Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Pride and Prejudice and Mental Health

During an #lbloggers chat a few weeks ago, the lovely Rhiannon suggested a  collaboration between me, herself, and the lovely Amy and Laura.

I was absolutely thrilled- I love the idea of collaborating with other bloggers. There are so many lovely people out there in blog-land and these three are particularly wonderful (as are the rest of you, of course!). Rhiannon suggested that we all  talk on the same topic, and give our own experiences and thoughts on it- and she thought prejudice would be a great topic. And I agree.

Prejudice comes in many forms, and against all sorts of different things and people. But given that I have some very, very personal experience on it, I'm going to talk about mental health, and the stigmas and prejudices surrounding it.


I wanted a picture. I found it here

I get that this is a pretty intense topic for a blog, but it is something I feel fairly strongly about. And I'm telling you- this is seriously personal stuff, and is quite hard for me to write. So I'd appreciate it if you are thoughtful to this when reading, and particularly if you choose to comment. And if you'd rather not read, or comment, or whatever, then that's fine too.

I've struggled with depression, self harm, and suicidal tendencies since I was around 15. It has had an enormous impact the last eight years of my life. I really don't know what started it- I honestly don't think there was a "trigger" as such- but I first hurt myself, by cutting my arms, when I was fifteen. This was noticed by friends pretty quickly- I didn't hide it well at first. And then I convinced people I was better, and got better at hiding it.

And then university time came. And I didn't get my first choice of university, and I went to my insurance. I was put into a flat with five boys, four of whom had very limited English. I did not want to be there, in any way, shape or form, and all the suicidal thoughts came to a head and yeah, I tried to... well... you know. I actually find that too hard to write. And I was in such a spiral of self destruction, I put myself in a stupid, stupid position and was the victim of a serious sexual assault. Which, as I'm sure you'll imagine, really really didn't help things. My family realised what a state I was in, and with some help from my amazingly supportive sister and the rest of my amazingly supportive family, I was brought home.

When I started university again the following September, things improved, but not that much. Whenever I would drink, I would become horrifically upset, which was no fun for anyone involved. So I stopped drinking, had a bit of counselling, and while I don't think that helped (too many issues in the past which I won't speak about now), in time I got past it. And for the last year or so, I have felt properly like myself again.

But what does this have to do with prejudice? As I started writing this, I was thinking, "but I'm not sure that I really have experienced prejudice". I could only think of my lovely friend who has bipolar disorder, and who has strong reason to believe that the reason he wasn't even offered an interview for a job he ticked every box for was his bipolar disorder (which he manages well, by the way).

 But I have. 

There was the "friend" who told me "I don't like new uni Alice, you can ditch until you're normal again" when I started at university number one, and was pretty much in hell. I've not spoken to her since. Or the girl I was becoming friends with who went "OH MY GOD that's disgusting, I can't believe you'd do something like that, you're such a freak!" Admittedly, she was drunk, and apologised the next day, but our new friendship deteriorated pretty quickly after that.

Or even just the fear of prejudice. I wore long sleeves to my summer job for three years because I was so frightened of the reactions that I might have got to the scars on my arms. I was going to post a picture of them here, actually, but have chosen not to for fear of the response to them. I don't care about them- neither do my friends or family- but I don't know if you will.

 And I know people who are frightened to take tablets for mental health conditions, or admit to taking them, because of the stigma attached. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. If you have something wrong with your body, you take medicine. Why not if you have something wrong with your mind?

There are also silly thoughtless comments which just get chucked around about mental health like it isn't a big deal. Like the senior manager who makes jokes about long meetings "making her want to self harm", and saying things like "oh god, I could just slit my wrists". It isn't funny, and it certainly isn't appropriate.

I hate the stigma and the prejudice surrounding mental health. And more than anything else, I don't understand it. Would you be mean to someone for having a chronic illness of any other type? Or make jokes about their illness. No. So why this?

That said, things which go over the top in the other way- TWLOHA for one- also annoy me by making peopel with depression into an exclusive "club". That's also not the point.

Some people are gay. Quite rightly, we're told to get over it. And by the same extension, some people have mental illnesses. People need to learn to deal with it. IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. 

They might be a bit more emotional sometimes, or they might not. They may take tablets. They might not. They might see a counsellor. They might not. But at the end of the day, they are people, I AM A PERSON, and no one deserves to be treated differently, or discriminated against, because of something they really can't help.

That's my thoughts on it anyway. My experiences of prejudice around mental health probably aren't as extreme as others have experiences, and for that I am thankful (but so sad for those who have been treated badly. I am truly sorry).  But I have experienced it. 

Can we all just start being nicer to each other? Please? It really isn't that hard.

42 comments:

  1. It's great that you had the confidence to write this. I hope that others who've had, or are having, similar experiences take some comfort from the fact that you're now happy and enjoying life xx

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    1. Thank you so much. I hope so too- it would be lovely if someone could take something positive from this :) xx

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  2. I'm so glad you posted about this. My sister suffers from mental illness, even though most people wouldn't realise it, and it's SUCH an important topic. Having a sister with a mental illness, while it has had its awful moments, has made me a much better person and I would never judge someone on it/think any less of them. I don't believe any of us are entirely 100% "normal" and we could all learn something from people speaking out about the issue, as you have. xxxxxxxx

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    1. I'm so pleased you have taken your sister's mental illness as such a positive- you're right, I think it does make people better if they're exposed to it in some way. Nope, I don't believe in 100% normal either. Thank you lovely, you have no idea how much this all means to me. xxx

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  3. Thank you for writing such an insightful post about depression and self harm and I admire your courage to speak out about you experiences.

    I suffer from depression myself I was bullied mercilessly in high school to the point where bullies ruined my grades and affected everything I had planned for my life for their own sick amusement. One school bully had the nerve to message me on Facebook a few years ago telling me "go cut my wrists" when I was perfectly happy and had nothing todo with her (I didn't even have her added this is back when facebooks terms and messaging settings were different ) I put my foot down and told her she was ridiculous for messaging me and trying to cause me grief years after high school ended and I she didn't have the spine to respond to that.

    I took medication on and off for a number of years but decided to come off of it in 2009 and manage my depression better because I needed control over something. I've not had any low points since but its too easy to slip into that spiral of thought and self loathing when something goes wrong.

    I don't think people who have never been depressed really understand that its not a choice to feel so terrible and that the person is suffering not being "emo" or moping by choice.

    I hope this entry opens people's eyes a little. ❤

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    1. I cannot believe that someone would be so awful to you- really, that's horrific, and I'm so sorry you had to go through that. So pleased that you are able to manage your depression yourself now- I personally never took medication, but I definitely think it's worth it in a lot of cases. Agree that it is difficult to comprehend if you don't have any experience of it- whether personal or through a close friend/ family member going through it- but fortunately, people do seem to be more open now. xxx

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  4. This post is very interesting
    And you have such a nice blog !
    I'm glad I found it


    Http://Fashioneiric.blogspot.com

    Coline ♡

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this - I know that, as you said, it had to have been incredibly difficult to write and post. I'm so sorry about the things you'e had to go through, and I'm glad to hear that things have gotten better. Having dealt with it myself, I know how difficult it is, and I know how it feels when people judge you for it. But I'm glad you've found friends and have a family who treat you the same regardless.
    <3 Kiersten

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    1. Thank you so much lovely- things really are much better now :) I hope you're in a good place now too! It's true- my friends and family are amazing, and it really does make all the difference in the world. xxx

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  6. This is such a brave and extremely honest post to write and how brave of you, really, thank you ever so much for sharing this with everyone. I can only imagine how hard it must of been to write about it. I'm going to show this to a couple of friends who I know have problems with mental illness themselves. The worst part of it is when I hear people accuse them for self harming just so they can get attention. I would love it if this post showed others that they can be confident about talking about this subject too.
    Thank you so much for joining in on this little blog collab with me, looking forward to the next one!

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    1. It wasn't easy, but it was actually really great to get it out. Wow, thank you- I hope that it maybe gives them a bit of comfort. And that makes me sadder than anything else- it is NOT an attention seeking thing at all. Loved taking part in the collab, so looking forward for the next one! x

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  7. I am so sorry you have a mental health issue. The stigma is terrible but living with it is worse.xo

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    1. Thanks. Living with it was (and I suppose is) difficult, but with fab friends and family it's a hell of a lot easier :) xx

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  8. I absolutely love you for being honest and writing this post. I genuinely admire you so much right now, putting your story online is such a hard thing to do and i'm totally proud of you for plucking up the courage and doing it.

    I feel so angry towards those "friends" for saying those things. That's so horrible! Friends should be there for each other and they definitely be there at times when judgement and comments are coming your way - they should be there fighting them off with you!!

    xxx

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    1. Thanks so much lovely- I didn't really think of it as a brave thing to do haha!! I know- fortunately, I no longer speak to either of them. Surrounding yourself with positive people who love you is the most important thing I think, and the people I have around me now really are the best :) xxx

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  9. I love you so much for this post. I relate to every single thing you just wrote about (albeit the five foreign students part) and I have also come under huge prejudice. It's horrible that people are still so intolerant of mental illness. It happens. Like any other illness, it's not something that makes somebody a bad person, a freak or an attention-seeker.

    Thank you so much for being so open about this. It's such an inspirational post.

    xxx

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    1. Thanks so much Becky- in some ways I'm glad you can relate, but in others, I'm so sorry you've had a tough time. I agree- it's the characterisation as an attention seeker which makes me so sad, and the fact that it's treated so differently to other illnesses. Thank you, it's so kind of you to say that this is inspirational! xx

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  10. it's so lovely to read something like this, as someone who's suffered with panic my whole life, it's hard to read, but really something I can relate to!
    love your honesty!
    abbie :)
    luckfashion.blogspot.com xx

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    1. So sorry that you've suffered with panic- that must be very difficult for you. Have you seen Zoella's video on dealing with panic attacks and anxiety? It's really good, and very honest too- may be worth a watch. Thanks lovely, really does mean a lot!! xxx

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  11. a beautifully written post alice x

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    1. Thank you so much Hannah- it really does mean a lot! x

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  12. I think you are wonderfully brave to share such personal experiences in this post. I'm so sorry to hear about the tough times you have been through and am sincerely glad you are feeling much more yourself over the past year. I totally agree with you at the end, it isn't hard to be nice and everyone can do it. x

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    1. Thanks Lauren- I definitely am feeling a LOT better now, which is great!! I know- the fact that people can be so mean to each other is just ridiculous. Being nice is so much better for everyone! x

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  13. You have shown such strength and courage in posting about this, which is a testament to your character and how strong you are now. I'm sorry you h ave been through such challenging times but hope you continue to be proud of your achievements and only surround yourself with positive people. Xx

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    1. Meg, that is such a kind thing to say- thank you so much. I definitely try to surround myself with positive people now- makes SUCH a difference. xxx

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  14. Inspiring! I've always tried to be open minded about these things. I only really have one friend who takes meds for her depression etc, and I'm always there for her. Although I will say that I'm always rather blunt with her because that's what she needs. Granted, that's not all people and I do know her really well.

    I feel so proud of people who are confronting the stigma of mental illness, and I really hope that one day people start realizing that they are still people underneath it all.

    xx

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    1. Thank you so much Jasmine! It's true- I think some people do need tough love, and if you know her well than clearly it's the right thing. Walking on eggshells around her wouldn't be good for anyone! I hope so too- you wouldn't treat someone differently if they had any other illness, so why people act weirdly about this, I do not know. xx

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  15. I clicked to read this as I am a fan of pride and prejudice. I am so pleased that I did as I think you are an extremely brave person and I envy your strength to be able to talk about it all

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    1. Oops, sorry for the lack of Pride and Prejudice-ness! Thank you so much lovely, that really means a lot. Particularly given that it was unintentional :) xx

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  16. This is such an inspiring post. I have so many things I would like to comment on but feel my ramblings wouldn’t match your beautifully written post so I’ll just leave it at thank you for having the courage to write this, it really is a subject that needs to be spoken about in the open much much more.

    Laura x

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    1. Thank you Laura :) Haha I'm sure your ramblings would have been perfect. I do agree- this is something which isn't really spoken about enough, I so wish it was something we were all more open about. xx

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  17. This is such a brave post. I'm inspired by your honesty and willingness to talk openly about this subject. I'm sure your story helps more people than you know. Kuddos to you for being so strong!
    Isn’t That Charming.

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    1. You are too kind Emily- thank you so much. If this does help people, I would be so happy! xx

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  18. This is the most honest post I think I've ever read. And I'm glad you wrote it. It's easy to sit behind the shield of a blog and pretend you're something you're not. You certainly don't do that and I feel I've really got to know you in just the short time we've been in touch through the blogging world. From someone who has never suffered with mental health issues, the more I get to read posts like this, the more I understand. You are a fab lady miss Alice!

    Jen | sunny sweet pea xx

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    1. Thanks so much Jen- you have no idea how much this means. I agree- it is too easy to pretend to be someone you aren't online, but I'm glad you like the parts of me I've shown on line! Thank you lovely- you are pretty awesome yourself you know! xxx

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  19. Alice first of all I'm sorry it's taken me so long to comment on this post. I wanted to make sure I could dedicate some time to really reading it properly and that needed a few days.

    I think you are incredibly brave for sharing this, they aren't pretty feelings or emotions and people all too often brush them under the carpet. Personally I haven't suffered from any of these issues and I don't want to patronise you with "I know how you feels" and "poor yous". I did live with a partner who suffered dreadfully with depression and for him self harm was the only release he felt he had. From the outside looking in I hated the fact that I couldn't help him, that I couldn't make things better for him. The thought of anyone giving him a hard time for the way he felt on top just made my heart break.

    I admire you greatly for being so honest and open, it sounds like you've lived through some really dark times. The fact that you have lived through them is inspirational. Your honesty is a truly wonderful thing. Thank you for sharing this.

    Kate x
    Just Pirouette and Carry On...

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    1. That's so sweet that you wanted to take some time to read it properly- I really really do appreciate it. Thank you so much for this though, and I am so sorry you had to live through it with a partner- I know my loved ones found it incredibly difficult too. You have no idea how much this all means to me. xx

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  20. Brilliant piece. I think part of the problem is people don't understand mental illness and people are still scared if what they don't understand. Someone close to me self harms and some of the things strangers have said to her, it even just the staring, are awful. Ill never understand why people think its acceptable, you wouldn't stare at a person in a wheelchair it ask them what's wrong with their legs would you?!

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    1. Thank you so much! I definitely agree- people are too afraid of what they don't know. And you are spot on with the wheelchair thing- in a lot of cases, it really isn't that different!!! xx

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  21. Just commented on here a second ago, but got an error, so not sure if it had gone through, if it did, I apologize for double commenting the pretty much same thing.
    I really admire you for posting this, it must have taken you so much courage to publish it, especially knowing how cruel "the Internet" can be sometimes, great to see what an amazing response the post got though!
    I think it's fantastic that there's more and more out there about mental health issues, which I think will help the understanding of people who've never suffered from it themselves/have been close to someone who suffered from it, that it's not just the people choosing to not be happy, but them genuinely feeling like they can't get out of it (of course there are things that they can do or at least try like medication, changing diet etc, but I think many people don't realise how difficult it can be), but also for people who suffer from it themselves to know that they are not alone (wow long sentence, I hope it still makes sense).
    Anyway there's nothing I can add to this, I just wanted to comment to say thank you for posting this :)

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  22. I will just leave a little comment.. It's so upsetting to hear people treat mental illness as though it is 'weird'. I had a friend who was a little like this, and it never did my confidence any good. I'm glad so many people have read this, and continue to read it. it's a great post x

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