There must be something strange in the water coolers within newspaper offices in February each year. This time last year we were treated to Rod Liddle’s terrible views on hidden illnesses such as fibromyalgia. I wrote a strongly worded reply to that article but as it was an English published newspaper it appeared in I didn’t forward my response to the editor. Eilis O’Hanlon is not going to be so lucky this year.
I have attached a link to her piece, titled ‘It’s too mental right now’, below. I definitely don’t want to redistribute her views but I wanted everyone to know that the quotes I pick out to take apart are in fact real. I read with incredulity yesterday and waited and waited for either the punch line or for her to dismiss her views as a piece of ill-advised sarcasm.
As I say I wrote the letter to Rod Liddle in Dear Mr. Liddle but didn’t send it. I obviously should have, as I had the support of plenty of people and it continues to be the most viewed post I’ve written. So its time to get writing again, I only posted the other day and my fibro has me a bit tired today but this can’t wait as I’m so upset and I always feel better striking while the iron is hot.
Dear Ms. O’Hanlon,
It was with great disappointment I read your piece (attached below), published on Sunday February 17th. I read the Sunday Independent every week and I always begin by re-editing the paper for myself. The main section and sports section will be read so I leave them aside. Beginning with the brochure of a retailers weekly offers and moving through the business section, the living section and the magazine. This usually only takes a couple of minutes as I mark any articles I’ll come back to having read the main and sports sections.
This did not happen yesterday.
The headline and by-line piqued my interest and with that I found myself reading your article immediately without leaving it for later. I’m struggling a lot with depression and anxiety at the moment and many of the symptoms I’m experiencing would come under the broad tag of mental health. Personally to be in such a dark place, consumed with fear both of the future and what I may do at my lowest ebb, and read that when you contemplate your retirement you can only say; “I just want to have a nervous breakdown”, leaves me feeling your comments are facetious at best or just downright insulting and inappropriate.
Maybe you feel that in provoking a response from me and others that your article is a success, if you do then enjoy your moment in the sun. I meanwhile have spent nearly two years off work dealing with fibromyalgia, numerous other conditions and quite severe depression. You see I wasn’t lucky enough for it to last only 6 months, I will most likely be dealing with these issues all my life but apparently the only way my recovery can be viewed as successful is when I “dip a toe back into the land of adult responsibility”. Adult responsibility obviously doesn’t include facing up to a mental health issue, asking for the help needed and finding some relief from mental torture while also maintaining a home, paying bills and getting up every morning despite the fact there are days when I would gladly let my depression win.
Just to clear some other things up; I don’t enjoy “plenty of long lie-ins” as my sleep apnoea means I struggle to sleep more than a couple of hours each night. I don’t enjoy “sitting on the couch for hours at a time” as doing anything repetitive like that is off-limits as if I sit/lie down too much I get stiff and if I walk too much I get fatigued. In fact I can’t remember the last time I had no pain and that can be mental as well as physical. Oh and while we’re on it, I don’t eat chocolate cake for two reasons. Firstly, my Irritable Bowel Disease doesn’t like processed food and secondly, when I really lack confidence and am suffering with my depression do you really think I could eat cake without beating myself up for the extra weight I would put on as, like I said above, I get fatigued walking and so can’t train it off?
I rely on benefits to continue paying my mortgage but I have not missed one payment ever. Yes it’s true I’m not working at the moment but I don’t enjoy being this way and certainly don’t see it as a lifestyle choice. My teary, irritable, angry, frustrated, sad, overwhelmed person is just not ready for a workplace at the moment.
I never did “swoon elegantly”, I did have some awful seizures brought on by depression and anxiety. The fact you dismiss the possibility of being affected by mental illness because “the children would only proceed to ignore it anyway” is a terrible insult to the many people I have met with varying degrees of mental health issues who continue to fight their various demons while raising a family, running a home or even those trying to avoid intentionally hurting themselves just to feel something.
My intention is to get through my mental health issues as well as my fibromyalgia etc. and anyone who has encountered me will know that, despite the fact I’m in a very dark place and face a daily struggle to go on, “throwing in the towel” is not an option I have taken. Fair play to you taking some time for yourself and switching off at times but do you have to call it a “pity party”?
If you have been lucky enough not to experience a family member or friend suffering with mental health issues then you are indeed very lucky. Because it is only someone completely innocent of these issues who could say that before they “drop out of life for the day” they “have to make sure that the other one has landed safely on the other side of Neurotic Bay before taking off on an excursion (themselves)”.
I imagine you feel that by saying “a full-time nervous breakdown has had to be put on my to-do list for the future, along with……………….trying hard to stop being such a sarcastic, unfeeling cow.” exonerates you from responsibility for your words. Excuse my french but that is bullshit! Somebody struggling with their mental health never needs much to be drawn back into a well of difficulty and despair. I was right on the edge yesterday and thankfully I made the right choice but imagine I hadn’t. I hope that having spoken about my upset at your article yesterday, my friends and family would realise the part that your inappropriate and bullying piece about people who “have instant permission to be as wrapped up in (their) own little world as (they) want” played in that decision.
Words have the ability to carry huge weight and this is especially true when those words are aimed at a group of people who are already in turmoil and struggling to cope. It’s important to be careful with the words, language and tone that are used in any article. I’m so disappointed in this piece below and my thoughts are with anyone else struggling at this time with their mental health.
Just before I go, does anyone have any idea how to get across Neurotic Bay? I didn’t realise all I had to do was get safely to the other side and I’d be well again.