TW: mentions of suicide, trauma
Hello Readers! I have been gone for a while, but I am back on my writing and Trina Truths for all to read. I hope this post can educate, establish, enlighten and be insightful to the many like me who feel silenced.
It is Mental Health Awareness Week, and whilst the theme of this year is nature, the nature of mental health is not a lovely walk in the park. The pandemic has definitely made an impact on mental health and the aftermath too, especially as the world has been placed on a standstill, and that we have lost many, and continue to see many around the world be hurt.
It is key to note that many years ago, mental illnesses were not recognised at all, but it would be criminal if as a society, our discussions surrounding mental health continued to only focused on GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and Depression. I want this post to highlight, normalise and recognise the aspects of mental health that are not visualised and are shamed in opening up about.
(A quick disclaimer to say I am not a mental health practitioner, and I am not knowledgeable on every mental illness, but I will try to cover on what I know from what I have learnt at therapy, and just read on posts and other blogs/personal accounts)
The harsh reality of suffering from a mental illness, is that there is more stigma towards it, due to the blurred lines between that and mental health. These two things affect everyone in different ways, but I need to outline that they are both separate aspects of the spectrum. Firstly, mental health includes our emotions, feelings and general well-being, but you can still cope with life in general. In contrast, mental illness is not something that can be controlled, but rather monitored - there are specifics disorders which many are diagnosed with (professionally or personally), and mental illness is heavily impacted by psychological and neurological functions.
This next part I hope will outline and discuss some of the uncomfortable, hidden symptoms and experiences when living with a mental illness, because I believe should be valid, important and needed to shed light on.
Intrusive thoughts: These are thoughts that are intense and can happen at any time, and because they are quite distressing, it is hard to reason your mind, or come to logical conclusions of topics that you are thinking of in your head. People with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and OCD have this as a symptom.
Compulsive Behaviours: Can be described as doing something that allows you to relieve the intrusive/obsessive thoughts you are experiencing. This may be repetitive, or things that you may feel to regulate your mind and body and these are things that most mental illnesses face but in particular, those with OCD, schizophrenia, psychosis, social anxiety disorder and BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder).
Impulsion: Action on sudden emotions and thoughts, because they feel too overwhelming and you need a release from all feelings, thoughts and your reality. Although everyone experiences impulses, those with mental illnesses face them more frequently, as there are usually patterns within these behaviours, and inability to control these impulses. Examples of this are oversharing, drinking, drugs, self-harm, eating habits, becoming stationary at home and examples of mental illnesses that face this on a day-to-day basis are those with BDD, bulimia, anorexia, BPD, bipolar disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Difficulty Concentrating: This isn’t just zoning out either, it’s quite simply having too much on your mind, ruminating or struggling to separate out all your thoughts. This can cause headaches, panic attacks, relapses and tendencies to black out, be visibly distressed or frustrated. For many, it can feel like you are present, but in a freeze frame, where you can’t grasp the present moments a lot, but rather have your mind on other things. Sometimes people can “act out” on these feelings as some thoughts can be more overwhelming than others, and the thoughts may have triggered a fight or flight response. Those who suffer with psychosis have these in their episodes, whereby they experience disorganised thoughts and feelings and additionally, those with bipolar disorder, when experiencing depressive episodes.
Mood Swings: These are classified as different terms and can feel different from most mental illnesses. The difference between having mood swings generally and having it when living with a mental illness, is that we can feel okay, but not feel as okay and this can be in minutes, hours or months. Mood swings can occur for what feels sporadically and it can vary to just feeling that way, a specific event happening, or a trigger that has come to light. They are not easy to discuss because it has the connotations of “crazy”, “weird” and “showing off”, however it is not. It is rapid and intense fluctuations of mood that we struggle to grip and manage. Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, BPD, PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) and Postpartum Psychosis have this symptom.
Dissociation: is a feeling of disconnection with yourself and what is around you. Those who dissociate tend to do this to calm their mind when they are stressed. It is a way of release without it being impulsive or dangerous; a natural response to a trigger or trauma. In addition, there are different dissociative actions that people may have, some including difficulty remembering information or parts of your life, feeling like you’re outside your own body, or not understanding your identity (you as an individual, personality etc). Those with PTSD, depression, anxiety and BPD face this, but most with mental health experience this.
Suicidal Feelings: I don’t want to delve too much into this as I have posted about personal experiences that you can read on a previous blog or on my Instagram page (trina.talks). But I will say for those who are around those who do feel this way, pls be kinder, please don’t make them feel worse by saying other people care, you shouldn’t do this it’s not fair or you will make everyone feel worse. Suicide can also be described in ideation and this can be classed into either passive or active. The highest prevalence in this are with ages 18-25, but with social media, the pandemic and other world injustices, violence and trauma, this goes along all spectrums of individuals, ethnicities and ages.
Triggers and Traumas: Triggered is a word I feel that is too trivialised in society and the media that we consume today, when in fact, it is something that can really impact those with a mental illness. A trigger is a reminder of something traumatic from the past, which can cause you to experience dissociation or other reactions. It can either be to do with the five senses, a situation of how your body reacts to something - it really varies and is different for everyone.
A trauma can be identified in two ways:
situations or events we find traumatic
how we're affected by our experiences.
Traumatic events can happen at any age and is personal to everyone as the effects can be different person to person. Events where you experience trauma may include when you are under threat, frightened, unsupported, rejected and unsafe. There are different circumstances on when trauma occurs which can be through family, a one off event, or being harmed directly.
To summarise, these are only some of the experiences and symptoms those with mental illness face. Like my introduction, it is clear in society across the world that there is an imbalance between the support available and who can access it. Moreover, some may self diagnose through information they have read and discussing with other people facing the issue, because there is a disparity in funding and accessing appointments of diagnosing, hence me saying being diagnosed professionally and personally. These are some of the uncomfortable symptoms that are not being spoken about and when they are, they are usually trivialised and romanticised. Furthermore, the conversation may be initialised, but these shortcomings still make mental health and mental illness blurred and those feel invalidated, because their day to day lives are either not being documented accurately, or are shamed when they are just human. I always say that those like me who struggle with these things daily, we are not weird, we are not strange, we just have a different brain function to things where it can be hard to re wire at times. We are still amazing, we are human and we deserve to love ourselves in the body that we are.
In concluding this post, I want to say to those reading cam henceforth be open minded, be respectful and understand that those with mental illness may seem to the world that we seek attention, but it is only because we don’t feel loved, accepted and appreciated due to our past, our present and our emotions.
Take time on us, we are the same as you, just taking a longer route to where we hope to be.
To those that resonate with the words I have typed today, I see you, I’m with you and we’ve got this.
I’m proud of you
*information of symptoms were generated from my knowledge, experiences, mind.com and Healthline.