Tuesday 30 January 2018

Am I my Brain?

Rosie shares her experience of talking about mental health.
- Rosie Capell

My mental health isn’t something I talk about often. Or at least, it never used to be. This was for a couple of reasons. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it, it’s just that broaching the subject was… complicated. For a start, when am I supposed to bring it up? Am I meant to break the news in a dramatic DMC over copious cups of tea, after developing a long and profound friendship? Or should I just be open from the very beginning? The thing is, “Hi, I’m Rosie and I have and still do experience varying degrees of disordered eating, restrictive and bingeing tendencies, body dysmorphia, as well as social anxiety” isn’t the snappiest way to start a conversation.

This was the main worry for me, and it’s the reason why it’s taken me so long to become more open about my mental health. Most of all, I dreaded becoming my mental illness. Over and over in my head, I played out the scene: I imagined the tumbleweed moment as I watched a friend’s pupils shrinking, my words encircled by *MENTAL HEALTH* flashing lights. Particularly for people who (as far as they knew) didn’t know anyone who had ever experienced mental illness, I feared becoming “that eating disorder woman”. It was a fear that consumed me, so much so that each time I began to frame the words, I would swallow them up and put it off for another day.

But when eventually I reached out and started being more open about it all, I was relieved to find that my identity stayed safely intact. I haven’t become the “eating disorder woman” or the “social anxiety woman”. I’m just me. Yes, it is a part of me, but so is my love of languages, dogs, and Disney films. It’s a part of my identity, but that doesn’t mean it is my identity. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that anyone should ever feel pressured to share their mental health experiences. But equally, no one should ever feel worried about opening up in a safe and supportive environment. There are no ‘should’s or ‘ought to’s - the only determining factor is how comfortable you are with it. After feeling for so long that it had been consuming me, it was the most liberating thing to discover that mental health doesn’t define you, and the people who really matter in life can often see that more clearly than you.

Hi! I'm Rosie and I study French and Italian in Oxford. Mental health is very close to my heart, and I hope sharing my experiences will help others in similar situations.

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