Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Unexpected Stigma

on October 28, 2014

This week, I have found myself yet again in a conversation where I’ve struggled to put forward the idea that mental health requires the same level of care as physical health. I’ve come up against statements like:

“It’s just weakness, making a fuss, you need to pull yourself together.”

“What makes you think it’s an illness? It’s all in your head!”

“No-one should need to take tablets to feel happy. Just get out there and live.”

“You’re just lazy/bored. Go out and get a job, that’ll get your brain working properly!”

And, my favourite,

“For crying out loud, will you JUST SNAP OUT OF IT!!!”

Those of us trying to raise awareness of mental health issues spend a lot of time crafting arguments against these ideas. We roll our eyes at them, get cross at them; we vent our anger at like minded friends who get equally exasperated and cross. We send emails to colleagues who answer our exasperation with witty comebacks and ideas of what to do with perpetrators.

So what’s different this time?

Today there is no perpetrator for our imagined retribution. Today the perpetrator is me.

For some reason, despite putting so much time and energy into raising awareness and fighting inequality, I didn’t realise that the most dangerous stigma came from somewhere completely unexpected – myself. I still can’t quiet the whisper in my head, claiming that my struggles somehow don’t count as ‘illness’.

I had a virus last week. Nothing major, just a bout of headachey tiredness that required a couple of duvet days, some paracetamol, and the TV remote within easy reach. So that’s what I did. I put MicroBob into play club at nursery, and put myself to bed. By the time the weekend rolled round, I was feeling better, and able to face the world again.

This week has been just as bad – but different. My mood, which has been less than stable recently, is all over the place, and I’ve been balancing anxiety attacks with covert crying in toilets. I’m exhausted. I just want to stop and sleep until it’s over.

But it’s not just the symptoms that have been different. The way I’ve treated myself this week has been different too. I have forced myself to keep going, berating myself for any little show of emotion, not allowing any moment of rest or restoration. Where last week I popped paracetamol with every ping of an alarm, today I am holding off taking the small yellow pill that will ease my anxiety because I think I ‘shouldn’t’ need it. Taking ibuprofen last week became second nature, taken without a thought, and yet as I count out tablets every evening I can feel myself recoil at the idea of swallowing them.

So why am I not making allowances for myself this week? Why am I not letting myself recover the way I did before? Why is that little voice inside my head forcing me onward instead of giving me a break?

All of it boils down to the real question – why do I treat my mind and my body differently?

I wish I knew the answer. What I do know is that I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken to a lot of people with a range of depressive illnesses, and the one thing we all have in common is a seeming inability to be caring towards ourselves.

What I also know is that I would never speak to anyone else the way I speak to myself. And maybe therein lies the answer. As always it involves breaking the silence and talking about it. Because if we talk to each other about it, maybe we can be that understanding voice to one another. When we can’t find it in ourselves to bear our pain or care for our brain, there might just be someone around the corner or down the street or on the end of the phone who knows enough to be that voice that says, “Rest. Recover. Be nice to yourself.”


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