Coming a long way
As part of the SeeChange Make a Ripple campaign a number of people have posted their stories about getting through tough times to help break down the stigma associated with mental health problems. Here is Ciara’s story:
I dreamed of an end from the very start. I wished for death and dreamed of my funeral. I was eleven when this darkness began to immerse me regularly. This was triggered after my best friend moving away and then moving house. I didn’t know this was not normal it was my normality through my teens though looking back I wasn’t always depressed. I didn’t receive treatment till I was 26 after having a boyfriend with problems with depression made me realise why I could not stop crying why I dreaded leaving the house and getting up.
My younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer five months later which was truly dreadful as she was so young. Looking back I noticed that I was encouraged to keep my ongoing illness a secret and it was discussed in hushed whispers. My sister had the support of the community and extended family while my support was kept to the immediate family. Because of the stigma I was encouraged to go to another GP in the town not my lifelong doctor because they were a family friend too.
I am happy to report that was then (nine yrs ago) and I think things have come a long way. I have been since diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008 which I experience as periods of lows (depression) and sometimes highs (mania). I have had two full psychotic episodes. The last six years have been a bit of struggle being plummeted into suicidal behaviour and hospital admissions but honestly something positive has come out of it. I have noticed more and more people in my community coming forward in support.
Now if it comes up, I freely admit to people I have an illness called bipolar. It’s my contribution to breaking the stigma by talking freely about mental illness even in the pub. I no longer fear being labelled mad or crazy. I actually don’t care because anyone who comes away with that opinion (I am nearly sure it hasn’t happened yet!) isn’t worth worrying about.
Recovery is possible
I am very lucky I have a very supportive family but I know everyone is not this lucky and I realise there is still a tremendous amount of fear around mental illness. There needs to be a ‘See Change’ here alright! For anyone reading this recovery is possible. We are still the same people on the whole once we recover. Please don’t assume we are tainted forever or weak because we have had to slog through a period of mental illness in fact we are probably much stronger people because of what we go through. Admire us don’t fear us. I have been well for 19 months and counting and am so excited and in love with life.
I set up a suicide prevention charity because I wanted to change things. I feel by reducing stigma more people will be confident enough to come forward and seek help thus saving themselves.
Ciara Asple SPEAK Gorey Co Wexford