Problem

problem Problem

In life there are many problems, sometimes they seem to fall from the sky and sprout from the ground and divide and multiply until they cover everything in a big problem-y tangle. We all have those days or weeks or years when everything seems to go a bit wrong and no matter how many solutions you dream up the problem remains, steadfast and mocking.

The days when you realise you have run out of nappies at the exact same second that one is ceremoniously filled, when you spill red wine on your new top or miss the bus or forget to send an important email or the boiler breaks. All pain in the ass, tooth grinding problems, thankfully all with solutions of some kind.

Last night as I snuggled under the blanket in front of One Born Every Minute my pertinent problem was that I couldn’t write the post that I had planned to because my camera batteries have run out, and, erm, no one tell the husband, but the charger may be broken. Thanks to my newly discovered ‘no problem’ attitude I threw my blogging plans to the wind and ate chocolate and welled up at all the labours and births and tiny babies.

When the final advert break rolled my problem was that I couldn’t be bothered to move as far as the kitchen to get a cup of tea. So I didn’t bother. One advert made me pay attention, mainly because there was an absence of the usual whoompwhoompwhoomp bass line thud and bright, flashy colours that normally flood the room when people try to sell us stuff.

Ah, I thought, the new Time To Change advert. One I’ve managed to miss since it aired for the first time the other day – which is shocking really, given my vested interest and the fact that I am known to zone out come 7:30pm and spend my evenings lit by the warm, flickering glow of the TV.

The whole Time To Change ethos is something that I wholeheartedly agree with although not necessarily something that I purport to know all that much about. From what I do know, they exist to make efforts to break down the stigma or taboo or whatever you want to call it that surrounds mental illness in a very big and very real way.

Mental illness should be spoken about, I think, it shouldn’t be something that sufferers have to squirrel away and pretend isn’t real. It’s an area that needs to be brought out into the public domain in a positive way – if there is such a thing – to bred understanding and support from the fear and misconceptions that exist.

I like to think of myself as pretty open and honest, I would always be happy to talk to anyone about my experiences with my own mental illness if I was asked to, but saying that I would never introduce myself all ‘Hi, I’m Clara. I like Party Rings and I’m a bit maaaaaaaaaaaad’ firstly because I hate (hatehatehate) the use of the word mad (or crazy or insane or doolally or bonkers or mental or…) but most importantly because I am not an illness, I’m a person and a personality and hopes and dreams and dislikes and interests far bigger than any illness could ever be.

So yeah, lets talk and lets be open in the hope that more and more will understand and care will improve and discrimination will end and all the rest of it. For this ambition, I am whooping and cheering all the way for Time To Change.

But…

I might be wrong here but I imagine that anything, absolutely anything, released into the public arena by any charity or organisation working to change the perception of mental illness is scrupulously checked and double checked and rewritten and reworked and tonnes of other things so that by the time the finished product reaches our blanket wrapped, TV zombified selves it in no way accidentally portrays an image of wooohooo guys we’re all flipping crazy but it’s ok, you can still talk to us, we don’t bite. And for the most part, it does. But I have one little problem.

…when I found out that my son had a mental health problem

…my daughter had a mental health problem

…my friend had a mental health problem

What is wrong with mental illness? Does that not do the job perfectly in summing up what is, in fact, an illness?

It’s funny – the husband and I were watching the news earlier and in a(nother) piece about the snow a reporter was talking to the son of a elderly woman who was snowed in. This man suffered from a heart attack on Friday. Friday! It’s Wednesday lunch time and he’s sat at his kitchen table sipping a cup of tea and wearing a nice jumper. Until fairly recently a heart attack was fatal, people who suffer from a heart attack are not usually brewing up and having a chat in their chintzy kitchen a mere five days later.

Similarly cancer is no longer what it used to be. The research and the improvements and the advancements mean that so many cancers can be treatable now. All this is just amazing and both of these things are big, scary illnesses that are not uncommon, not unheard of and very much out there in the public arena.

But you’d never hear anyone say ‘I have a cancer problem’ or ‘I had a bit of a heart attack problem last Friday but I’m right as rain now…another tea?’ would you?

So why coin the phrase mental health problem? The opposite of health is ill health illness – tomayto tohmahto – doesn’t that do?

I honestly don’t think that I have a problem with my mental health. I know that I have a mental illness. Can’t we just call it what it is? Or is this just my problem?