As many of you know, I started campaigning a few years ago now, which did come as a shock to some people as my mental health was never something I discussed. When I was at school I had a lot of time off poorly, I’ll never forget the rumours that went round school this one particular year as I had a few months off. Some people said I had been run over, some said I was pregnant, others told the story that I had glandular fever and one person even asked if I’d been off for a boob job. When I returned it was clearly evident I hadn’t.
In hindsight I wish I had just told people that I had a mental health condition and had needed time to recover, but I didn’t. I didn’t even tell people to mind their own business, I just laughed off the rumours and didn’t want the attention of any of it. I was scared anybody would find out about my diagnosis or medication so how did I get here? How did I go from that scared young girl, to this campaigner who shouts it all from the top of the hills? (or behind her phone screen)
To be honest, I just lost patience and gained a little more self acceptance. I was sick of people making fun out of those with mental health conditions and belittling those that were a little different. I was sick of apologising for my anxiety, for my struggles, for my character and I was sick of thinking up new excuses to why I couldn’t party or sleep over. Above all, I began to get sick of being sick, to get tired of being tired and accepting this sub standard treatment without being able to try and make things better. Can you think of the first time you felt an injustice in your life? Well imagine going through that in secret and not being able to say actually, I deserve better than this.
So I did finally say I deserved better. I had visited the GP monthly since being a teenager and always found I was never given a choice or voice in my treatment. I had taken these tablets each and every month regardless of the side effects after being told ‘that’s just how it is for someone with mental illness’ and I attended the different appointments until ten years later, I’d had enough. I started typing my thoughts, took a deep breath and shared it. I finally got to the point where I didn’t care what people thought of me anymore, I wanted to start campaigning, I felt free.
Since then, I haven’t looked back. I’ve done multiple talks at mental health events, blogged, vlogged, wrote an article about anxiety in a teenage magazine and met some of the most incredible people whilst I’ve been campaigning. I have travelled to London on multiple occasions for radio interviews and above all, I’ve been able to use my voice at times of injustice to say ‘I deserve better, WE deserve better‘. I’m so proud of the work I’ve been able to have involvement in and I truly am proud of the person I am, mental illness and all. One thing I have to touch upon however, is that although my attitude and many others attitudes have improved, the mental health services, in my area at least, have not. That is an injustice that has not been resolved and although our Prime Minister said in 2017 – ‘our country needs to focus on the “burning injustice” of inadequate mental health treatment‘ not much has improved.
To put it in perspective, in 2017 I was referred for psychiatric help after a bereavement and over 2 years later I am still waiting. I had to fundraise to get interim private care, in order to get the medication I needed and I have been lucky enough to receive that private care, by paying £150 for every 20 minute appointment. Today I received the information that because I had sought private care (with no other option), I was to be discharged from the NHS and have to wait for a possible further 2 years for help again. Sadly, I know I am not alone in this, many people are going without standard mental health care and lives are being lost as a result. Many people are going to A&E as they are unsafe and being turned away with leaflets or being told a 50 week wait is standard. This is yet another injustice that I will use my voice to highlight and keep campaigning against, this is unacceptable and the disparity between mental and physical healthcare has to improve.
That is why I started campaigning, to use my experiences to try and highlight the reality for many, to try and rid stigma and discrimination and show others, especially young people out there, that they are not alone. I don’t think the biggest issue those with mental health problems face is stigma, I think its that they cannot access basic mental health care in a reasonable time frame and that help is rarely available before someone is in crisis – this is costing lives. I am so glad I found my voice, I just hope in a few years time ill be writing another reflective blog celebrating how far we have come as a country and how much mental health care has improved.
Remember as always – It’s okay to talk and you’re not alone x