Something struck me the other day. It was just a little thought, but it has stayed with me. I hope you don’t mind me launching straight into a personal story here. After all, we’ve only just met, but please bear with me. I do have a point that I’m hoping will resonate with you.
I had been losing sleep worrying. We were just back from our holidays, we’d done the big Christmas thing, and I’d overspent a bit. By a bit, I mean of course I’d completely blown the budget. Big time. I lost three night’s sleep worrying about this. Seriously! I’m a psychologist, you’d think I’d know better. You’d think I’d have the perfect solution to sleepless nights. You’d think. Trouble is, I’m also human.
We all do it, don’t we? Worry. We know worrying doesn’t actually change anything, but we still do it. We know things always seem worse in the middle of the night, but still we let it eat at us as we lie awake in the dark. We know other people have far graver problems than ours, and still we can’t shake this awful gnawing worry. And here’s the flip side – we know asking for help will make us feel better. But we don’t. Instead we worry. Why is that?
We want to be seen to be competent. We want to feel that we’ve got it all together. We don’t like to admit that we’re not actually all that perfect, especially when it comes to adulting. In my position as a mental health professional and a leader, the burden feels especially heavy sometimes. Like many in my field, there is a real stigma around asking for help. Many business owners feel the same. Parents, teachers, too. We worry that by asking for help we are showing weakness. We worry that others will judge us harshly. We ask ourselves in the middle of the night: “Will it all come crashing down if I ask for help?” [Hint: Of course not.]
So after three night’s worth of worry, what did I do? What helped for me? I talked to someone. So simple. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Here I was, Dr Tess Crawley, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, clinic director, general know-it-all and bossy-boots, worried about blowing the budget and too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. Instead I let myself worry and lose three nights’ sleep. What a silly situation! I talked to my husband, we came up with a plan, and hey presto! Sleep returned.
I know something like this has happened to you. You might be worried about an exam and too afraid to ask for help in case you look like you’re a poor student. You might be so worried about rejection that you don’t ask your favourite girl on a date. Or you might be having flashbacks about a serious car crash you were in five years ago, but you’re too scared to tell your doctor in case she thinks you’re crazy and takes your kids off you.
No matter how big or how small our difficulties are in life, they will always seem larger and louder if we keep them locked up in our own minds. Have you ever heard the saying “A problem shared is a problem halved”? By talking about what troubles us, big and small, we get that worry out of our own heads and out into the open. Even just hearing the words come out of our own mouths can help us sort through our thoughts a bit more coherently.
The Stigma Rebellion is all about encouraging people to talk more. About their lived experience, their worries, their human frailties. Talk about what works, what doesn’t work. Talk about it being okay to ask for help. Ask questions. Share ideas. Be a Stigma Rebel and don’t be afraid to talk about this stuff! The Stigma Rebellion is intended to be a safe place for exploration and discussion.
I too often hear people say “But what if I don’t have anyone to talk to?” or “My family are sick of hearing about my worries.” Don’t let fear of what others think (hello stigma!) stop you from seeking a listening ear. Call a helpline, talk to your doctor, write a blog, see a mental health professional. Or hey, take a risk and talk to a friend or family member, don’t assume they’re not interested in what you have to say.
And if you really want to be a Stigma Rebel, you’ll encourage others to talk and share more too. Start small by sharing mental health posts that interest you on social media. Just because an article about postnatal depression interested you, it doesn’t mean you have it! If it interested you, who knows how many of your friends might be interested in it too? And who knows how many of those friends might be suffering in silence? That article could be the one thing that encourages someone to seek help. Be a Stigma Rebel. Share that thing!
So, my friends, welcome to The Stigma Rebellion. I’m glad to have you here with me. Thanks for listening, and thanks (in advance) for talking.