Why Are We Ashamed Of Our Mental Health?

I have had full blown man flu (aka a slight cold) this week and have made a point of ensuring that the entire world has known about it. Bar putting a two page advert in the local newspaper I have done everything humanly possible to squeeze the last drop of sympathy from my cynical family and largely unsympathetic work colleagues. And now I’m shouting it from the rooftops on WordPress – I HAVEN’T BEEN WELL!!!

You see if us men don’t let you ladies know when we are ill then you largely ignore us. Well maybe that’s a tad unfair. You don’t totally ignore us. Not if you include such loving observations as ‘Oh man up’, ‘Grow a pair’ and ‘You think that’s bad. Try childbirth’. These are just a selection of the loving comments that I have received down the years from my adoring wife. Other more creative and colourful offerings are, alas, largely unprintable.

This time around I’ve learnt my lesson. I’ve sucked it up, grown a pair and soldiered on despite my croaky throat and phlegmy chest. I’ve trudged into work, trudged around work and then trudged back out of work again. I’ve went to meetings, driven hatchlings to and from school, washed the occasional dish and emptied the occasional bin. It has been an exhausting and heroic effort on my part. Thankfully I’m not the type to brag about such exploits and I merely mention it in passing. As I said. Just in passing….

However….

If you were to have asked me this week how I was I would have considered it ‘open season’ and proceeded to enthral (bore) you with my recent medical history. It’s the least you would have deserved for enquiring. No stone would have been left unturned and you would have walked off with an intimate knowledge of my week of coughs, sneezes and other unmentionable noises. We love to talk about our aches and pains don’t we? If it wasn’t for them then a lot of us would have nothing to discuss.

I’m no different from the next hypochondriac. Within ten minutes of walking into work the other morning feeling lousy the entire office knew about it and were taking draconian preventative steps to avoid infection; that time I hurt my foot running last summer I was blogging about it within hours; yet since being diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) a number of years ago how many people have I informed? You could probably count them on the fingers of one hand.

The reason? Well I’m embarrassed. I worry that I will be judged, that people will look upon me differently and think less of me. I know, this is crazy thinking. A person with a recognised mental illness has as much right to discuss it openly and without fear than a person who has stubbed their toe or sprained their wrist. Yet we don’t. We skirt around the issues, we conceal the truth and we bury our heads in the sands hoping it will all just go away. Alternatively we come onto WordPress and converse about it within a safe, caring environment.

It should be easy but it isn’t. Try explaining your OCD to the average person on the street. It’s like trying to explain quantum physics to a caveman. No, I’m not a ‘clean freak’. Fionnuala often wishes I was. No I’m not constantly in the shower or washing my hands. For some people that is OCD. For me it is not. For me it is dark, repulsive thoughts that relentlessly assault my senses and literally batter me to my knees. The only means of obtaining temporary relief is to perform intricate, exhausting mental routines. Until the next thought arrives. And then the one after that.

Thanks to medication and talking to Fionnuala I am largely on top of it now. The bad days are less often. But it’s still there, lurking in the recesses of my mind, waiting to pounce if afforded the slightest encouragement or opportunity. It never has a day off. Given half a chance it will break you beyond repair. That’s why we need to be as vocal about our mental health as we are about our physical well being. We need to talk about it and not brush it under the carpet. We need to seek help rather than suffer in silence.

I follow a lot of bloggers who do just that. They are true advocates and are getting the message out there that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of; they are letting others know that they are not alone. They are a community and together we are strong. They are educating and combating ignorance and misinformation. They are the true heroes and have inspired me to write more about my own battles. If you would like to learn more about OCD then can I recommend the following books in no particular order of preference:

‘Because We Are Bad’ – Lily Bailey

‘Mad Girl’ – Bryony Gordon

‘Pure O’ – Rose Bretecher

What is your knowledge of OCD?

Are you vocal about your mental health?

How has WordPress helped you in finding others like yourself?

80 thoughts on “Why Are We Ashamed Of Our Mental Health?

Add yours

  1. Hope you feel better soon, Stephen! 😊
    My first blog posts were mainly about my struggle with anxiety and depression and how coming to know God in a personal way healed me and replaced my fears with perfect peace. For me, writing was a cathartic experience but now, my aim is to encourage and inspire those going through mental health issues like I did.
    I love this community and feel it is definitely a safe place to express.
    Thank you for what you guys are doing through your blog. You are a blessing!
    Hayley 😊💜

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Oh, my braveheart. I do hope you feel better soon. I actually dismantled my Facebook account yesterday, as they can’t smell what I’m stepping in…….love to you both, great post. I don’t discuss my mental health with anyone, personally. Of course, there is my blog………:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I suffered from depression for years in my twenties. I had a lot of regret over my teen years and tried to cope with it on my own, not realizing I needed the help and peace of God until I was nearing my thirties. When I finally surrendered and sought a true relationship with Him I began to break free from the bondage. Writing, of course, has been such a therapeutic blessing as well…tormenting thoughts have been replaced by a growing, pursuant faith. Glory to Him!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It is strange to read this after going through problems myself. I often tell myself that the bad days are over, but I know that they are waiting in the wings if my performance fails.

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  5. “If you think that’s bad try childbirth!” 😂 Love it! And well done for soldiering on and making it through the last week, I hear some men don’t survive man flu so you are among the elite! 😊

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  6. Shame or embarrassment for having poor mental health stems from knowing one is “different,” and fearing that the difference will be physically or verbally punished. This does NOT mean that mental disorders are caused by punitive parents; on the contrary: a growing body of evidence shows that psychopathology has a genetic link (some kinds of mental illness have even been linked with specific types and percentages of the Homo neanderthalensis genes that are mixed with Homo sapiens genes in our DNA). That early punishment is likely to have occurred is coincidental, albeit common: most people start out as parents assuming that their offspring are normal in every respect, and when externally normal children exhibit abnormal behavior, it can be interpreted as mere misbehavior, and handled as such. Moreover, that there is a stigma which originated when incarceration in an asylum was the only “treatment” for all psychiatric disorders exacerbates the emotional sequelae of mental illness.

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  7. The suffering of men are real even if a woman does not feel it. Men can be lone wolves and internalize their problems because they are less inclined to communicate their emotional and physical state. Mental health and physical health can both take a toll on the body. As long as you seek the help and remedies to work on yourself, you are going in the right direction. There is no reason to be ashamed of how you think. Your current mental state is a process you have to work through. If you aim with the purpose to change those mental habit going forward, your mind and body will follow. Prevention and personal development is key for both. Get better! Take care of yourself. God bless.

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  8. I’ve been wanting to write more about my mental health, especially how it interacts with my faith, but right now poetry is the main way I can write about it and not feel incredibly vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think in the “real” world people tend not to talk about mental health because they don’t understand it. I know for those struggling with depression, it’s a fight against an attitude that says “you’re just sad. do something fun that you enjoy”. People don’t understand the chemistry of the brain, and that there are times when that chemistry is off kilter and needs something to help reset it. They see it as something that we can just think about and change. But I have seen trends moving towards greater understanding and educating of people. That’s a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My OCD has manifested itself deeply. With my ED my OCD is huge. I have so many rituals that i go thorough just to make sure i live my life the same every day. I make sure that i exercise at the same time, i also make sure i eat my “safe foods” at the same time every day. I am completely obsessed by the pedometer i carry with me. If i am not on track for the 10,000 steps then its like the end of the world for me. “The voice” does not let me forget this until i am up to the target…………..I feel i am not as vocal about my ED and mental health as i should be. Yes people know but deep down I am ashamed of what i have done to myself and what i have become. I realise I’m a shell of a person. Word press has certainly helped me get my message across and helped me create awareness of what i am going through. I have followed and have been lucky enough to get to know many wonderful and understanding people through word press (you are one of those Stephen). Like minded people, people who are suffering with the same issues as i am, those who are battling other demons. I admire each and every one of those. I hope sometimes my comments on their posts help or at least let them know someone is reading and cares.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve had depressive issues for a while. WordPress has given me a place to write, and had a surprising side effect of somewhere to read -also, surprisingly, about mental illness. So far I have found other people who suggest associations, viewpoints, and personal struggles that have helped me learn about about my own mental condition.

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  12. While I don’t have much experience with mental health issues (is it ok to call them that? “Diseases” seems a bit strong), I can say that I am so very glad that people who do struggle are being more vocal about their struggles and their victories. I grew up in the era that if it wasn’t talked about, it didn’t exist, so sex, mental health, drugs, and various other topics went largely undiscussed. As an adult, I have tried to educate myself on what that means for others, along with what it means for myself, and also keep the communication lines open between myself and my teenage son so that he doesn’t walk into his adult years with the same misunderstandings that I had. Thank you for your willingness to share and for your vulnerability. xo

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Going to Al-Anon has been so helpful because it opened my eyes to the fact that alcoholism is a disease, not a choice. Depression, anxiety, etc…mental issues are not chosen either. Gaining that perspective has helped me to have more understanding and compassion for others. I have a long way to go in educating myself, but I think that being open to talking, being nonjudgmental, and realizing that there is no simple solution are steps in the right direction.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. I only started being honest about my issues in the last year or two and it resulted in my getting a lot more support in my college life!

    Elsewhere, who knows but I just keep being honest and if it works out or backfires I don’t care, I just am tired of having to pretend I feel sick or lie about things and I’m not doing it anymore. From now on when I do something that has its reason in my ptsd or depression I just SAY SO. And it’s up to others to either understand it or not. At least they will be educated and informed now. Is how I feel.

    GREAT Blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for being so real, so funny and brave. I have ptsd, depression and anxiety but also have chronic pain. I’m find it easier to talk about the depression or anxiety than the physical stuff, because I’m in my twenties and so many people say that I shouldn’t be in the pain I’m in.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. well they’re right but in the sense that – theres a REASON behind your pain and you will find it or not, as is best for you. And you will deal with it the best way that you can. I hope they’re not implying that you’re being a hypochondriac about it! Our environment and food supply is poison, and then people want to blame the kids’ bodies for reacting to that??? *Hugs* Hang in there!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think, for me, my chronic pain is as a result of musculoskeletal problems, and corrective surgery which then left me with nerve damage and muscles that don’t work properly. I think people struggle to comprehend that someone in their 20’s have these issues as most “normal” young people don’t. Hanging in best I can, thank you, and thank you for commenting.x

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Aww that’s awful. My daughter in law has chronic health issues and pain too that are the result of her older sister physically abusing her throughout her childhood. I feel so bad for you both. What a challenge to have to deal with so young!

          Liked by 2 people

  15. I truly look forward to reading your posts. Once again this one has helped me tremendously. Your gift of humor softens the pain of the reality of living with mental illness. My teenage son is struggling with mental illness. He lost his father a couple years ago and it struck him a terrible blow. He needed a father figure to take him over the bumps of puberty and into manhood. Sadly, no one has the time to mentor him. I tried but alas I am only a woman. But, God said He will be a father to the fatherless and I am trusting that He will completely heal and restore my son.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post. As a male with a long history of anxiety I am so amazed at the contradiction between a) how useful it is to talk to someone about your problem, and b) how seldom we (particularly men) feel we can open up about mental health.

    On a different note, Isn’t running fantastic for helping with mental illness? It’s my release valve for the pressures of daily life, which can often be magnified by anxiety. I strongly encourage anyone suffering with mental illness to lace up and go for a run if you can. It truly can work wonders!

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  17. Get well soon 🙂 and thank you for sharing how OCD is like, I am quite ignorant about this disorder because I have seen many people take it lightly. Like when you said people assume that if you wash your hand repeatedly that means you have OCD but that’s not it . It’s much more complicated.

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  18. P.S I am vocal about mental health in general in person but I am not vocal about my own anxiety issues , I write about it on WordPress but other than that I pretty much keep quiet about it because many people just don’t get it and I personally think writing about it is much more better than vocally taking about it, for now that is because I have personally never been much of a talker. So, I think writing works best for me, for now.

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  19. For a while, I tried to hide everything that was going on. That only hurt me, however, and I soon realized that I needed to at least needed to talk to someone. Two years later, I am extremely open about my struggles. Sometimes, I feel it’s too open. It just feels good to be able to be open and honest about something that scared you before. It’s like when someone with a fear of heights finally goes on that roller-coaster, they’ll brag about it for months, even if they absolutely hated it.
    Wordpress is a great place to meet encouraging believers and people who go through mental-health issues. It’s a great place to discuss your problems and encourage each other. I’m rarely on here anymore because of school, but I hope I can be here on a regular basis again sometime soon. It’s just such a great community for people, because it allows so many different people from different places to help each other out.

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  20. I believe it’s already been covered. If someone is not educated they just don’t have a clue. One of my favorite things to blog about are the real life struggles; anger, anxiety, depression, etc. I’m working on them all, and love knowing I’m not alone. My goal is to make sure I can reach someone so they know it too. I’m not OCD. I actually have a screening tomorrow for adult ADHD. You know, cause anxiety and depression aren’t enough lol. I’m truly open minded for it.
    Thank you for your sharing, and I do pray you feel better quickly!

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  21. I’ve only gotten vocal about my bipolar disorder in the past couple of years. It seems to me that being a bipolar Christian is an oxymoron. But I’ve learned that mental illness does not discriminate. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.
    I love WordPress. I’ve met so many people I can relate to.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. You’re right, you have as much right to talk about your mental health as you do your physical health. Unfortunately, you are also right that the average person on the street has no knowledge of mental health issues and even less interest in learning about them. I’ve been a licensed marriage and family therapist for going on 30 years and among the biggest frustrations of my professional life is the lack of interest, compassion, and acceptance for mental health disorders out there in the world. Even those who talk the good talk about holistic health and how our whole body, mind and spirit work together don’t think that caring for mental health issues is of any value. If you’re depressed, cheer up, if you are grieving, it’s okay for a short period, but then just get over it. Anything beyond that is generally tossed into a general heap of “crazy.” This attitude, which we know is ignorant and small-minded, still makes it difficult for those with mental health issues to advocate for themselves or others. Having a mental illness makes it an uphill battle to fight our own negative self-image together with the list of things the disorder makes more difficult in our lives. To then talk about it to others while fighting against the very real fear that we will be ridiculed and rejected is an awful lot to take on. If we talk to more than 5 people about our disorder we will be ridiculed or rejected or both. And it only takes 5 because the first 4 were too polite to say what they were thinking. The good news is that more of us are speaking up and speaking out. We are becoming more visible and so less foreign to the masses. And we must not forget that we have lately begun to have that ally which makes anything more acceptable to the world: celebrities are claiming their mental illness as a badge of courage. So if it’s good enough for the rich and famous, well it must not be that bad right? I know I sound angry and cynical and negative, I try not to be, it helps nothing. But, I get so angry when I see a client struggling with a mental illness which they did not ask for, nor have any part in causing, who also must struggle with the shame of that disorder as well as the self-hatred that comes with the shame. So I applaud you for speaking up. I hope you have a positive response and cause a ripple effect which helps to make this topic less taboo.

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  23. i dont know a whole lot about OCD. I love wordpress. I’ve found a real sense of belonging and community here. I try to be as open as I can about my mental health. Its the only way I believe to end the stigma. xx

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