As part of the #timetotalk day I’ve decided to take to the keyboard and share my story to help encourage conversation about mental health and combat the stigma and taboo that surrounds it, so where do I even start?!
Firstly, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Charlene and I currently work for The Comedy Trust in the role of office house elf, or formally known as admin (Yes I had to slip in a Harry Potter reference). For as long as I can remember I’ve suffered from social anxiety, the form where you secure the nickname “Fifth Table Leg” because you were that scared of people you’d hide under the table as they’d walk into the room (because let’s face it, humans are scary right?!). Alongside this from the age of 13 I began to experience severe bouts of depression triggered by the loss of my sister. I have to say, experiencing this alongside teen drama, breakups and hectic hormones I could’ve filmed my own American reality teen drama show.
#Timetotalk day is about increasing conversations surrounding mental health and understanding of mental health so I thought it would be appropriate to look into the difficulties I faced and the important things to remember.
- Shame, Shame, we know your name: Whilst in school I didn’t really understand what mental health was or what it could do to you before it hit me. I was really ashamed of how I was acting, how I handled situations, how other people perceived me because I wasn’t a happy go lucky confidence brimming student. Looking back now a lot of this was linked to my mental health but also my lack of knowledge on the subject. You should never be ashamed of what you are going through, your body can get ill and so can your mind so never feel bad about feeling the way you do.
- Turning into the E.T: I use this expression because that’s what it felt like, people too scared to approach you, to say hello, to look you in the eye in case they say something wrong. If you see someone has gone through something troubling in their lives or are aware that they experience mental health conditions please I cannot stress enough, approach them, ask how they are, take an interest in what they are up to. Do you share a hobby? Have something in common? That’s great, engage in a conversation, take an interest and shed a little light into their not so vibrant days.
- “I shouldn’t have said that”: From the words of Hagrid, there are some things better left unsaid. I think the two worst things that have been said to me were “I can’t handle your emotions” that was used as an excuse to not interact with me anymore or “People have it worse you know, what are you crying for”…..okay. Words hurt just as much as physical pain so please be tactful with your words for everyone in your lives not just those suffering from mental health issues. Be understanding and patient.
- Hello…it’s me: And no we’re not talking about the Adele song. A simple hello from a family member, friend or colleague coupled with a how are you today goes such a long way that words can’t even describe. I can personally say, conversations have saved my life, just having someone to vent to, talk through your problems or even just sit there with you in silence until you’re able to talk was life changing.
- Accepting yourself for who you are: I think everyone has a difficulty with this one but accepting yourself for who you are really helps. Yes, you have a mental illness but that does not mean that you do not have worth. Mental health may be part of who you are but it does not define you. You define yourself. You’re unique, strong and capable of anything, don’t forget that.
I’m very lucky to say today that I am in recovery; of course I still have days where I still do suffer but I’ve learnt to accept that it is part of who I am. My coping mechanisms came in the form of the arts, using music as a platform to channel my thoughts and feelings. This is why it’s such a privilege to work for an organisation who do the same, using comedy as a platform to raise awareness of mental health whilst improving participant’s mental health, self-esteem and confidence. It’s like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and the transformations we see as an organisation are astounding. I’m blessed to be a part of that.
All jokes aside, mental health is no laughing matter. Together we can work together, raise awareness, conversations and combat the stigma that surrounds mental health. #timetotalk
For more information on our mental health courses please head to our website