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Mental distress is real


With so many lone attacks being accredited to people with alleged mental health problems, I’m questioning why so many people refuse to believe it, insisting every time that such atrocities are terrorist related. Surely it’s down to mental health professionals to make a judgement about someone’s state of mind. It seems some people don’t like facts if they don’t fit in with their prejudices or what they feel they need to believe for their own safety and sanity. Unable to accept the truth, because it’s too distressing, is called denial.

I’m pondering on this today because, as someone with diagnosed post- traumatic stress disorder which throws up symptoms of anxiety and depression amongst others I don’t want to get into, I’ve had the most outrageous accusations levelled at me; ‘ Only war veterans get that, you use it as an excuse not to do something, your therapist must have been rubbish if you’re still suffering.’

One in four people at least will suffer from some kind of mental distress during their lives and this is on the increase. It is only when we have personal experience either ourselves or someone close can we begin to believe that this thing we call depression is a real illness. Imagine someone pressing their foot heavily on your head – de-pressing. That’s how it feels to me. Physical as well as mental pain. A kind of paralysis which if I don’t get moving doing something, anything, can tie me to the sofa for up to two weeks before it passes.

The thing is this: too many of my family and friends want to fix the problem. They can’t. Only I can do that. Writing, craft work and singing are my best supports at that time but to be told I need to get out more and stop the introspection isn’t helpful. It frustrates all of us. This is the time to be talking about the weather, or the price of fish… something banal. My dentist is good at this when it’s injection time or even worse, impressions. Yuk. She chats away with her dental nurse about something and nothing and it’s distracting in a good way.

My work involves helping people to handle uncomfortable emotions and anxiety but it’s a case of the cobbler’s shoes. You can do it for others but not yourself. I’m encouraged by the number of people who say they didn’t expect me to fix it or them but just to listen, validate, don’t interrupt or indicate there’s something wrong with them.  

Depression has been called the affliction of the strong. Most of us fight hard to get through those treacly days where nothing is achieved and the thought of crawling under the duvet a darkened room is the one thing to look forward to.

Unless I tell somebody I’m having a bad day, which I don’t – my excuse is I think I must be coming down with something – no-one would know because I put on a performance and hide behind the mask.

I understand the frustration of people who don’t want to hear that another lone attacker has got mental health problems because it’s not tangible enough when we are trying to find motive and meaning. But it might just be true.