Saturday, 21 December 2019

Why I Talk About My Mental Health

Linda talks about why the misconceptions surrounding mental health encourage her to talk about her experience with an eating disorder.
- Linda


Sometimes, I curl up in bed and hide under my duvet. I videocall my boyfriend crying. With fragmented sentences and sniffs, I explain that I hate myself. Confused, he asks me “why?” He loves me. In his opinion, I deserve tenderness and kindness; full stop. I sadly explain that I draw so much attention to myself. I am extremely loud, hideous, and all I ever do is humiliate myself. Often, he asks me why I constantly put myself in situations that make me unhappy? If I hate the attention, then why do I treat the world like it is a captive audience? If I want to hide under a rock, why am I constantly choosing jobs that rely heavily on communication? I sigh and explain that it is complicated. Mental health is complicated and that is why I talk about it. 

For me, it is important to dispel the assumptions and misconceptions around mental health. One common misconception that people have about eating disorders is that the person affected must be thin. Unfortunately, this is a misconception that some health care professionals hold, and this can sometimes create a barrier when accessing treatment and support. Personally, my worst experience of dealing with this was when a nurse told me that I needed to lose weight, despite having lost a lot of weight due to my bulimia. She told me that I should exercise more; someone who she knew was hardly eating and compulsively exercising every day. I think she looked down at the scale when she weighed me and concluded that my eating disorder wasn’t that bad. I am sad to say that she was not the only one. As I was losing weight, I told my family and friends that I was unwell. However, going from overweight to a healthy weight was a cause for congratulations; I had “lost my baby fat” and I finally looked “healthy” and “pretty.” I started to believe that I was being overly dramatic. I wasn’t ill, because I did not fit the perfect mould of an eating disorder. 

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my struggles. There are so many misconceptions and myths around mental illness. For instance, of course EVERYONE WITH schizophrenia will be violent! The socially anxious kid in class cannot carry a conversation! That friend with OCD will wash their hands five, six, seven times! That extroverted, bubbly colleague couldn’t possibly be depressed! However, mental health doesn’t care for stereotypes or statistics. Through talking about my own issues with mental health, I have been able to educate some of my friends and family. For instance, now my boyfriend knows about eating disorders, he is careful not to trigger me. My friends know not to make a big deal about me eating in front of them. Additionally, I feel confident enough to disagree or speak up if a health care professional makes an unwarranted assumption regarding my mental health. Moreover, I am actively engaging with challenging my own misconceptions and educating myself so that I have a better grasp of the complexity, contradictions and intricacies regarding mental health.

 

Hello, my name is Linda. I am studying a MSc in Psychological research at the University of Warwick. I found out about Student Minds when I was doing my dissertation. I was impressed by their efforts to try and improve University experience and was eager to get involved.

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