#TimeToTalk Day : why is talking so hard? *TW

Hello. My name is Sami and I have a mental illness.

That sentence conjures up images of AA meeting rooms and 'confessing' your secret. It makes absolutely no sense, but this is the society we live in. The simple fact is that a mental illness is a biological illness, just like diabetes, arthritis or cancer. Do we see people in support groups saying:

Hello. My name is ***** and I have diabetes.
Hello. My name is ***** and I have cancer.
Hello. My name is ***** and I have arthritis.

No. Would these people be met with cruel comments and judgement? NO. Granted, there are support systems for those with these conditions but the context is incredibly different.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Why is talking so hard for us?

Because of you. Because we don't know how you will react. Because we are terrified of being judged. Because we have to keep our condition a dirty little secret. We can't trust anyone. We can't even tell those we hold closest to our hearts; family members we thought we could trust. We live in a society where we have to just get on with it and admitting a 'weakness' held in such contempt. Nowhere is safe.

Until something snaps. Until it becomes too visible to deny. Until you end up in crisis. Until you end up in acute psychosis. Until you end up living in the bottom of a bottle. Until you start attacking your own body. Until you end up staring into an empty bottle and are surrounded by empty blister packets.

What then?

You're in hospital. You're in a police cell. You're sat in front of your GP, a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse... 

Explain yourself. You're on trial now. Judge, jury and executioner are waiting.

You can't. You're so far gone you can't talk. You probably tried and failed, before things slid even further into the abyss.

What's the point? No-one listens. The NHS waiting lists are years long and you're not worthy of their time.

Here; take these pills. They will make you feel awful at first and take weeks to make a difference. Try exercise. Try eating better. Read a book.  Talk.

TO WHO!?

Friends? Nah. They gave up on you ages ago. Family? Pfft. What family. You told them your secret and they just wanted your benefit money, or if you didn't pay you were out on the streets. You're all alone in a very scary world with only your thoughts for company.

In desperation, you search the internet. Someone must be there. Someone must understand. You still have a shred of hope in humanity. You find forums and they become your sanctuary. The user names become people, who become friends you spend day and night talking to.

You finally see a therapist. You have no idea who this person is but you're expected to bare your soul. You're on a time limit. You haven't spoken in months, save for a few words or screaming at those hell bent on increasing your suffering. You start to make small steps of progress and your sessions come to an end. The NHS won't pay for more.

You're alone with new thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the therapy uncovered a memory you buried deep in your subconscious. Alone. Terrified. Confused.

Talking becomes dangerous and you shut down once again. You bury your thoughts and feelings in food, drugs and alcohol. Anything that will silence the noise and dull the pain you cannot describe.

"I'm fine" becomes your motto. 

Perpetual fear is your reality. 

You try to blend in to a world that makes no sense to you. You try to create your own world within which you can attempt to function. This becomes your bubble. Then it becomes a steel cage from which you cannot escape. 

Why continue to struggle? Why continue to live in such fear? You have no-one. You're alone with this monster. You fell off the radar of mental health services a long time ago. You don't see your doctor. You don't appear at A&E needing stitches anymore. You can take care of your wounds yourself. 

You are too scared to eat. Too scared to sleep. Too scared to talk. 

You shrink. You become so weak you are bed-ridden. Your chest hurts. Your heart is beating funny. You say nothing as you collapse on the floor and surrender to the darkness coming over your eyes. Please let this be it. Please. Your last thought is the one person you truly loved.

You wake up on the floor. It's dark. You were left on the floor to die. You remember that this isn't the first time this has happened. 

You remain silent, but something has shifted. You remember that special person and feel compelled to escape the prison of abuse you are in. You plan your escape in silence, only typing your thoughts and fears to your internet friends. 

You secure a new home but things haven't gone to plan. The devil has followed you. But you're stronger now. You start to talk. You have no choice or the cycle will continue. You see a doctor. You meet a psychiatrist. You start medication and gather your strength. 

You begin to email someone you thought was lost forever. The person you thought of as you were sure you were going to die. They visit you at home. You have butterflies. You feel safe and smile for the first time in what feels like an eternity. You aren't alone anymore.

You share your secret and ask for support. 

You prepare for what you know will be the fight of your life. 

The devil discovers your friend before you could speak the words as planned. However, you do not remain silent. You have to be strong and fight for what fate has laid out before you. You have not come this far to be defeated now. 

You scream for help when your phone is ripped from you and your head meets the corner of a wall. Survival kicks in and you force your frail 7st 7lb frame to get to a phone. You need help. You call the police and say as much as you can before the line is cut off. 

You endure the most vicious and longest 5 minutes of your life.

But you survive. 

The police remove the devil from your house.

You are free. 

*  *  *  *  *

It is at this point I began to talk. The date was 21/05/2009. After being near-mute from the age of 18 to 21. I told the police everything. I cried. I was visited by victim support. I decided not to press charges because I did not want to, and mentally couldn't, endure going to court.

I began to see my GP on a regular basis, and started to go outside with my new boyfriend. It was terrifying but he was right there beside me. He never lets go of my hand. 

June 2009
 This is the man I thought about as I thought I was going to die on my living room floor. This is the man I fought for with my life to be with. This is the man that saved me from so much pain, and stood by me when I became incredibly unwell as a result of PTSD and hospitalised in the acute psychiatric ward. This is the man that gave me my voice back. We live together in Brighton with our cat, Lily.

August 2010

Talking with people is something I struggle with to this day. I have had no 'formal' therapy since the age of 18 and now, at the age of 26, I begin to wonder if it is really necessary. There is so much more to be gained from making friends and talking to them, than having a therapist which always has that degree of separation.

I struggle to talk because I spent so long not talking. I fall over my words or get them in the wrong place in a sentence entirely. I stammer. I lose track of what I'm saying and become confused. It's embarrassing so it is important for me to feel safe with someone before I try to talk. 

I try not to talk about 'painful' subjects vocally because it is, well, a painful process to try and get the words out. Some things are best left alone. 

Even here, on my blog, I try to 'talk' as openly as I can about everything mental health because it is so important not to be rendered mute. But I still struggle. I am very afraid to publish some posts I have written - including this one, which is why it's so late. The internet is a cruel place and I'm not exactly anonymous. You never know what sort of response you are going to get, and the unknown is really damn scary. 

That in itself, explains why I think talking about mental health is so hard. You never know what reaction you will get. But the fact of the matter is, one in four of us have had, or will have, a mental health issue. If you have a friend that chooses you to open up to, treat them with care. Give them a hug and a cup of tea. 

The more we all talk, the more noise we can collectively make and stop this stigma against us for good.

It's #TimetoTalk

Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.

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