We all keep things to ourselves. We have things that we only want ourselves to know. We hide our feelings and our thoughts. Sometimes people notice, but others don’t. I was told this week, that I was good at hiding my mental health problems. That I was good at hiding my anxiety and OCD until I told people. Some people don’t believe me when I say I have mental health problems. Is it because they are invisible? Is it because I’ve gotten so good at putting a front on? Is it because I don’t really have mental health problems?
The last one is completely untrue.
When I tell people, it sometimes sounds like what I say needs to be legitimized. Ill mental health isn’t something to joke about. I wouldn’t dream of doing it. Why would I? It’s horrible having anxiety and OCD. It consumes your life. It feels like they don’t believe that I’m saying because they can’t see it. Mental health problems are invisible, unless they manifest into physical behaviours, like hand-washing and panic attacks. I try not to hand-wash and show my anxiety, so is that why people think that I don’t have mental health problems? Is it because it isn’t like a cast on a broken leg? Or is it something deeper?
You can do an x-ray on someone with a broken bone, but it isn’t that simple with mental health. It’s your word mostly. Others may not have noticed, because you hide it. Ill mental health can be hidden, but I don’t recommend it. I can’t keep it hidden all of the time. I just do it because of the stigma.
People have a stereotype of people with mental health problems. Ill mental health is abnormal. It doesn’t fit with society. We all have mental health, but not everyone has anxiety, or OCD (although people will debate this) or other mental health problems. Some may even argue that ill mental health is a social construct. That we wanted to create a hierarchy of groups. People with mental health problems aren’t equal and we are labelled and stigmatised. I want to be normal so I hide my mental health problems. I tried to do this on my university course, but now I know it wasn’t the right thing to do.
It really is better to tell people about your mental health problems. Keeping them bottled up will only make them worse, I assure you. There is always going to be stigma around mental health problems, although we are trying to lessen it. I went into crisis very quickly. If I’d told someone, then I would not have gotten to that point. I wouldn’t want others to end up like I did. So tell people, it’s easier than keeping your mental health problems hidden.
It is not easy, I know. But you can do it. It will take time, but bit by bit you can tell people. Everyone has labels, everyone is stigmatised in some way or another. Ill mental health has strong connotations, but some people can feel empowered by their mental health problems, perhaps as I am. Maybe you can get to that point too.
Think to yourself, would you rather be a bottle of pop with the lid on or off?