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Why Keeping Quiet About Your Mental Health Struggles is Dangerous

Let's fight the stigma together!

Sickly Stigma

Ever had to take a lot of sick days off work?

Maybe due to anxiety, stress or feeling depressed.

Or maybe due to the impact of a physical health condition like diabetes, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue.

Most days, when you do go into work, you're just forcing yourself to go in. Even though you know you don't feel well enough.

And whilst at work...

You do your best to keep up with everyone's expectations. 

But, despite all your hard work, it's clear that no one appreciates that you are working twice as hard as everyone else because of your difficulties.

This is a real problem that can get exhausting and soul destroying. 

It makes you feel like there's no point carrying on.

But you can't just drop your Job. Cause who'd pay the bills?

Do you tell your boss that you are struggling, or do you just keep pretending that you are okay? 

Should you open up to let people know what you are going through?

Or do you just allow people to BULLY you into pushing yourself harder just to avoid harassment, discrimination and negative judgements?

Granted, this is ONE Hell OF A DECISION TO MAKE!

But, before you make that decision, here's a crucial point to consider.

The Emotional Terrorist in Your Neighbourhood

You see there are three groups of emotional terrorists living near you. 

"Emotional Bullies Hiding in Plain Sight." 

Bullies who thrive because no one is willing to rat them out.

And if you are struggling emotionally...

It's is paramount that you pay attention to these bullies.

Why?

Because if they catch you unprepared, they will slaughter the best parts of your personality.

And right now,  these bullies may be right on top of you, sabotaging your attempts to stay well.

They may be massively instrumental in wrecking progress in significant areas of your life. And you may not even realize they are on top of you.

Who are they?

Well, the first group of bullies are...

Bullies Who Use Their Closeness to You to Crush Your Self-worth.

This first group of bullies attack the foundations of your confidence.

Who does this group of bullies relate to?

It relates to your dad, your mum, your husband, your brother, your sister and your friends.

People who are close to you but are ignorant about emotional matters. 

They believe they are helping and supporting you. But since they fail to educate themselves about emotional difficulties, their words and actions hurt, belittle and invalidate you.

All the time. 

Sadly, since you’d naturally expect those closest to you to mean you no harm, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that they are right and you are wrong.

Before long, their words and actions make you believe that you are unlovable and bad.

End result?

You get dumped in an unbreakable cycle of mental health problems.

If you are struggling with family members who are making you feel worse, what can you do about this?

I've written an extensive guide giving some ideas of what you can do to cope better with them in my article:

“How to cope with family who fail to understand your emotional pain/ struggles.”

Moving on to the second group of bullies.

One of these bully's causes you to doubt that your mental health strugles are real. One of these bully's causes you to isolate yourself from society. One of these bully's makes you treat yourself as unimportant and worthless.

Bullies Who Force You to Keep Your Struggles to Yourself At Work.

You see, most people I know, who are struggling emotionally, work really hard. They try to keep up with performance standards they have at work.

But, if you are struggling, there will be moments where you can’t do things as efficiently as you would like to.

It's just the reality

This leaves you with a question…

“Should I disclose the real reason, or should I just say it was flu or a migraine or injury?”

And though it is true that, these days, there are many understanding and encouraging employers out there...

The sad reality is that many employers will go out of their way to hurt you if they know you're struggling.

For example…

  • Employers who give an impression that they care. But are in reality gathering evidence of your lack of capability in order to get rid of you.

  • Or those impatient  bosses who are only concerned that you meet up to their expectations. They don’t care that there will be days when you cannot even get out of bed, let alone reach these expected standards.

  • Or those vindictive bosses, who hound you into keeping up with their demands. Even after you've told them of your emotional difficulties. They single you out and subject you to continual nit-picking and fault finding. Eventually forcing you to leave the job.

And the list goes on.

The harsh reality is that the pressure is bound to be heavy for anyone struggling as long as people with these types mindsets exist.

(Below is a link to an article where I share 3 highly effective tips for coping with bullies at work. The third tip I share in that article is crucial as it highlights the main reason why you might lose your job because of bullies in the work place. 3 highly effective tips for coping better when someone is  bullying you at work)

The next group of bullies is actually just one person who you know very well.

Sadly, he is the worst of the 3 groups of bullies I've listed in this article. 

This bully will literally force you to implode on yourself and break your mental health down.

But...

I need your permission to tell you who he is.

I need your permission to be honest with you on this.

Because, telling you might feel like I've betrayed you.

Telling you might just feel like I slapped you in the face.

But just in case it really offends you, please remember that I am only telling you this out of love, care and compassion.

I don't want you to be entrapped in the emotional shackles of this bully.

So, who's this bully?

Sadly, This Next Bully is YOU!

And If you don't overcome this bully, you have got no chance of surviving.

Did I just call you a bully?

Yes, I know I just did. Sorry.

But I'll explain.

You see, I was involved in this big fight on Facebook.

In my usual attempts to support people through their emotional struggles, I posted this quote from JK Rowling on Facebook.

Here’s the quote…

“Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.  Let's fight the stigma.” Jk Rowling

And that's how the fight began...

This guy read my post and got really angry with me (Let's call him Greg).

I tried to explain why I posted the quote but all I got was...

"Get over it and get off your high horse.  Get some experience in how crap people and companies really are and then talk to me like you know"

He continued saying…

"You should not be encouraging normal people to come out of the closet on this one as I have suffered immensely over the years due to the discrimination and harassment of being a proponent of honesty.

People, whether ashamed or not, need to behave like they're ashamed.  It can have dire consequences on your life."

To no avail, I tried harder to explain myself...

Then He Hit me With This WHAMMY…

“Only do gooders who have never experienced real depression would suggest people shouldn't be ashamed.  

The reason is that unashamed depressives cannot exist in society as an equal with others.

If you had an inkling of depression, I wouldn't have to be telling you this.  

You have 10 mins to read this and then I'm blocking you because clearly you are a fully funded mob.  Probably psychologists who have a degree in nothing useful.”

Wow… And how do you think I responded?

Gobsmacked, I was not sure how to respond at first.

In fact, the head Facebook admin of the Facebook community I posted the quote on messaged me privately asking me if I wanted her to ban Greg and delete his post.  

I advised her against doing this because I believed there was a profound lesson to be learnt from his responses.

You see I realised that, unknowingly, Greg had become entrapped by a self-trapping bully who fools you into thinking he is helping you.

And I wanted to use the opportunity to alert as many people as possible to take note of this so that they can see clearly what this hidden bully looks like and avoid getting trapped by it.

The Curse of an Inferior Complex

You see, I assume from Greg's posts that he had suffered at the hands of bullies for opening up about his own emotional struggles, that’s why he said, and I quote…  

"I have suffered immensely over the years due to the discrimination and harassment of being a proponent of honesty"

And as a result, it is entirely understandable that he was strongly against the quote from JK Rowling. 

However, this next statement from Greg saddened me.  This statement highlighted the extent to which he had been entrapped.   

Greg said, and I quote again…

“People, whether ashamed or not, need to behave like they're ashamed.  It can have dire consequences on your life.”

This was really shocking to me…

Why?

This is almost like telling someone caught in slavery… 

"You need to realize that you are a slave and it is in your best interest to act like a slave.  ‘Cause if you don't you will be whipped or at worst killed."

Or like telling a woman…

"You need to act like you are lesser to your husband, ‘cause if you don't he could beat you up and it would be your fault."

Or like saying to a black man…

"If you are around white people in the workplace, you need to act subservient. Because they are in positions of power and they could make life hard for you if you don't."

Yes, I have used extreme examples. 

But I make no apologies because I believe mental health stigma is as severe as the discrimination, harassment and human rights issues raised in these examples.

Because, If this inner bully, empowered by societal stigma, has his way, he'll lock you in a prison of enforced shame.

And this will affect your confidence. It will shortchange you in every decision you make.

So...

Why Should You Shine a Spotlight on Your Mental Health Problems?

You see, I used to suffer badly with social anxiety.

This held me back from so many things in my life. 

Because I often got bombarded with thoughts like...

What if I mess up, and make a fool of myself? What if they ask a question and I panic? What if...? What if...?

It was easier to avoid everybody and do everything on my own. 

It was easier to fumble silently through my problems rather than risk people knowing I was struggling.

One day, during my mental health nurse training, I realised that my worst fear was that I did not want people to perceive me as weird.

So, I decided…

“You know what, I’d actually go out and be weird.”

“Yeah! let the worst happen.” I thought.

So, I slowly pushed myself out, started having conversations with people I did not know. I purposefully allowed myself to make mistakes. And kept doing this until my fears started to subside.

Then I stepped it up a notch and started telling people I had a mental health problem.

I did this till I no longer felt embarrassed about it.

Now I regularly talk about my problem with anxiety in front of hundreds of people. 

For me, opening up like this was liberating. It started my journey of overcoming my anxiety problems.

For you, opening up could be the difference between being stuck in your room unable to interact with the world and being free out in the world doing whatever you want and enjoying the life you have.

Opening up could be the beginning of a new life of opportunities and growth.

Opening up could release a potential you never knew you had to achieve happiness and contentment in your life

So,,,

Liberate Yourself!

Have you ever thought about it this way?

Where does the stigma around emotional issues actually stem from in our era?    Or, is it from those who don’t struggle or is from us with the condition?

Sure discrimination originates from people who do not understand.   

But are we permitting the stigma to go on by keeping quiet and hiding?

I Call You To Speak Out and Silence Your Inner Bully.

Silence the bully who makes you think of yourself as a lesser person because of your emotional difficulties.  

But not just for yourself.

Do this for other people who are victims of discrimination due to their mental health problems. 

This way, the norm for society eventually becomes that of supporting those who are struggling instead of negativity and judgement.

True, this might backfire and cause distress for some people.

However, look back through history and you’ll find that discrimination has only been demolished because someone spoke up for the injustice they saw despite the sacrifice they had to bear.

If not for people like Thomas Clarkson, who suffered abuse from his peers so that people could see the injustice perpetuated by slavery, where would the world be on the issue of slavery today?

If not for people like Lucy Burns, who spent time in jail, where would women’s freedoms and rights around issues like rape or the right to vote be today?

Yes, coming out of the closet and fighting to liberate yourself and others like I have been doing is no easy task. 

Trying to do this on your own might scare you to death.

I was able to do it because I learnt a lot from my mental health training. So don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle to break out of the pattern of shame and embarrassment on your own.

Don’t be ashamed if you need to really rely on professional help to build up your courage to stop feeling lesser than others. 

Know that it’s okay to take baby steps towards this goal and in time your fear and doubt will disappear forever.

In time you will be able to stand bravely and boldly against those pesky discriminating bullies.

The truth is that...

We need a mature world.

A world that enables us to own our emotional difficulties with dignity so that there's no need to justify or appease those who try to make us feel second-class.

Even if we are not able to abolish mental health discrimination or stigma in our generation, we can at least work together to make sure that our children won't have to go through the same level of discrimination, shame and humiliation just because they are struggling.

I call you to do your part.

Educate yourself so you can become empowered by knowledge. 

Because when you react from a place of knowledge, confidence and strength, you are helping to erode the fear, misconceptions and stigma that exist in our world today.

And then together, we can make a roaring noise telling those ignorant small-minded people who choose to criticise us that...

Yes, we know we have a condition.
NO! We are not ashamed of it.
NO! We are not going to hide it.
NO! It does not define us.
It never did and it never will.
It's an illness, not a choice.
And we work our butts off to manage it!
The problem is not us.
THE PROBLEM IS YOU!  

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa
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