I'm writing this now as I've been speaking about it for so long, but this time of the year just makes this issue so much more prominent. There is a huge issue with the Stigma and Support of those who suffer from mental illness. I say this as someone who has witnessed and experienced it first hand.
Stigma is old school.
The thinking that mental illness isn't a real disease or condition, or that "seeing a shrink" as someone once said to me - meant that I'm just crazy. The side remarks, and the "jokes" are just not funny anymore, there is only so much I can take, and make fun of.
My thoughts around this are not all-inclusive. I have an amazing husband that does get it. He understands my mood swings, my irrational behaviour, the lack of empathy and is well aware of the rollercoaster that is my life now. But not everyone does. Why? Because it's invisible.
The hardest and most challenging thing I have faced since surviving brain injury is the fact that once you recover, you are seen as "normal" (well aware that "normal" doesn't exist), but the fact is - I am a different person to who I was prior. The sooner people see that, the quicker people might understand.
Don't get me wrong, I've achieved a shit load of wonderful things since 2010. I give thanks that I went through what I did! But it certainly comes with some side effects - the ones people don't see every day. The ones that show who I really am, and what I really endure.
The Hidden Injury
Brain injury is sometimes referred to as the "Hidden Injury" because once you're patched up it looks like you're healed and back to normal. Brain injury takes years to heal and most of the time never repairs back to its original state.
Mental instability doesn't necessarily stem from brain damage, but from the mental adjustment of what a survivor has gone through. Brain injury is a significant trauma, and the more support we have around us to heal the better our mental state will be. But when friends and family don't understand what you're going through - is when mental health can be compromised.
We need more support. Not just medical and service but support from friends and family. I was told once that "Hanging with friends will make you feel better" - to which the thought of that made me want to put a gun to my head.
I don't say these things to draw attention, but if people had more empathy to TRULY understand what goes through someones head - maybe things would be easier for everyone and reduce so much unnecessary conflict. I know this takes an immense amount of awareness and resilience - which is why you see so many relationships break down due to mental ill health.
In my opinion I don't think this area is taken seriously until it's too late, or something drastic has occurred. Maybe if it was called head cancer it would be taken more seriously.
The moment I take myself to a mental rehab hospital or hurt myself seems to be the only time people will take this seriously. What I (and so many others) are going through on the inside IS REAL.
How many times have you heard people say after someone suicides that "I didn't see it coming" or "I wish I could've done something to help" - well you can. Understand and support vs conflict and rationalisation is a giant step forward.