Mental Health is such an important subject for me and one that I hold very very close to my heart.
I am a huge believer in sharing experiences, being open and talking about mental health issues as much as possible to not only banish stigma but to help others who maybe suffering.
I’m also a huge YA fan and honestly believe that a particular book can change a persons life or outlook on life completely.
So I felt so honoured when I was asked by a very good friend of mine if I would feature a post on their personal mental health journey and how seeing themselves in YA helped them.
My friend has asked to stay anonymous for this post. I am so hugely hugely proud of them for writing this brilliant honest piece and for being so amazingly amazing always!
YA and Anxiety; How Seeing Myself Helped Me
My anxiety has always been there. For as long as I can remember, there’s been a voice in my head telling me ‘people don’t like you, they just tolerate you’. It reminds me of stupid things I’ve done, even at times when I’ve otherwise had a good night. I like to think I cover it up well a lot of the time – when I talked to some close friends about it a week or so ago, one of them was really surprised as they thought of me as a social person.
And I think in many ways I AM a social person. I love spending time with my friends, I’m lucky to know a lot of amazing people who I can go out with, and the me of my teen years who spent most of them socialising with perhaps one or two other people would barely recognise me now.
But recently; certainly over the last few months, the anxiety has gotten worse. It’s hit the stage where I convince myself that people talking to me are only doing so to be polite. Where if I text someone the day after I’ve seen them and they don’t text me back, I immediately assume I’ve offended them. Where I have to film myself locking my front door so that I can play it back if I panic in the middle of the day and think I’ve left in unlocked.
So I finally decided to do something about it. I saw a counsellor several years ago and the experience put me off; I don’t think we were a good fit. I have always avoided anti depressants because I’ve been worried about them changing my brain. (CLEARLY, it is working so brilliantly well at the moment, after all!)
But despite this, I made an appointment on Monday morning to see a doctor. (Shout out to the NHS, by the way – from the initial phone call requesting to see someone ‘especially interested in mental health’ to the actual appointment took less than two and a half hours!) The doctor, who was seriously lovely, said he’d refer me for therapy and asked if is considered antidepressants. I nodded, and said I’d like to try them. They’re not working yet (which is fine; he made it clear that they WOULD take some time and that things might get worse to start off with) but having actually taken the first step to seeking help has made me feel at least a little better.
So what pushed me into that step? I had two conversations with friends who advised me to go for it after I asked them if they thought I should, but it was mainly reading YA novels that got me to that point. In particular, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, Am I Normal Yet? and Under Rose-Tainted Skies stunned me by showing therapy and medication positively where so many portrayals I’d seen in the past didn’t do so. Seeing characters deal with their issues in such a realistic way has helped me realise it can be done. (And as well, it’s reinforced that it ISN’T something I can expect to work straight away. I know there’s no quick fix here – but I also know there IS a fix.)
I’m not in the target audience for those books. I read a lot of YA, but I’ve been out of my teens a while. But they helped me so, so much. If I hadn’t read them, would I have decided to see somebody anyway? Possibly – I have a lot of advantages; a supportive family who know I’ve struggled in the past, a great group of friends who are sympathetic towards mental health issues, and I’ve also read brilliant posts like these on Safe Space about mental health.
But reading books like these and seeing my own issues reflected in them definitely helped to speed up my decision making, at the very least. For people who have less support, I can only try to imagine just how vital these books must be.
So I wrote this post to say ‘thank you’. Patrick Ness, Holly Bourne, Louise Gornall – thank you for your books and for everything else you’ve done to promote good mental health. Thank you for showing me part of myself that I really needed to see. And to Walker, Usborne, and Chicken House, thank you for publishing these books, for pushing them at bloggers, and for shouting about their brilliance!
A huge huge thank you to my friend for being so honest. I am completely full of admiration and so very proud. It’s amazing to hear how books, friendship and support can really make a difference!
I really believe that the more we talk about mental health the more together we can crush the stigmas attached, become more aware of mental health and of course give people the courage they need to confide in people and get any help they may need without the fear of stigma!
Below are some links to websites talking about anxiety and offering help and support. They’re all very helpful and most include helplines/online help within them.
Have any books helped you with any mental health issues? What books would you recommend for anyone looking for good mental health representation? I would love to hear from you! Why not leave a comment by clicking the reply button at the top of this page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy