I read this great post from my friend Samantha Jane at both sides of the wall this morning. She highlighted something I hadn’t thought a lot about but totally agree with. She was asking why it is so hard for us to admit that we were victims of sexual abuse.
It struck a chord with me, because I have made a conscious effort to be open with my friends and colleagues about my mental health issues. When I was an inpatient, I remember talking to a friend because I was worried about going back to work. I had been on leave for so long that I would have to lie to give an explanation. And I’m a terrible liar.
On reflection, it seemed pointless to try and cover it up. In the most literal sense, it would mean always covering up, as I’ve got a lot of scars. I’ve got some awesome tattoos that cover some (great excuse right?) but I didn’t want to have to hide them forever. I also realised that if I wanted to feel supported in easing back into life and work, I needed to be open.
It was late night in the lounge at the Priory when I decided to ‘out’ myself on Facebook. I saw it like that, like coming out all over again. In fact it was harder. Here’s what I posted:
“Mental health is still an issue that carries a huge stigma and one that people find so difficult to speak about. I have found myself in this position recently, as I have been hospitalised because of a major depressive episode. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time, and despite having super support from friends and family always felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t talk about it. Obviously this is unusual, as I never stop talking about almost everything else. It’s a really difficult thing to admit, but the amazing people here have led me to realise that it is not something to be ashamed of. My fellow ‘inmates’ are a bunch of strong, kind, warm people who have given me huge inspiration. Although this is a tough time, I am learning every day and I know I will soon be in a better place, metaphorically and literally. I don’t know exactly why, but it felt important for me to share my experience and ‘out’ myself for a second time. I hope that in the future it won’t be such a taboo and that it will be easier for people to admit that they need a break or some help.”
I couldn’t believe the love and support I got in response. I had almost a hundred messages from friends, family and co-workers to say they were there for me and offering to help in any way they could. Yet even with all this generosity, I haven’t been able to admit what took me to breaking point. I have still only told a few of my very best friends that my PTSD is from the abuse.