on Channel 4 News, to talk about the new controversial movie Me Before You, which features a main character in a wheelchair. Originally, I was asked to talk about the issues surrounding non-disabled actors playing disabled roles however, the news piece soon changed and the focus was on the character wanting to terminate his own life. The news anchor asked 'do you think having a disability makes it more likely to want to kill yourself?"
Honestly I was furious by this question and responded by saying; "I challenge anyone to say that they have never had a bad day or a low moment in their lives, disability or not".
However, in truth my disability has impacted my mental health, and I shouldn't be ashamed to admit this. Yes the pain of broken bones and the frustration of being treated differently does get me down from time to time. Nevertheless, other significant events in my life not related to my disability have triggered me to slip into a downward spiral of depression.
To our non-disabled friends, it's ok that we have down days and feel low and want a tiny violin to be played next to us from time to time, we are simply human just like you.
All in all I have a fantastic life and my disability has opened up doors for me in ways I could never have imagined. I now work with charities to highlight the issues that many disabled people face, including the disability charity Scope, who campaign to make sure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.
I will always have my bad days but I am surrounded by amazing people who support me through the hard times.