|I’m a mental health advocate but I struggle to talk to my family about mental health.
I’m a mental health advocate, I literally live to be honest and candid about my own mental health. My raw approach to talking about mental health not only helps me understand myself but it has also helped others and that is pretty damn great; it’s my passion.
I am always excited each Sunday when I upload a new blog on my website, or if I have a guest post being published elsewhere. The idea that my words may help someone somewhere, even if I don’t know, gives me so much joy. There is no greater reward than making a really positive change to the world, even if it’s a small change.
I am not ashamed of who I am or who I was when depression had me in my grips. I have done bad things in the past (who hasn’t) and I have struggled with my own identity for the most part of a decade. A life of trauma, drama and being incredibly unlucky has given me a saga to write about. There is no subject that is too inappropriate for me, the way I see it, the only way we can end the stigma is if we are just really honest about the reality of living with mental health. The world needs genuine information and support out there.
You can read my story all over the internet. You can find out some pretty personal things about me and that really doesn’t seem to faze me. However, there is still hesitation when I share a link about mental health on my Facebook, for the people who know me in real life to see. The thought of a relative or even a person I have not spoken to for years clicking on that link, makes me shudder. Sometimes, on a bad day, I just avoid sharing anything to Facebook, which hurts because I’m not reaching as many people who may need some hope and support.
I had a conversation with a family member, who seemed so proud of me for what I had achieved. We don’t talk often, I don’t have them on any social media, so I added them on Linkedin, which contains every single article that’s ever been published under my name. In the moment, I thought that it was great that they had this interest in my work, it made me feel happy and excited for their feedback but when I went home to think about it, I became anxious. What if they read something that they did not like? What if they thought less of me?
There is this concern I have, that I may offend someone I know. A person in my life or my past who knows the version of me that was a bit reckless and destructive. Because I talk in such a candid way, with no filter what so ever, I start playing over every word I wrote, overanalyzing and making sure that there is nothing that may upset them.
I am an empath, which means that I care a lot about people, even if we have fallen out or were never close to start with. Someone could hurl abuse at me and I would still worry about how they were feeling and what I had said to them. It makes blogging very hard in this respect. How can I be open when I still shut this small part of me away?
When it comes to my family, I seem to clam up and pretend like I don’t talk openly about my mental health. I don’t know why this happens, it just feels a lot easier to open up to strangers than to the people in my direct circle; some things I just don’t like to talk to them about, it feels too awkward.
I create these situations in my head where my family members or my old friends are reading my blog, judging every word and applying their own truth. I worry that they will get angry and think that I am making it up, after all, how can they know the truth when I only started talking about these things for the first time, in the last 6 months. I spoke to the internet about my feelings before I spoke to those I love.
I will never give up my mental health advocacy and I will never stop doing what I can to talk about mental health, in an honest and from experience way; I don’t believe in lying, as it adds to the stigma. I do try, on occasion to talk about things with my family, outside of the blog, to try to break down that invisible barrier but it still feels like just that, a barrier. Why is it so hard?
It’s just so strange that the people who we find it hardest to talk to, are the people who have been by our side our whole lives. I think it only stems from love, really, we just don’t want them to be hurt by our words or have them reject us. But maybe, it’s about time that we start encouraging families to talk about their mental health; if we normalize mental health then surely it would be easier to talk about? Strong support networks are crucial to recovery and who better to have by our sides than the ones who have been there since day one?
I am making an active choice to start trying to be more open with my mental health to my family and friends, I have nothing to be ashamed of, so it’s time for me to stand up and spread my wings, like the beautiful phoenix I am. The worst thing that will happen is I may get rejected but why is that a bad thing? It just means that I can focus on those who really care.
|I am a growing mental health advocate on Twitter (@CUnderwoodUK), have written a book on my father’s suicide, not as a self-help but to provide a friend to those bereaved by suicide as there is not much help out there and it is lonely. I blog often a few times a week (charlotteunderwoodauthor.