I’ve been advised not to broadcast this, so I wasn’t going to. But then I got thinking, and then I got pissed off.
If people feel like they have to hide mental health problems, like it’s shameful to admit to having one, then we’re never going to get past the stigma attached to it and things will never move on.
Here’s a few things that have happened to me which represent people’s shitty attitudes.
1. I left school when I was 14, so my mum tried to get me into a new one. By 14 I’d had a lot of counselling and was a regular at my local children’s mental health centre. At the appeal for the new school, my mum was told that my list of issues was so long, that letting me have a place there wasn’t worth the risk that I might propose to the school, or the other kids.
2. After that, she paid for me to go to a private faith school. I wasn’t a little shit. Well, in the sense that I didn’t swear at any teachers, throw chairs at people’s heads, bully or make anyone’s life a misery, I wasn’t a little shit. But I was damaged and had quite impulsive behaviour. I caused more harm to myself than anyone else – I always have.
I made it into the teacher’s bad books for smoking in the toilet; but then, during the painfully dull lesson which was Bible study, I felt an urge to walk out and try to escape over the railings (which didn’t work anyway because I was about 4ft tall back then.)
Because of that, they kicked me out. They knew my background history, yet there was no attempt to try and help me or talk me through it. I was put straight into a pupil referral unit, right before my exams.
How very Christian of them. 🙂
3. I was 18 and I got my first job in a nursery school. I was delighted. It was going really well and then of course the inevitable happened; the depression hit, and so did a comment when I disclosed the fact I was suffering from it. “I don’t think you’re the right type of person to be working with children.”
I don’t discriminate against anybody for anything, and I’m working with the future generation. I can teach them to also be accepting of others, contribute to making the world less of a judgemental-twat-ridden place, and my school experience was so shockingly shit I’m driven to make other kids love theirs. But I’m the wrong person to be working with children. K.
And, the reason I ended up posting this.
4. It came from one of my nearest and dearest, and she’ll probably read this and think I’m having a little bitch about her, but that’s not the case. She saw some tweets where I’d been rather honest about my mental health. She said I should really delete them, or at least take out any bits where I’ve mentioned depression/anxiety/anger problems, because people who dislike me already might find out and use it to their advantage.
I get that she was looking out for me and I appreciate it, but at the same time, what she said told me everything I needed to know about the way others regard mental illness – still. There are people who might use a health problem I cannot control to their advantage.
It’s not something that makes you less of a person, or a big fucking weirdo. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. It’s being ill.
Can I say that those four situations would have occurred if I had another kind of illness? Of course they bloody wouldn’t. Nobody would say you’d risk damaging the reputation of a school because you’ve had meningitis. Nobody would kick you out of a school for having a broken leg. Nobody would say you shouldn’t work with children because you’re a diabetic. And nobody would say you shouldn’t publicly document your struggle with a physical illness. This shouldn’t be any different.
So, I’m going to carry on being open and honest about it – possibly more so than before.
– The books in my feature photo are Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig and Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon. I cannot recommend them enough. They are refreshingly honest accounts of all things mental-health.