Opinion: Fear, trust and acceptance
By Ben Read
For the longest time, I thought I was crazy. Like legitimately crazy.
I would have these constant, nagging invasive thoughts, would flip from being supremely excited and happy, to full of anguish and punching myself in the head. I didn't understand it at all, and was far too embarrassed and frightened to try and explain to someone, openly and honestly, what I was going through.
I didn't even know how to verbalise how I was suffering - I mean I didn't even understand myself; how could I expect to make someone else understand?
Aside from that aspect, I also didn't want to be a burden to anyone else. My partner of many years knew I was suffering from depression and anxiety, but I was never able to explain the details of what I was going through.
But after years of this, I DID start to slowly open up to those I trusted the most. Gradually, I gained confidence in myself, and understood that those who loved me would not judge me for what I was going through.
To me, trust is the most important step you can take on the road to… well, I won't say recovery as that indicates there is a be-all cure, which I am not sure there I, but it is the most important step towards living.
Living with the illness you have, accepting that it is not your fault, and you are most definitely not alone.
You would be surprised with how accepting the people around you can be, and how much of a dreaded weight opening up to others can lift off your weary shoulders.
A good example of this would be my workplace. I have been at the same place of employment for six years now, and am lucky to have some of the nicest and down-to-earth managers you could hope for.
Over the years I have opened up to them about the illness I have, and am so lucky that they are completely understanding and sympathetic.
Now I should in no way feel lucky for this; this should be the norm, just as if you had the flu, a broken leg, or any other physical ailment. However, we aren't quite there yet (but I feel things ARE gradually improving).
However, I kept my illness from my workmates, as even though my confidence had grown I didn't feel comfortable to make myself so vulnerable to the people I spend 40 hours a week wit. If they judged me or thought less of me, how uncomfortable would that be?
However, after agreeing to be part of a TV news story about mental illness in the workplace (which would involve some filming in the workplace), I kind of had to come clean, so to speak.
It was quite frightening opening myself up to a large number of people all at once. However, I need not have worried - my workmates were very understanding and relaxed about it, even so much as to joke about it, which I appreciated.
I guess the moral of my rambling story is to try trust. When you are at the end of your tether and driving yourself crazy, just try opening up.
Share the load. You might find you are pleasantly surprised with how people react. And the more people like you and I open up, and are honest, the more it will encourage other sufferers to do the same.
Then before you know it, mental illness will be just as understood and accepted as physical illness is. Well, maybe one day. But baby steps...
This article is part of Story's Mental Health Hub, a series documenting mental health and the work place.