If you looked at me, you wouldn’t think anything was wrong. On paper, I’ve had an education where I’m on track toward my doctorate, I’ve got a roof over my head, and put a smile on my face. Behind the smile though, is a world of pain. I have a long term chronic illness where I have physical pain every day but some days cripple me and I can’t even walk, most people understand that to an extent, they understand physical pain. But what’s worse than that, is the mental pain. I have two mental health disorders that are lifelong and crippling. Some days I can’t leave my house, no one understands that pain though.
No one understands how I see everyone as an enemy because I know one they’ll hurt me or worse yet, I’ll hurt them. No one understands how I tend to instantly love people and quick to make someone my best friend but don’t feel loved by anyone no matter how much it’s shown because I feel I don’t deserve it. They don’t understand how I hold someone to such a high spectacular light but if they hurt me in a typical human way, it hurts me like I’ve had my world torn apart. No one understands how people scare me so much that it’s an intense crippling fear but I hate being alone with myself even more. No one understands mental health unless you’ve been there and somehow survived or surviving it.
Sometimes, I see it as my superpower, some aspects of my mental health helps me feel other people’s emotions and empathise greatly, but that has led me to be walked all over. When I was younger, I rarely stuck up to bullies because I always felt they must be bullying for a reason and if it helps them then I’m happy being a punch bag and I’m glad it’s me instead of someone else going through it. Sometimes, I feel invincible and that I can accomplish anything. Most times, I’m scared to go outside the house and have human contact. I’ve never looked in the mirror longer than five seconds as I hate the person looking back at me.
I’ve never openly talked about my mental health before. I’ve always been shunned and told to hide that part of myself if I want to succeed in society. But why would I want to be part of a society that shuns what makes me me.
Let me paint a slight picture of an experience I’ve had. I was signed to a music record label, and living my dream. That idealistic image soon changed. I was a vulnerable naive 18-year-old who wanted to please and be liked especially after what I went through as a teen. The record label somewhat sensed that. They told me they loved me. They told me I was going to become a star and live my dream. A few months later, that soon changed. The label owner, who previously told me he loved me for who I was, called me “fat” and “disgusting”. I was a size 8 and weighed less than 9 stone, but I was curvy.
Apparently I was unattractive. The label, when I was with them, soon denied me food. They made me go on a diet that was no more than 800 calories a day with two hours of gym-time each day. I agreed. The 10 year old me who started to suffer anorexia and bulimia for many years soon came crawling back out. I believed what they said because I heard it so many times before. All I wanted was to be liked and live my dream. I soon, of course, became ill.
Things soon took a more evil turn. If that was possible. I was spiked on a label night out and instead of helping me or taking me to hospital, I was taken into a room and told it was my fault and I was a “tease” and needed to obey what they told me. I started to get scared. My already diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was getting worse. But still I wanted to live my dream and I was, but with a price.
The group I was signed with soon turned on me. They hated the fact I got the most attention from fans and interviewers and was dubbed the next Debbie Harry. That was when my mental health further deteriorated. A fine example to further paint this image was when we were on tour and I found out a friend I went to school with had died. I was saddened, as anyone would be, especially because it was through their own hand. Two members of the group decided this would be the perfect time to go against me even more and bully me further. I soon cracked. The label owner got on the phone to us but I was too distraught to talk. A member of the group decided to call me an attention seeker all because my mental health was not doing well and grief had struck me.
Things only got worse from there, as did my mental health, which lead to me developing stomach ulcers which decided to burst just before I went on stage. I vomited blood and was severely ill but as Freddie Mercury said, the show must go on. After the gig, the label refused to take me to hospital, thankfully my mother was there and she did just that. When I left hospital I got a phone call to tell me I was being dropped from the label as they had found out about my mental health problems and I was “too sensitive”. My world had shattered. My life felt like it was over and my dreams had been stolen from me. I know first-hand just how cruel mental health stigma is and that’s not even the worse I have faced.
I’ve pondered long and hard about writing this but as I see that this stigma, this hatred toward people with mental health difficulties isn’t ending, I feel more than ever, this needs to end. This needs to stop. I always felt one of the worst part about my mental health disorders is the prejudice and the hatred that comes with speaking about it or even saying what they are.
I personally feel, more awareness, more I guess education is needed about the psychological impact of mental health especially from the social stigma. The truth needs addressing and the world needs reshaping one piece at a time. I hope that those in the psychology field can help with this education and gathering to end stigma against mental health. If me sharing a part of my mental health battles raises one person’s attention then I’m glad I’ve exposed my vulnerability.
If the world had shown people with mental health an understanding hand, then maybe we wouldn’t lose so many precious lives or having people feel outcast by society. That’s not the world you nor I live in. But one day; one precious day in the future, it could be. It should be.
Rebecca Jane Lapping has dedicated her life to helping those with mental health difficulties. She is currently studying psychology, where her current research is on the social constructs of sexual violence. She aims to become a Clinical Forensic Psychologist in the near future. Her passions are psychology, music and film where she has gained a great amount of experience in each. You can connect with her on Twitter @BexLapping or find out more about her on her website.