All about the mind

Mental illness does not discriminate #WorldMentalHealthDay

mental illness

Mental illness is one of those things that does not discriminate. All you need to do is look at the statistics. 1 in 5 Australians between 16 and 85 struggle with a mental health disorder. 1 in 7 children between 4 and 17 are diagnosed with one. As a mental health professional who works with children, adolescents, and young adults and has been doing this for a decade, I see it all. But as a human being, I have been one of those 1 in 5.

Some of you might know that back in 20152016, I struggled with depression for almost 18 months. I lost a part of myself in that period and it was a hard struggle back. I went to therapy. I fought the demons. I got back on my two feet. It’s what I do. It’s what people like me do.

It’s important to be aware that not everyone struggling with a mental health disorder stays at home or struggles to get out of bed. There are several people with anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders, personality disorders who all have jobs and who seem to be able to function. You might see them at work, laughing with colleagues, interacting with the world, focussed on their job and completing their tasks. They may have families they cater for or go out with their friends. But what you probably don’t see is them crying alone in their house, breaking down in the shower, having sleepless nights because their mind won’t shut the fuck up, or being unable to eat due to not feeling hungry.

I know these type of people. I am one of them. I may look like I have my shit together but you have no idea about the underlying anxiety. You have no idea how I pull myself up before I fall into the depths of darkness. I jokingly call myself a functionally anxious person. But the truth is, that’s what I am. That’s what many of us are. We function because we feel like we don’t have any other choice. Maybe it has to do with the stigma around mental health but maybe it also has to do with our perfectionism. But it does not mean the mental health disorder is not affecting us.

When I notice my warning signs for falling into the darkness – loss of appetite, restless sleep, loss of interest in exercise, writing, reading and other pleasurable activities, more self-critical talk, more hopelessness, feelings of being worthless, loss of meaning, and withdrawing from others – I know I have to take action before the downward spiral begins. It’s one of the benefits of being a mental health professional but also having experienced depression before myself.

But sometimes, doing it alone can be tough. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my last episode, it is to reach out. No matter how much I yearn to withdraw in these times, I have to reach out. To a friend who will validate and listen without judging, without offering advice. And then slowly, I put things in place. Try and set goals, plan things to look forward to, make sure I exercise even when I don’t feel like it, connect with others, try and do things for others and most importantly, try and build meaning back into my life. It’s a slow process. It takes time. It means getting out of my head and actually doing things. But it is all worthwhile.

And maybe again, I will look like I have my shit together. But only I know what lies beneath.

On this World Mental Health Day, I ask you to be kind. To listen to others with compassion. And to not judge. Because mental illness does not discriminate.

***Linking with Deb, Leanne, Min, Jo and others for the Lovin’ Life Linky***

Featured image by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Until next time,

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  • Shalzmojo
    11 October 2018 at 11:39 am

    This is such a heartfelt post Sanch and the stats are horrifying. Why are we forever ignoring the elephant in the room when this is such a reality everywhere.

    I remember when I was growing up anf told my mother I wanted to be a psychiatrist – she mocked me saying you wanna be a “pagalon ka doctor”? Needless to say this was not taken as a “suitable” profession for a marriage aspirant – so the plan was flushed down the toilet.

    I know if today I tell my mother that I am depressed, she will ask me “aisa kya ho gaya hai”? And even I do manage to tell her what is going on in my head- she will rebuke me with “you just like to imagine stuff and make it up” because she will never give it another thought. In her minds there is a balcn and white about mental depression – the ones depressed are “pagal”. Its frustrating – no?

    I have gotten over confiding stuff to my mom – I am blessed to have some dear friends who understand me and dont judge at all. They are also my mirrors!!

    My mothers attitude is prevalaent in over 90% of the adult population – mental illness/depression is just not considered something you talk about. Remember the scene from Dear Zindagi when SRK says if its a kidney disease, we all discuss it in our drawing rooms but if its mental disordere then there will be khus phus only! We are too ashamed to admit it – and thats what worsens the situation!

    Girl I hope you know that you have peeps ready to hear you out; just reach out Sanch! Dont bottle it up inside – it can get very destructive!!! Much love and hugs!!

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Shalz. I think unfortunately in India and in many other places, this mentality re mental health still exists. My parents kept asking me why I was depressed and the truth is, there was no specific reason. All it did was make me feel quite guilty because it felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way. They tried to be supportive but unfortunately it tends to be more of a ‘fix it’ mentality as opposed to let’s listen and support you through this. And yes, when it comes to a broken leg or diabetes or anything physical, we are more than happy to talk about it but mental health is viewed as shameful.

  • Jo Tracey
    12 October 2018 at 7:36 am

    Thanks Sanch for penning both a heartfelt post and a reminder. I know that my anxiety lurks below the surface most of the time & my coping mechanisms aren’t what they should be – I’m chest deep in overwhelm before I realise it – yet to the rest of the world I seem to be highly functioning and productive. Even now I’m trying to take a step back and recognise the spiral before it spins too far and put in place those things that are healthy for me that work. My biggest issue is connection and reaching out – I tend to do neither and know that I should.

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 5:59 pm

      It’s good to start to recognise the spiral before it begins. I am very aware of my anxiety but my mood is a different story. I think I tend to just attribute it to burn out before I realise how far I’ve spiralled. Connection and reaching out is hard but it really is worth it with the right people. I wish you luck around that. Brene Brown was very helpful for me in that regards.

  • Min @ Write of the Middle
    12 October 2018 at 11:06 am

    Thanks so much Sanch for sharing such an honest account of what depression and anxiety can feel like and look like and the fact it can be invisible to others! I’ve had depression in the past and anxiety is my new companion. In fact I posted about Anxiety on Monday, and the fact that is has recently been triggered, as my little contribution to hopefully help reduce the stigma. Often we can look like we have our shit together to others, but I too know why can lie beneath. xo #TeamLovinLife

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your story Min.

  • Obsessivemom
    12 October 2018 at 12:24 pm

    I am glad you said this. While awareness about mental illnesses like depression is on the rise few people realise that someone can look and act completely normal and yet struggle with it. In fact I have a person in my family who has been on medication for a decade and yet goes about his business as if nothing was wrong with him. But I see him having good days and bad ones and I see him struggle. I see how the threat of falling into the dumps is right there all the time. I can only begin to imagine what it must be like for you. I think we all just need to be kinder and more non-judgmental about people around us.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…Five ways in which parents embarrass their teensMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 7:03 pm

      Exactly…there are so many out there who are either medicated or unmedicated but sitting on the edge of falling over.

  • Natalie @ Be Kind 2 You
    12 October 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Beautiful open words. The common thing I hear is ‘judgment’. We are all afriad of being judged. The thing is we are already being judged – whether we have a mental illness or not. People judge us for our sexuality, for our lifestyle choice, for our age, for our chosen profession, for the partner we chose, for the number of kids we had (or didn’t have), for our weight, for our choice of clothing – it doesn’t matter how perfect we try to be (which there is no such thing), so many of us fear being judged. As a speaker for Beyondblue, I try to push this point that judgment will happen in your life – with or without a mental illness and fearing it will not stop it.
    Thank you for sharing your story – the more we hear – the less judgment hopefully occurs.

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 7:42 pm

      I agree that judgement occurs all the time but I think for me personally, it’s also the fear of working in the field which kinda seems to imply I need to have my shit together. But yes, hopefully, the stigma reduces over time even in the case of health professionals who struggle. Because there are a lot of them who do.

  • Deborah
    12 October 2018 at 4:22 pm

    I’ve commented about it on other people’s posts but it’s the only thing I’ve not spoken about on my own blog – my depression and I’ve struggled with major depression (and have been medicated) for about 14yrs now. For me it manifests itself predominantly via anger and apathy… but the last therapist I saw thought my anxiety was worse than any other therapist had identified in the past.

    I would never judge anyone else for their depression or anxiety or mental illness so it’s interesting it’s the one thing I don’t talk about….
    Deborah recently posted…5 ways I plan to bring the holiday vibe back homeMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 7:58 pm

      I do think a lot of people with depression have underlying anxiety to begin with…I’ve seen it a lot in my work and also experienced the same. I think the anxiety eventually bogs you down to becoming depressed. But yeah, it’s always interesting we don’t talk about our own stuff even if we don’t judge others for it – fear of judgment? Stigma? Shame? Who knows?

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    12 October 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience in this powerful post, Sanch. I agree with Natalie’s comment above. Hopefully with more sharing comes less judgement and more empathy over sympathy.

    SSG xxx

  • Roshan Radhakrishnan
    12 October 2018 at 8:17 pm

    I remember some of your posts from that time. I know how hard it is… been there and probably still navigating my way through some of it… that is perhaps what makes us better spokesmen for this topic. We dont want others to suffer like we did.

    • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
      14 October 2018 at 8:04 pm

      It sucks doesn’t it when we are health professionals and then struggle with it. But as you said, it also helps with empathising with clients and becoming better advocates. Thanks for your kind words
      Sanch @ Sanch Writes recently posted…All-consumingMy Profile

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au
    12 October 2018 at 8:48 pm

    That was such an honest account Sanch – my husband has chronic depression that he has dealt with through exercise, medication, education, and determination. It is always there in the background – I feel like I’m always on the lookout for those tell tale signs that he’s lapsing backwards – trying to catch it before it becomes too big. I admire those who live with depression, but I also admire those of us who live with those who have depression – it’s a juggling act! Stay well and always reach out x

  • Sanch @ Sanch Writes
    14 October 2018 at 8:06 pm

    It sucks doesn’t it when we are health professionals and then struggle with it. But as you said, it also helps with empathising with clients and becoming better advocates. Thanks for your kind words

  • Parul Thakur
    14 October 2018 at 10:48 pm

    I am so glad you wrote about this. As much as there needs to be awareness, self-awareness is most critical. Way back when I was 17-18 years old, I was growing through the pressure of getting through IIT entrance and I remember clearly how stressed out I was. I would cry, think of what ifs and all that. I had very supportive parents but then it was not thought of depression. I am sure without them, I would have moved towards extreme step. I did not make it to IITs and I was upset with myself. So I know it’s hard and when people don’t understand, it’s even harder.
    I wish you always have the support and people you need. You know I am just a buzz away.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…#ThursdayTreeLove – 49My Profile

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    15 October 2018 at 6:08 am

    Beautifully written. We all become quite good at “acting” don’t we?
    Thanks for sharing Sanch.
    #teamlovinlife

  • Sid
    17 October 2018 at 7:18 am

    I don’t know what else to say, Sanch, except, I hear you. Mental Health challenges are often complicated ,and as someone who is battling his own demons, I completely understand what you’re saying. More power to you and may this post encourage everyone to talk more openly about what they’re going through.