These are my own personal reflections on why it’s easier to tell other people that you are struggling with mental illness than it is to tell your nearest and dearest.
From a very young age I’ve struggled with the confines of society and what we know as social practice. Things like talking about the traffic or the next public holiday (hairdresser talk) is usually met with a ‘yeah’, some form of grunt or a blank stare. But where it gets really bad is when the anxiety has a detrimental effect on everyday life. Things like driving lessons and tests, interviews, meetings, telephone calls. That’s when things start to get tricky.
Trying to reach out and ask for help is difficult, asking for anything in general can be pretty difficult. But for me trying to ask my parents for help is out of the question. When ‘it’ll be fine’, ‘stop worrying’, or ‘your grand there’s nothing wrong with you’, are frequently uttered in general conversation I genuinely don’t think they would understand.
People often ask ‘is she always this quiet’, and my parents would usually reply with a ‘yeah she’s just shy.’ While I stand there blandly and pretend I’m a tree.
Don’t get me wrong they love me very much I have an amazing family. However there is so much awareness now surrounding mental illness and the importance of mental health that wasn’t around when they were growing up and it’s no surprise that people become stuck in their ways. To them depression isn’t a disease it’s just sadness and what would a twenty-something year old have to be sad about. Anxiety is just worry and worrying is silly.
The stigma surrounding mental illness is so off the mark that by telling my parents that I’m not coping I think they will think less of me. Like I’m some kind of damaged individual and it somehow reflects on them.
It seems the younger generation have grown up with a knowledge of the importance of mental health. I feel more comfortable telling my friends that I have social anxiety before I would tell my parents or my grandmother, because although I know they love me I don’t think they truly grasp how much it effects my life.
The worst thing to say to someone with anxiety is ‘don’t worry’, it’s the equivalent of telling someone having an asthma attack to ‘just breath.’ It’s just not that easy.