Just be there

Last year I supported RED January to raise awareness of mental illness and not only was it was the start of my running journey but also the reason I began this blog.

Blue Sky Days 365, writing and poetry have been as important to my recovery as therapy, running as crucial as medication.

Right now I’m doing well, I still look after myself by controlling stress levels and avoiding stressful situations but from the outside you wouldn’t know that I have depression.

Because of the severe and persistent nature of my depression, I have been advised to remain on anti depressants for at least three years and am awaiting further therapy.  I’d love to stop taking the meds but realistically the risk of relapse is too great.  I may never get to a point where I think I’ll be ok without meds, or where the desire to stop outweighs the fear of relapse.  But that’s ok.

Mental illness is still illness.

Depression is an illness.  And it’s ok to be unwell.

We don’t choose it.  We don’t want it.

We can’t wish ourselves better.

We need compassion, understanding and support.  So just be there, be there for family, for friends, for work colleagues, for neighbours.  That’s all xx

I posted the following text on my facebook timeline yesterday…

Last day of RED January and a home yoga/pilates class to finish the month. This challenge was the reason I started running but more than that it allowed me to express so many things about my own experience of mental illness and resulted in me becoming a published author.

Mental illness can affect anyone at any time, but it lacks the compassion and understanding that physical illness receives. This should not be the case.

18 months ago I was at my lowest point, my husband had to take two months unpaid leave to support me because as a full time parent and carer for the boys I could not be signed off work. When I had cancer he only needed to take a couple of days at a time.

When I had cancer there were offers of help, get well soon cards and gifts. People cared enough to ask how I was doing. They understood the serious consequences of cancer. Throughout my illness with depression and PTSD I have had to rely on my husband, a couple of fabulous friends and later the kindness of my blogging community.

Yes, cancer kills. But so does mental illness.

The stigma and silence surrounding mental illness, one of the most widespread illnesses in the world, leads people to the point where they feel there’s no option but to take their own life as an escape from the relentless darkness of their illness.

I have not been pivotal in speaking out against the silence and stigma during RED this year, but I am now.

People with mental illness need your compassion, they need a kind word, a hand on their shoulder, a voice letting them know they’re not alone and that you care. Even if you don’t understand what it feels like for them, you can still be there for them. Let them know you’re thinking of them and that it’s ok not to be ok. Pick up the phone, drop by, but don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong.

Mental illness is not shameful, it’s not a character flaw, it’s an illness and it’s time to end the stigma.


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