I should be used to the question by now… ‘So why do you want to be a mental health nurse?’
I usually witter for a few minutes about reassessing my life and career after I had a spell being unwell after having my little girl. I never offer the information but if I’m pushed I have been known to admit that I had post natal depression. I hate that word ‘admit’ like I am guilty of something. I have no guilt or shame over my mental health and have spoken openly about it for years but being used to assumptions made often by people who should know better I usually stay quiet in a new workplace. Once people get to know me and respect me for who I am and what I am capable of I am more than willing to be open.
I have no issue with people asking questions, even if those questions are often borne of nosiness, it’s all about educating people and showing that I am a highly functioning woman with much more to define me than my mental health. What I hate with a passion though is those who tilt their head to one side and offer pity, it reminds me just how many people do not have hope that recovery from mental illness is in fact possible.
The other thing which for very similar reasons I am also slow to disclose is the experiences which made me who I am today. I was sexually abused from the age of seven which stopped as quickly as it started when he realised he had gone too far by raping me when I was nine. He told me he was doing a favour for my father as all little girls need breaking in. I am fairly sure my father had no idea this was occurring.
If the concept of hope for those with mental illness is lost by society I can assure you that the idea of hope for those people who’s childhood meant being brutally violated is incomprehensible to most. The head tilt is even more common as an ailment to those people listening to a disclosure. I have been fortunate in that when I have told people the head tilt is the worst reaction I have received, given that I always anticipated disgust I can live with the head tilt as I accept it is made with the best of intentions often for lack of a more appropriate reaction. Most people are fortunate enough to be able to reside in a world where abuse does not seem a reality, where they are not comfortable discussing such things. If you are ever in that position please know that is ok, it’s good that you have never had to practice that conversation in your head, survivors are pleased you have no experience of such horrors.
I started writing this post last night and was pretty much prepared for being asked why I had chosen a career in mental health whilst on placement, only to be taken by surprise today when I was asked if I would consider having more children.
I would never lie to anyone, I abhor lies so I took a deep breath and told her that I had spent five months on a locked psychiatric unit following the birth of my daughter. Of course she didn’t judge, not just because she is a mental health nurse or because post natal depression is more socially acceptable than other mental illness but because she is a lovely person. I don’t know why I worry so much about being judged, maybe it is more my own insecurities than my experiences?
Maybe over time I will open up and tell people straight away about myself although I do like people to get to know me first. Maybe it’s just the stiff upper lip of being British and not wanting to air my dirty linen who knows but please believe me when I tell you that it’s because of privacy and a want to be accepted rather than shame. I am not ashamed of being a survivor I’m proud of how well adjusted I am considering the hurdles I have jumped!