A huge problem for anyone with a mental illness is feeling unheard. Sometimes, it feels like everyone around you is speaking at you, about you and for you, but nobody wants to listen to what you have to say. Or worse, sometimes when you are stuck in the depths of despair, you cannot speak at all. Even though you feel like screaming at the world to please notice your pain, the words won't come out.
I've been stuck in those depths of despair, I've been a scared girl hiding under my duvet and being too anxious to get out of bed in the morning. I still am sometimes. Thinking about that girl I used to be is what is making me type these words: I want to speak up for her and for anyone else who can't find their own voice at the moment.
There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the last few years, both in Ireland where I hail from and here in Britain where I live. Politicians in both countries have spoken a lot about pushing mental health 'issues' up to the top of the political agenda. The topic seems to be popular with those seeking re-election, and yet very little seems to be changing. Funding for mental health has been cut time and time again, and services for those in distress are desperately overstretched and those who need them are being forced to endure long waiting lists. Anyone who has been brave enough to go to their doctor to ask for help shouldn't have to then wait for months to access psychiatric services.
Despite all the chatter in the public arena, the reality is that there is still a stigma attached to mental health and this is what we need to speak about. Unfortunately, some people still feel ashamed to admit they have problems, and feel they cannot openly disclose them. Only by removing this stigma can we have an open and honest discourse about what we as a society can do to fight this together. Depression is a stubborn beast and it will take an army to defeat it. A lot of great people in the public eye are trying to challenge the stereotypes and are putting their own stories out there to try and help others. I would like to follow in their footsteps and put my story out there too.
I read a quote this morning from Barack Obama which sums up perfectly what I'm trying to achieve:
"One person can be a force for positive change. That one person can be like a stone, a pebble thrown in a lake creating ripples, ripples of hope."
I want to put my voice out there, to try and help those who are already doing such great work. It's scary and uncomfortable to tell my personal story but if I don't do it, then who will? I think I owe it to that scared girl, to tell her that it will be ok and that she will find her way.