Although we’re making headway with mental health awareness, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and some people are holding onto untruths! I’m going too write a series of blogs to debunk some common myths.
When a someone healthy breaks a bone, we don’t say they have weak bones, we all recognise that the bone had more pressure exerted on it than it could bare. The brain is just like any other organ system, sometimes it malfunctions, too much or too little of the chemicals it needs to function are produced and this leads to feelings and behaviours outside the ‘norm’. If someone’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, we just accept they have a diagnosis of diabetes, they get the correct treatment and no more is said. Why is mental illness treated so differently?!
Some say “mental illness is a sign of having been strong for too long”, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as particularly strong, when I was diagnosed with depression, I was feeling pretty weak, but this explanation makes sense:
What happens if you put a whole lot of stress on someone who is weak, cynical or lazy? The answer is that they will immediately give up, so they will never get stressed enough to become ill. The strong persons on the other hand reacts to stress by redoubling their efforts, pushing themselves way beyond the limits for which their body is designed. When they start getting symptoms of an illness they still keep going, with the inevitable result that they get more and more ill!
Watch this space for more debunked myths! Do comment if there’s a particular myth you’d like me to address.
While trying to carry a cup of coffee, I trip, causing my painful ankle to slam into the ground. At this point I step (hop) back and think, “what am I doing?!”
Having recently had an arthroplasty, I’m not allowed to put any weight on my left leg so I was doing a weird shuffly hop with 1 crutch while carrying my coffee… it didn’t work out too well! But I wanted a coffee, what was I meant to do? Stand in the kitchen while it cooled down so I could drink it where I’d made it? It’s shocking how little you can do on crutches! I’m managing to carry things around in a backpack and I can do some tasks standing on one leg but there’s so much I simply can’t do…carry a hot drink turns out to be one of them!
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m fiercely independent. I hate asking for help and will do anything to manage everything on my own. I’d rather really struggle to do a task than ask for help, even if the easier/better/safer option is for someone else to do it. When I first got together with my now, husband I had to learn that it’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to let him do things for me, even if I am capable of doing it myself! I learnt that it can actually improve our relationship if I relinquish some of my independence.
I thought everything was going well, I’d started gentle physio but I had a set back this week with one of the wounds not healing properly. This has hit me hard. I was already feeling fairly down but this has knocked me down further.
I’ve even asked for prayer – something I struggle with, partly because I do not think I deserve it but partly because no matter what I’ve been through, I’ve accepted my lot and do not feel I need to hope for things to be different.
Much as I hate asking for favours or putting people out, I’ve asked people to visit me and asked for lifts to go out. Otherwise I’d be stuck at home (mostly) on my own 24/7.
I find it so hard to rely on people but it occurred to me that if the shoe was on the other foot (not my other foot, someone else’s) I wouldn’t think twice about helping them out and certainly wouldn’t want them to feel like they owe me.
I’m really struggling with how little I can do for myself and how exhausting the simplest task is. For someone who’s had to work hard to break free of mental illness and the dependence that that caused, I hate how dependent I now am. I never want to go back down the path of being so hopeless and helpless, some of my stubbornness is born of fear.
My husband has pointed out to me that this is temporary, even if I do have set backs, my ankle will recover eventually and I will be able to walk again soon. I am normally an incredibly patient person but I’m feeling incredibly impatient just now.
While I’m hating how much help I need, doing things for myself right now is seriously putting my recovery at risk. I must look after myself in order to return to full health, and part of that is asking for help. It feels like I’m asking for help because I’m weak, as though I’m a lesser person, but I suppose it’s a sign of strength and courage to be vulnerable.
I find it so hard to ask for help but no one can mind read! If I need to go somewhere or I need help with something or I need something doing for me, I’ve had to be blunt and just say “please can someone help”. I feel like every time I say this I may as well be saying “I’m completely useless” and my self esteem is knocked a little further each time. I don’t know why I judge myself so harshly when I wouldn’t think that of anyone else making the same requests.
I feel like all I’m saying at the moment is “thank you” and “sorry”, I’m fed up and just want to be able to do things myself.
This period is being a real lesson in just accepting help and support.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who care and who want to help. I should be grateful instead of tarring the gestures with guilt and awkwardness from my side.
In the words of Nick Knowles “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. I know if I was able to help someone (give them a lift or do some shopping for them) I’d feel really good that I could be helpful when they needed it so maybe in an odd way, I’m helping people by me asking for help?!