I have long been a supporter of Mind Charity and the wonderful work they do with shaking the stigma and silence surrounding mental illness.
I have also long been a sufferer of anxiety and have spoken about it at length of Emma Is Writing.
It was a huge decision for me to do so because not only did it mean admitting to myself that perhaps my brain doesn’t quite work the way I would like it to, or how other people might expect, but for a long time it felt like a defect, a glitch that I would never be able to mend. Faulty wiring.
Too many people suffer in silence with their own mental health issues because they are afraid of the repercussions of speaking out. I know that when I was much younger I was terrified my friends and peers would think I was ‘weird,’ a ‘freak’ or simply ‘dramatic’. I didn’t quite have the vocabulary to voice exactly what it was that I was feeling.
If I am honest, I still don’t.
As a writer, it’s frustrating to feel tongue tied, unsure how to describe these thoughts and fears that rattle around it my brain, or the tight feeling in my chest before a panic attack, or how my thought process spirals like a cyclone gathering speed.
“To be ill adjusted to a deranged world is not a breakdown.”
Recently I got some news about my health that sent me into one of these spirals. I am lucky, I live with someone who is able to recognise my unhelpful thoughts and reactions, and support me through addressing and banishing these before they become too much. But it’s still difficult to break the cycle and justifiably frustrating for those who love us, and offer advice, to understand the thought process behind our seemingly ridiculous reactions (e.g. I am worthless, I don’t deserve that, It will never be OK again…you know, the usual fare).
For me, the news about my health (which is not at all serious or particularly worrisome) was a catalyst for a thought process already dormant in my mind.
Just as it’s hard to explain to someone why a panic attack has occurred, why it’s so terrifying and how, during that period in time, you just can’t see a way out of the fog even if you desperately want to find it. It’s a lonely place to be. Like standing on a rock in the middle of the sea with no shore in sight. The ‘rational’ part of you can only look on and shake its head. You’re fine, it wants to scream. Just breathe. Just think. Just listen. But often it falls on deaf-ears.
Anxiety is a snake: cold, sly and slippery; it coils its body around you and squeezes.
But anxiety is also a liar. It whispers untruths in your ear as you try to sleep. It taunts you, winds you up like a bullying older sibling. It’s a coward.
With the incidence of mental illness so prevalent in society, I urge everyone to get behind campaigns such as #TakeOffTheTape and start discussing these issues that affect our children, siblings, friends, peers, spouses, parents and colleagues. In a world where young people describe society as “not wanting us to be who we are,” or mental illness is passed off as merely “hormonal,” it’s time we start to stand up against the wall of silence and fear of judgement. Its nice to know that you aren’t alone.
Here are a few words from Mind.org.uk about the campaign and what all the fuss is about:
What is #TakeOffTheTape and why is it making people reveal their deepest worries online?
It started with a trickle but by late yesterday evening it was a deluge. People everywhere, including SkyTV Fortitude actor Nicholas Pinnock and X Factor star Frankie Cocozza, have started taking on a challenge to open up about what makes us worried, stressed or anxious – by posting a revealing selfie on social media.
The #TakeOffTheTape campaign aims to challenge our ‘stiff upper lip’ culture by asking people to write down what’s really going on in their head on some tape, post a selfie with the tape over their mouth (safely!), and make a donation to mental health charity Mind.
It was created by MEC for Mind to help tackle the problem of bottled-up stress and anxiety. Despite the increasing focus on mental health these days, younger people are still hiding their true feelings. Four in five under-35 year olds say they put on a brave face when they are anxious. Perhaps most shockingly, a quarter of under-35s feel that showing their emotions is a sign of weakness.
#TakeOffTheTape aims to break that pattern by using a social media challenge, seen in campaigns like #nomakeupselfie – this time for the cause of better mental health
So what are you waiting for?! If that’s not an important message to get behind, I don’t know what is. Let’s all get talking.