Feeling lonely in the mental health conversation - Rachel's story
The mental health conversation can be a lonely place for people experiencing mental illness. In this blog, Rachel, who lives with borderline personality disorder, tells us about the disconnect between society’s conversation about mental health, and her own lived experience of mental illness.
There is a lot of stigma and harmful stereotypes surrounding both personality disorders and psychosis. At my lowest points, I’ve felt that I am an inherently bad person, that I’ll be alone forever and too broken to ever love or be loved. That I deserve this as I’m “manipulative and attention seeking”. Despite the people I love being the thing that keeps me going, my illness as well as these stereotypes have caused me to isolate myself and withdraw.
The severity and urgency of tackling this, and helping people with serious mental illness, gets lost in our current mental health awareness days & campaigns. Slogans like “everyone has mental health”, “it’s normal to feel down” or “just speak out to get help”, all of which are true and important, end up making mental health synonymous with mental illness.
When people speak out, we’re demonised, institutionalised and traumatised.
I feel this ultimately erases the experiences of people diagnosed with severe and more stigmatised disorders. It sanitises and makes a space that has the power to create change more palatable. As everyone has mental health but not everyone has mental illness. Not everyone experiences auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions or manic/euphoric episodes. And when people who do speak out, we’re demonised, institutionalised and traumatised.
When we use the term mental health synonymously with mental illness, it only speaks for things like depression and anxiety, further pushing people who truly need compassion, understanding and acceptance to the margins. I cope with these feelings simply by talking to my peers and family, educating people and reaching out to others who can relate.