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Mental health: memes and realities(2 Posts)
Something is bugging me. I've seen several memes and 'copy and paste this to show your support' Facebook status about depression and mental health over the last couple of days, and I'm wondering why that is.
For background, I'm 38 and was diagnosed with depression in 1999. I first self-harmed aged 13 and it continued throughout my teenage years and early 20s, though it got a bit better in my late teens. My first suicide attempt (by overdose of anti-depressants, betablockers and paracetamol all washed down with whisky) was in February 2000, and I remember the day like it was yesterday. I won't relive that here. I continued self-harming for about a year after that until I met two brilliant CPNs who persuaded me that in order for me to continue with their treatment I had to agree to not self-harm for the duration of treatment. Things were getting better. I moved area and became very unexpectedly pregnant in early 2003 and DS was born that autumn. PND hit hard and I was medicated with amitriptyline, as you can take this whilst breastfeeding. Family dynamics changed over the next few years but in a nutshell it was a separation, a reconciliation, a death, a house move and a new baby. My depression became severe again in mid 2012, when I sought help from the Crisis team after breaking down to my GP one morning. Since then there has been a further suicide attempt, with me walking barefoot in the late November snow, in the dark, barefoot and with the intent of walking into the river Wear. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder at that point. I have self-referred to the Community Alcohol Service (didn't work for me as a long term coping strategy) and am now attending AA meetings (which are working). I continue to take lamotrigine and respiridone to manage my bipolar and borderline personality disorders, and my long-suffering DH is understanding of me being sometimes extremely tired, sometimes hyper excited, sometimes hyper argumentative, sometimes extremely depressive, but he is also very supportive and knows that the best thing to do when I'm 'up at height' is to get me to bed or get me to nap on the settee. Sleep does wonders for calming my brain.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because the memes and FB status that I've seen over the last couple of days are from people I would least expect to by sympathetic to mental health illness and addiction. They are people with whom I am still friends on FB but only as an acquaintance with limited status access. We comment on respective children's pictures and sympathise with toilet training and vomit at 3am, but they are people who have actively distanced themselves from me since they learned I had mental health problems and was a bit unstable, and it smarts a bit that their FB status is now littered with generic copy and paste crap with piecemeal words about how hard depression is, how brave someone who who considers suicide is and how we should do more to support them. I understand that sometimes you don't know what to say, but often saying nothing at all is a hundred times worse than saying the wrong thing to someone's face. I'd rather someone pass the time of day than cross the road to actively avoid talking to me.
We have an abysmal attitude to the spectrum of mental health disorders. We're all for 'yay, go you with your brave struggle with depression' but when it comes to actually saying "hello" in the local Co-op it seems it's a massive no-go, lest the depressive might break down and cry. For the record, saying "hello" and passing comment on the weather actually makes me feel normal, like I'm a normal person doing normal stuff in a normal world. Not a mad woman being mad in my black world.
If you want to post on social media about how brave people battling depression are and how good they are for 'battling through the darkness' then that's fine with me. If you're one of those people who have crossed the road to avoid me then please understand why I don't like and copy your FB status. It's taken all my restraint not to add comment to your status to the tune of what I've written above.
I know what you mean, sadly. For all their 'brave talk' people are still frightened(?) of mental illness, but its easier for them to believe they are quite 'right on' about it. It's an extension of the nimby thing, I think. It still stinks though, I agree.
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