It has been a couple of months now since I opened up to the world about my personal story, and in particular the challenges I have faced in life with mental illness.
We always hear the sayings 'it is good to talk' or 'a problem shared is a problem halved', but is that always the case? Well, I of course cannot speak for everyone, but my own experience is that it is absolutely good to talk. In direct relation to mental health, we know that there are more people than we can even imagine, who suffer from mental illness, whether that be depression, anxiety, addiction or something else. Sadly, many of these people are suffering in silence, because of a fear of opening up, a fear of being judged, or even a fear of being a burden to loved ones. I can 100% resonate with this. For years I suffered in silence for all of those reasons and more. Did not allowing myself to be vulnerable, to be judged make me feel better? Of course not.
A leading expert in psychology told me that if you don't talk about it and let it out, where does it go? Great question. The likelihood it goes nowhere...or certainly nowhere far, even if it gets buried deep deep inside. It is delaying and magnifying the impact, not stopping it. I know it is easier said that done, especially so for certain parts of society. Research shows us that young males in particular find it hard to be vulnerable and open up. This needs to change.
So, back to my original point, 'Is it good to talk?' I can honestly say that I have never felt happier than I do right now. Even 3 months ago, the thought of sharing outwith my small family circle, would in itself make me very anxious. I am a man in my 30's, I love football, I enjoy a drink in the pub with my mates...I fall in to that stereotypical category of where men are tough and don't talk about feelings. However, by the time I shared my story a couple of months ago, I wasn't even a little bit worried or nervous about doing so. In fact, I was excited by the prospect of helping others and no longer carrying around with me this secret that I had.
The weight I felt come off my shoulders was instant. For me, this was 17 years in the making, but that doesn't need to be the case for others. And to start feeling better, there is not a need to share to the world. This was the next piece in the puzzle for me, so I can help others. However treatment of my illness really started 4 years ago when I started talking about it properly for the very first time, with a therapist. The power of talking, even just to one person, is huge. You don't need to tell the world, and you don't need to suffer in silence; by finding just one or two people you can talk to, will do wonders.
And that one person can be a stranger, a friend, a colleague, a professional, a family member. It can be anyone. And with each conversation, it gets that little bit easier each time, even though if at the time opening up can be hard. That one person, may then lead to another until you have a network of support...and who knows one day to the point where you also become part of other people's networks and help them too. The more you talk, the easier it becomes and before sharing further I opened up to 3 or 4 people close to me, in my family, and each time it got easier and gave me more strength.
Those conversations with a therapist 4 years ago made me realise I wasn't weak and it wasn't something I should be ashamed of. I always took pride in my strength of character which is another of the main reasons I was in denial about my depression. Now I realise, that my strength of character is still there and stronger than ever...and actually resilience/strength of character and mental illness are not mutually exclusive. In fact, some of the strongest and most positive people I know have bounced back from some really dark times.
So...it isn't just good to talk, it is great to talk. Instead of texting or snapchatting your friends tonight, why not pop round for a good old cup of tea and a natter.