People are often shocked when I, a twenty year old, tell them I’ve suffered from mental illness for the past six and a half years; it’s as if they expect you to walk around with a diagnoses emblazoned on your forehead. Having a smile on my face doesn’t mean that I am not depressed. Seeming outwardly calm doesn’t mean that I do not feel sick to my stomach with anxiety. Just because you once saw me eat chocolate doesn’t mean that I am not struggling with an eating disorder.
It didn’t happen because I suffered trauma or bullying. Nor is it because my mummy didn’t love me or because my daddy beat me. Just because there’s no explicit explanation doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
When my neighbour found out I was on antidepressants at fifteen, she was quick to voice her disapproval. I wasn’t entirely keen on taking them either. But they stopped me taking my own life.
When my GP found out that I’d been sectioned due to the potentially fatal risks my anorexia was posing to my physical health, he told my mum he didn’t support hospitalising eating disorder patients because ‘giving them attention would only make them worse’. At the time, trust me; I’d have loved to have been denied this ‘attention’. But I would have died.
When I recounted my history to an experienced psychiatrist, he stared at me open-mouthed; ‘Seriously? But you’re… nice!’.
Being nice, intelligent, well-dressed or any other positive adjective you can think of, doesn’t make you immune. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate – it’s society that does that. We all have bodies, so accept that we are all liable to physical illness, whether it be the common cold or cancer. We all have minds, yet we fail to acknowledge the possibility that we can become mentally ill too.
This week, QUBSU are promoting the Think Out Loud campaign. To get involved, visit www.qubsu.org/WhatsOn/ThinkOutLoud/