I remember having a medical emergency with my heart. I was rushed into hospital and the flowers, get well cards, hampers, balloons, visits and calls all came in abundance within hours.
Each and every one of those messages made a huge impact on me and my whole family, not only mentally but emotionally. They made us all feel so supported, loved and valued.
I felt so much better knowing I was surrounded by people who genuinely cared for me.
Even on discharge I was reassured constantly they were all there for me, which I truly needed and relied upon for a few months after.
Conversely, when I was rushed into a psychiatric ward – feeling I was going insane and losing grip on reality – no one came; no cards, flowers, balloons, messages, calls or visits. Nothing.
My boss at the time came up one day to tell me how bad I looked and I really should “pull myself together.” Needless to say I was very happy she only stayed 15 minutes.
The only person who came was my now husband, who without fail gave me his unconditional love and support, thus giving me reassurance I was supported emotionally in some way.
To be honest, at the time the lack of input from the outside was not something I thought about as I was very unwell and could not have thought rationally or with cognisance. However, it was in my slow recovery after discharge that I really noticed.
Very few people asked how I was and even then it was very discreetly done. It was as if there was some sort of shame in asking me how I was; I felt they did not want to be seen to ask or even acknowledge I had been away for so long. Perhaps fear of opening a proverbial can of emotional worms was the fear behind the silence.
It was a huge elephant in the room of my head.
It compounded the stigma, my shame and I felt it made my recovery harder as I was not able to vocalise or talk to anyone apart from my partner.
I would often wish I was free to say what I really wanted to – but never did due to fear or judgement, which quite literally broke my heart as I felt so ashamed.
Even now, writing this, it makes me very sad as I remember like yesterday the way I felt. These feeling never leave you.
This is why I now talk openly about all of this – to show others that there is no shame in being honest and open about how you feel.
If you’re struggling you need support no matter what the struggle is … we all need a friend now and again.
There may be some people that don’t want a visit – that’s also fine of course. But a wee message just to let them know you are there when they are ready can also make a huge difference.
A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say.
I now also know from talking to so many people that they feel their recovery was easier when supported by friends and family.
So please know that if someone is suffering from mental illness – treat it as you would any other illness as it can and will make a huge difference in their recovery…