No shame in mental health problems

No Shame Day ANL-150907-151801001
No Shame Day ANL-150907-151801001
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So, my Twitter feed at the start of the week was full of tweets about it being No Shame Day, a reference to the stigma that is still attached to mental health.

People were encouraged to give their experience of their own mental health issues and how they cope each day with them.

Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 discussed Ruby Wax’s comments about whether you should tell your employer if you have a mental health illness. Her opinion was that you should not.

The tweets that followed suggested agreement, that some had told their boss – soon wishing that they hadn’t as they felt it had led to them being pushed out of their job.

Mental health issues affect so many of us … we all have mental health, it just depends on certain factors whether it is good or in need of some attention.

For some, it is a condition, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. For others, it is the result of a trauma that triggers PTSD or panic attacks – it could be hormonal like post-natal depression.

Sometimes there is no reason why someone feels mentally unwell, while for others it’s the result of doing too much.

I have no shame in admitting that I have had my own meltdown – my husband was very stressed, we had four young children and we were living in an old house that was freezing and needed refurbishing.

I was doing a job that involved me going into people’s houses and doing a cookery demo, as well as running my own cake business. I was very busy.

I wasn’t sleeping well and I found that whenever I spoke, my speech was very fast. I over analysed everything and was agitated.

I felt low, but kept plodding on. Looking back, these were obvious warning signs.

On top of everything else, somebody set our car on fire in the middle of the night. Naturally, I was upset, but after a few days, everything went back to “normal”.

I had a cookery party a week later and, as I set things out and people started to arrive, I began to feel unwell.

The only way to describe it was waves of gradual terror, a physical heaviness in my chest, nausea and a desperation to get away.

I managed to stay outwardly calm, while my insides raged. It was only when I tried to speak that I realised I couldn’t.

That is the trouble with the mind, it literally has a mind of its own and, when it has had enough, like a computer, it forces a shutdown.

I couldn’t get the words out. I mumbled “what am I doing?” before sitting down and staring at the table.

My GP told me that this was a delayed reaction to the fire because of the other stressful things that were going on in my life at the time. It took six months of a low dose antidepressant to get myself back to what I considered normal life.

It should be No Shame Day every day, because the reality is that it can affect any of us and there really is no shame in it.