It goes without saying that many people who suffer with IBD, suffer from poor mental health too. There can be many reasons for this, so it cannot just be pinpointed to one thing. As we know, no two people who have IBD will have the same experiences, it is unique to the patient – so in turn, this means people who have IBD won’t experience the same journey with their mental health too.
IBD aside, people suffering from poor mental health is more common than we think. Here are a couple of statistics taken from Mind.
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
The overall amount of people who suffer from a mental health issue has not increased dramatically, but things like money and jobs can have a drastic effect. It appears the way people cope with poor mental health is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
One thing that does surprise me, is the amount of men in the UK and worldwide who do suffer with poor mental health but tend to bottle it up. In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male. 75%! Clearly, any suicide percentage is awful, but what can be done to intervene with the majority of men feeling the only way to deal with the issues they are facing is suicide?
A quote taken from MindJournals – A journal designed specifically for guys – ‘Times are changing for guys. Roles have shifted yet stereotypical expectations remain the same. An inspiring conversation has emerged in recent years, that aims to tackle the issues we face. However, it’s focused on exactly that — talking. And whilst this might help many, it might not help the few that can’t, won’t or don’t know how to.’
Men, including myself, don’t talk enough, if at all. About anything that may be bothering them. As mentioned, the expectations of men have remained the same for years. But why? Why do men have to portray as being ‘masculine’ or ‘tough’? Why arent men expected to suffer just as much? Why is there such a stigma in 2019 of men being looked at as ‘less of a man’ for suffering from a mental health issue like anxiety or depression?
Admittedly, this was me until very recently. It seems like for years I have bottled things up for a long time until November 2018. Now without going into details, a lot of things got on top of me from all aspects of my life. Nothing in particular was wrong, but on the other hand it was everything. One day at work I had a series of anxiety attacks, to which I have never suffered from before. I constantly felt like there was something about to go seriously wrong. You know that feeling when you were a kid and you’ve really done something wrong, and you get found out. Hearing your parents bellow from downstairs for you and the feeling of dread you get in the pit of your stomach? That’s exactly how I felt but it was permanent. Nothing would shift it. I was a complete recluse. I took the week off work and went back to stay with my parents and tried to carry on as normal, but no matter what I did I just felt awful. I remember trying to go into a pub with a friend which we normally go to, but I couldn’t stay. Although it wasnt busy, there were too many people around and I felt like the world was caving in on me. I was put on medication and things started to calm down thankfully. I managed to return to work and things settled. Thats the strange thing, my issues went as quickly as they came – and they continue to do so.
A month ago, everything hit me again. Out of nowhere, but this time it was much worse. The feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness and hopelessness came, again which I had never suffered from before. I didn’t talk, to anyone. I kept a smile on my face and just carried on. No one would have ever known what was going through my head. You may find yourself at work, talking to your colleagues and you may never guess if they were suffering from poor mental health. My black cloud got bigger and bigger, and it felt like there was no way out; and yes, suicide did cross my mind, quite a few times – and there is no shame in admitting that. I knew something had to be done and fast. I’m lucky enough to have private medical insurance through my work, so I called them, I was triaged over the phone and the next week I had an appointment booked with a psychiatrist for cognitive behavioural therapy. I’ve had 2 sessions now and things seem to be getting better. The first session was horrendous, but only because I had to spill my guts to someone I didn’t know about everything that was going on in my head, but then it was gone, it was out in the open and not just in my head anymore. My therapist suggested I start a journal, so I can write down what had happened that day and how I felt, so we could go through it together. Writing has been proven to be therapeutic for ones mental health, and once you start you can find it hard to stop.
I bought a journal from MindJournal, a journal that is built specifically for guys and is laid out so it asks you to evaluate certain areas of your life for the first 30 days. I’ve been ‘journalling’ now for about a week and I can feel it has had a positive impact on me. Thoughts don’t circle around in my head while I’m in bed, once they are written down I forget about them.
While my poor mental health doesn’t specifically relate to my IBD, my IBD does play its part. The symptoms I experience always have me questioning myself…
If I didn’t have Crohn’s, would I be able to do…
If I didn’t have Crohn’s, I’d be able to get that job…
If I didn’t have Crohn’s. I’d be able to spontaniously go out…
Everything plays it’s part. Everything has its own effect, and some people can cope a lot easier than others. I was one of those people. Now, I am not. There is zero shame in suffering from a mental health condition, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
We all need to learn to speak about things more. Find that person you trust, let them know you are suffering. The saying is true, a problem shared is a problem halved, and if we can get more people to speak out, the more people would be able to learn to cope with their illness.
Thanks for reading.