Tuesday, 8 December 2015

A little advice before obtaining a mental health diagnosis

I have been talking to a loved one today about obtaining a mental health diagnosis. It's a necessary step towards living a better life. However, being given a mental health diagnosis has many drawbacks.

Having a mental illness means that I have to lie on a daily basis. My employers know nothing about my mental illnesses. Even though they know how good I am at my job, I'm pretty certain that if I revealed this information they would view me differently. (After more than a year they still don't like my septum ring being on display...) I may now not be able to get OFSTED registered because of my mental health status. This will affect all of my future jobs with children. It has become second nature to me now to lie about my mental health. I don't know what it is like to not have a mental health problem but I know how to lie about it. I have done it all my life.

People WILL treat you differently. This is a fact. No matter how long you have known someone, as soon as they learn you have a mental health issue, their attitude towards you will change. The only rationale I can apply here is they are scared. The media conjurs up deeply disturbing images of people with mental health issues. The general population don't realise that mental health issues cover a huge range of things. Some mental health issues are milder than others. Yes, killers have psychological issues but people don't seem to understand that those with mental health issues are actually more of a danger to themselves than to others.

I have lost a great many friends owing to my mental health issues. Some of these losses have been owing to my behaviour, others have been when they learn of my diagnoses. They slowly distance themselves from me. You might argue that they are not true friends and you would be right. However, it doesn't lessen the hurt.

If you are in a bad mood, it will no longer be that you are just in a bad mood. It will be put down to you having an "episode" or a "funny turn". As a woman, I can't just be in a bad mood anyway because if I'm pissed off then I'm obviously on my period...!

People will tiptoe around you. They will be afraid of "setting you off". They might not confide in you any more feeling that you are "unable to cope" - despite you having done this for many years prior to a diagnosis. They may not wish to "add to your struggles". Relationships can break down because of this - it has happened to me.

People will give you unwanted sympathy or worse - pity! Sometimes we need fussing over, sometimes we want people to tell us things will be ok. However, we don't need to be given extra - or false - sympathy. I had a friend at university who used to do this a lot. She would ask how I was and if I said I was having a bad day or I didn't sleep very well she would say "oh I'm so sorry. I'm sorry that you have to go through this". I'm not sorry. Granted I don't love having my issues but I wouldn't be without them.

I'm not saying this to put anyone off obtaining a diagnosis. I wish I had someone tell me these things before I saw my GP all those years ago. That way I would have been better prepared.

Whatever you decide, you have to do this for you and you only. You have to be the driving force behind taking this huge step.

One thing you should know, you will never be alone. Whatever you are going through, someone else has had a similar experience and will be able to talk to you about it.

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