By Caitlin Stark

Cambridge

CN: Depression, meds

 

Good conversations mentioning mental illness:
‘so I was at the psychologist today and she had the cutest dog with her’
‘have you seen this depression memes page it’s so funny’
‘ugh I hate how irrational brain is sometimes’
‘yo btw can I tell you things which are useful when I’m down’
‘oh balls I forgot my drugs’

Scary conversations mentioning mental illness:
‘I Need To Tell You Something’
‘I Have Depression’
Anything where you squirm when I mention mental illness
For god’s sakes, this is my life
Let me mention it in passing
Let me be flippant about it
It doesn’t always have to be a big deal

The problem is, I had to take three years out between school and university because of depression and social anxiety. So I have this combination of mental illness being such a huge issue that it would be farcical to tiptoe around it, and having built up friendships where I am totally used to talking about what’s going on in a very casual way. How then to adapt to the new environment of university, where I am completely surrounded by new people and have to make the decision of how much to say for every single one of them? How soon should I say, if I don’t want it to define someone’s idea of me?

Whether or not to tell people is a difficult issue, because I strongly believe there is immense value in people being open about this kind of thing. People should talk about this more in everyday conversation. But when it comes to me personally, it’s just not that simple. Because, in my head at least, no-one wants to know and people will dislike that I feel the need to tell them about my illnesses. But I’m a first year who is also 21, so people are always going to ask questions.

Quite frankly, having to not mention it ever is pretty rubbish. It’s been a major part of my life for several years now. It affects how I plan my life, it affects what I can and can’t do, it affects when I work and when I don’t. I have strong feelings about issues which others may simply not see as issues, like the whole unhealthy work ethic promoted here, mostly because of the endless months I’ve spent learning to recognise and respect my own mental health. So for this big part of who I am to have a box drawn around it and not be able to really talk about it is frustrating. It feels like I’m hiding who I am, or the bits that come through don’t quite piece together (especially as I struggle to keep track of who knows what).

So for those who know me, consider this a confession: I have had issues with mental illness, and that’s kind of a part of who I am. For those I haven’t told and should have, know that it’s not at all to do with you and entirely to do with my messed up brain. Please talk to me about it, ask me about it, but not in hushed tones. I laugh about it sometimes, because I have to, and it really is ok for you to laugh about it too. That doesn’t mean that you don’t think it’s real, and I won’t think that. I’ll try not to scare you, but my gauge of what is normal is a bit off so I’m sorry if I talk about things which disturb you.

Let’s have a conversation: maybe about mental health, maybe not, maybe just mentioning it in passing. Remember, when we want people to talk about mental health, it doesn’t always have to be a Talk About Mental Health.

 


Header image by Anton Novoselov

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