Coming out about my mental health was difficult but it was the right decision to make

The first time I wanted to share how imprisoning my mental health was, I didn’t really know where to start. I had suffered a breakdown and attempted suicide and had been in a Clinic for five months. Only my family knew what had happened. The diagnosis of Complex PTSD following childhood abuse which had laid dormant for thirty-two years and only come to the surface following the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse. Hearing the testimonies of victims sent me into nervous shock hence the breakdown.  A few months later still in the Clinic came another diagnosis – Dissociative Identity Disorder, neither of which I had heard of before. We did not initially tell friends anything. We were too busy coping with it ourselves. We had no experience of mental health, child abuse or trauma let alone suicide or self-harm. I was hospitalised for five months. Of course, friends eventually knew I was in a Mental Health Clinic and visited initially but did not know why. I did not know how to talk about it and was in no fit state to. There were no words to be found for the unspeakable acts that had been perpetuated against me as a child that I was now grappling with. I was wracked with shame, guilt and blamed myself for everything that happened. No one could convince me otherwise.

This was nearly four years ago. When I came home I did not leave the demons behind and the suicide attempts and self-harm continued. We decided to tell friends. It was a good thing to do though heartbreaking. Some responded brilliantly and accepted us as they always had as good friends and nothing changed. Others could not cope and we saw them less and less until eventually they just disappeared from our lives. The stigma of mental health is alive and well.

My therapist started urging me to write a memoir saying it was a story that would help others. I thought long and hard about doing that. Did I really want so many people knowing what my parents and other people had done to me? I still carried mountainous amounts of guilt and shame how was that going to be reconciled by publishing a book. So I took baby steps and started with a blog, Facebook and Twitter and it grew organically from there.

Now that all this time has passed, I wonder to myself if it was the right thing to do – revealing all your weaknesses for the world to see. Then, I look back at all I’ve done, all I’ve been through since, and I truly believe speaking out was one of the best decisions of my life.

That first step, those first words, began a new age of understanding for me.

Rather than focusing on hiding my condition in order to appear normal, exhausting my body and mind, I could ask for support from those around me.

I realised that I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling. I often found that people echoed my exact thoughts, my exact fears and fought very similar looking demons. The solidarity from around the world was liberating.

I could end my story there but that wouldn’t paint a complete picture.

Despite all I’ve done, therapy, writing my memoir, developing my blog and website, all the surface stuff you can find out on your own by reading any of my social media accounts, I still struggle greatly. Things can still seem dire at times.

One thing has changed though, I now have options – rather than dealing with it alone, I now have a multitude of avenues that I could use for help.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to do anything alone, and that no matter where I look, there is someone willing to help – I’ve been helped by people on the street, people in other countries, people online.

For someone as jaded as I was, it was both baffling and heartwarming and it’s all because of the confidence I have built from the day I spoke out.

I dread to think about it, but on my own, I doubt I would still be here; yet I am. And I owe it all to the people around me, and all the strength they gave me, and continue to give me to this very day.

The only way I can think of to thank all those who have helped me is to give it back to anyone who needs it.

The world may not know what you’re fighting but I promise you, you are not fighting alone.

Look for the light in life and you’ll often find it, look for the darkness and it’s all you’ll ever see.

Speak out and your voice will carry, it will reach those with an open heart. They’ll surely help you, just like they helped me.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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