Mental health is health and always should have been classed as a disability. However, it has mainly been since 2010 that steps have been made to give people with a mental health illness the same support as those who have a more recognised form of disability. In 2010, mental health was covered in the Equality Act and although we have a long way to go, it is now recognised as a disability by many organisations.
In January this year I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and I had no idea what to do. The biggest part of my diagnosis is the swinging moods, anxiety and struggling to work the 9-5. When I’m good, I’m good. I’m on fire, but when I’m ill, I can sometimes struggle to leave the house and I’m most productive at 4am. Having now found a reason for my symptoms I’ve moved into the third sector and work in an organisation which helps people who are often excluded from society in a variety of ways. I’ve found my love in writing and raising awareness, particularly with a focus on young people to help find the information and support at a much younger age.
It was my clinical psychiatric nurse who told me that I was now officially “disabled” and that along with a wide range of discriminations, judgements and concerns, it also came with support and tools which were available to many other people who were disabled in other ways.
I was so upset that just as someone’s legs didn’t work or ears, my brain didn’t. I didn’t want to be “disabled” and I could only see it as a negative. Within a few weeks of returning to work I realised that full-time didn’t leave me any time to pursue my passion of causing change in mental health, whether it be arranging events, blogging or making appointments. Now having the backing of the diagnosis, rather then just feeling lazy, my partner gave me his full support and I moved to part-time so I could help others.
I was also told I could contact the DWP because many sufferers struggle financially with prescriptions, appointments, travel, preparing meals and generally taking care of themselves. I’d consider talking it through with your care team or provider. They can often write a letter as part of your appeal. Take more time to explain the real depth your situation, the times when you can’t cook or sleep, the areas where you know longer have control, medication, appointments, work etc. You should only get what your entitled to, so don’t exaggerate or lie about how it affects you, it can have a negative impact on others. But if you’re struggling you are entitled to help and support. Some days I’ve been so low I don’t get out of bed, shower or eat, but other days I’m better than that.
I was also surprised when I was nominated in the ‘Diversity Disability’ category at the National Diversity Award this year. I emailed them to ask if my mental health was a disability and they said absolutely. I’m beginning to understand now and learning to accept that I have a disability, but I think it’s important to raise this to those who have mental illness and those who come across those.