**This post was minutes away from being permanently deleted last night. Then I woke up this morning, heard that a culinary hero of mine had taken his own life, I scrambled to save it from my drafts folder. In light of this news, and because I am now choosing to be as open and as honest as I can about my life with bipolar disorder, anxiety and OCD, below is one of my personal coping mechanisms that could very well help someone else. **
I am, and have been for a long time, a huge advocate for therapy and counseling. It was through extensive therapy that I got over a bout of self-imposed anxiety when I first moved to London, therapy helped me break a destructive teenage habit, therapy gave me the strength to act on what was right for me, when it was right for me. Over the years, with the help of several therapist and several types of therapy, I have learned that putting myself first is not selfish and that talking is really good for me.
As is often the way with people living with a mental health issue, I rarely speak out about what is going on in my head, or what I have been working through during my therapy sessions. I don’t like to share my struggles or problems, even with those closest to me. Often, I see my bipolar disorder as a burden to others, but my reluctance to share or talk about my feelings is something that I am working hard to overcome. It has never been an issue of trust, it’s just that I just don’t want to inconvenience anyone. Second to this, I find it extremely difficult to get the right words together, and I’m convinced that there is never a good time or way for me to say “I’m not doing too good. I need help.”
In the days that have followed the untimely death of designer Kate Spade, it has pained me to read some of the words her husband and her sister shared with the press:
“She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”
“She suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.”
“It clearly wasn’t her.”
Oh God. Above my fear of taking up self harm again, or starting another binge/purge cycle, I’m petrified of people finding out just how chronic my mental health diseases are.
Many people, as is now the norm when we lose someone famous to suicide, take to Twitter to share information about hotlines, and to encourage anyone living with a mental health issue, to speak out and seek help. We saw this after we lost Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, and we will keep seeing this when someone we idolise takes their own life. This only does so much, it saturates timelines and profiles with numbers for services that are already overwhelmed, doing all that they can do cope with the ever-increasing number of people considering suicide or self harm.
Conscious of the limited mental health resources available across the US and UK, and with access often coming at a ludicrous cost or after spending too long on a waiting list, I must join the countless number of people encouraging others to speak up, even when speaking up feels the most painful thing to do. You must, as I do, work through that pain, storm through it, whether in the comfort of a friend or the safety of a therapists or doctors office.
This post is my way of continuing the countless calls to action. I hope that what I share goes some way in helping someone, and I hope that this is seen, not as some self-righteous blog post, but as me, a woman living with invisible, chronic illnesses, sharing a little piece of her therapy. It is a simple thing. So simple that I laughed when I was handed a printed copy a few weeks ago. Being unable to explain my moods and emotions, I tell my husband or my family that I’m just a bit blue, a bit sad, a bit down. Perhaps, subconsciously, I chose not to expand on that. But when presented with a page of words, words that I know and use every day, my ability to better communicate with those closest to me has improved. To quote my incredible husband, who jokes that I can never find the right words to describe a meal or menu, “hey, use your words!” and with this simple table, I hope that those who can’t find the words, find them here.