Lynn tells us why, instead of cards and presents for her birthday this year, she decided to host a virtual Christmas Crafternoon to raise money for Mind.
Instead of cards and presents for my birthday this year, I decided to host a virtual Christmas Crafternoon to raise money for Mind, so that my friends and I could craft together and have fun while supporting everyone’s mental health.
I know now that holding it all in doesn’t help in the long run and I want to break the stigma of talking about our own mental health.
Our mental health is so important right now. The pandemic has put strain on the entire world, so people who have never experienced mental health problems are finding themselves being more anxious and depressed, without access to their usual support systems. Many people don't feel comfortable coming out and saying, “I'm not coping right now, I need help.” They feel like it makes them weak or that people will judge them. I’m ashamed to say that I once thought that as well, but I know now that holding it all in doesn’t help in the long run and I want to break the stigma of talking about our own mental health.
I grew up surrounded by people struggling with severe mental illness. My grandma, who I spent almost every day with after school, was hospitalised for mental illness when I was in primary school and I wasn't allowed to see her for a time. Then early in high school we had nine bereavements in a year, which led to my mum having a breakdown. Not only was I coping with all the loss in the family but suddenly my family changed and I had to get used to the people I loved being completely different and not understanding fully why.
As the 'strong one' in the family, I was often the one that was vented at. As a result I became very familiar with the inner workings of my family’s minds and the shocking reality of mental illness.
As I got older I felt like I'd become the unofficial family counsellor. As the 'strong one' in the family, I was often the one that was vented at. As a result I became very familiar with the inner workings of my family’s minds and the shocking reality of mental illness. While I was very confident in talking about mental health in terms of other people’s health, I never admitted how much the pressure of being the 'strong' one and feeling responsible for others’ wellbeing truly impacted on me.
My brother and sister both lost their jobs through being unable to cope with the general pressures of dealing with their mental health in the modern world. While I was sympathetic, I couldn’t help being frustrated at how they weren't fighting more to keep their jobs or doing more to help themselves.
One day I couldn't face work, I couldn't face people, I could barely move.
Then two years ago I had a complete breakdown. Finally the self-imposed pressure of being strong for everyone else and always being 'fine' – no matter how many people died, how exhausted I was looking after my daughter alone and scraping by to afford the bills and how much of a failure I felt not being able to make my marriage work – got to me. One day I couldn't face work, I couldn't face people, I could barely move. For months I was off work feeling more and more like a failure and had to fight against my body and mind to get up and move each day. The scariest thing was when I wanted to speak and the words wouldn't come out – not because I didn't know what to say, but because I physically struggled and just wanted to curl up in a ball and hibernate. If I didn't have my daughter to think about and supportive people around me I probably would have.
I was very fortunate to have so many people to support me. My family, who I never brought my problems to for fear of adding to their own problems, were so supportive and understanding, they didn't judge they let me vent or just cry down the phone to them. They knew exactly what I was going through and knew that all I needed to know was that I wasn't alone in dealing with it.
I developed a new respect and level of understanding for my family. I understood finally why they couldn't fight more and help themselves out of it.
My boyfriend, who I was terrified would run away on seeing the state I was in, just held me close and told me it was ok and that he loved me. He reminded to breathe when I was having panic attacks, and he helped me with all the things in the house, like the dishes, that just seemed like an epic task at the time. I developed a new respect and level of understanding for my family. I understood finally why they couldn't fight more and help themselves out of it. When you've reached that place, even getting dressed in the morning feels like climbing Mount Everest. You're not just fighting against people's expectations of you, you’re fighting against your mind and your body and it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
I'm recovering now but this year has been incredibly tough. Without having access to my regular support network or being able to be there in person for family and friends who are struggling, I have felt myself struggling more and more with my mental health and am terrified of having another breakdown. I have people who understand that I can talk to, I have strategies in place to help me, having grown up surrounded by it I can see myself struggling in plenty of time to do something about it.
I’m holding a Christmas Crafternoon in the hopes I can raise money to help Mind reach more people in need.
Not everyone is that lucky but Mind is there for those who don't have people to reach out to and can't access the support that they really need.
I’m holding a Christmas Crafternoon in the hopes I can raise money to help Mind reach more people in need so that no one has to struggle alone. I also want to open up the conversation around mental health so that others don't have to get to the point of a breakdown before they seek help and support.
Read about Information and support
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.