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Five Mental Health Stereotypes We Place On Ourselves

When it comes to mental health stigma, we're like great big spongey things, soaking up all the negative vibes and holding them in the depths of our restless minds. But they don't just sit there quietly after giving your self esteem a good kicking do they?

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Got a Gremlin in your head?

Cheezburger / Via cheezburger.com

Like little Gremlins these stereotypes grow into bigger, nastier critters, they turn their attention directly to you, and you end up having a showdown in the toy store at Christmas circa 1984 (that last point's debatable - but I like that movie so the imagery stays). I guess what I'm trying to say is they're really bad for our mental health. They stop us seeking help, speaking out and finding peace.

The thing is we don't have to live with them. We don't have to feed them water and chicken wings and hide from them behind a blanket. Because when we look at them in the cold light of day, they're not really real, are they?

Here are five mental health stereotypes that I'm about to smash up. Don't look away - this won't hurt one little bit....

1. The Narcissist

Clara Berlinski / Via gifmeabreak.com

OK, so if Carly Simon sang 'You're so paranoid, I bet you think this song is about you' how many of us would be like, oh yeah...shit, how did she know?

People call Donald Trump a narcissist....without having met him...and that's....well that's pretty accurate I reckon...(disclaimer - that's not a professional diagnosis!)

But you, spending just as long as him looking in the mirror. Only you're desperate to find a half-decent angle and conceal your imperfect nose / little red mark / bumpy cellulite. Is that the same as a vanity trip?

Well no, it's not. Because the thought patterns aren't 'look at me, I'm so great' they're more, 'ugh, how can I take a decent selfie so that people don't mock me?'.

Of course, there's a heap of healthy stuff in the middle too - taking selfies because you feel good about yourself - and that's good for you. Why the hell not?

But there's a great big grand canyon between narcissism and anxiety or low self esteem. It's just that sometimes the behaviours look the same.

'I'm scared everyone is talking about me' is not the same as 'Come on, more people should be talking about the great wondrous giant orange thing that is me!'.

2. The Hypochondriac

South Park / Via comedycentral.com

Are you one of those annoying people who wastes the time of health professionals with made up nonsense about being sick? Are you so pre-occupied with it that you've spent yet another Friday night in the ER afraid you're about to be diagnosed with 'guaranteed imminent death', missing your favourite episode of Friends (I'm back in 1996 now..) and allowing your bottle of Chardonnay to go tepid among the wilting salad in your shopping bags (like I said, it's 1996, my taste buds have since developed, OK).

Thing is, you've every right to be there. You just haven't managed to properly diagnose yourself yet (that's not something we should be doing anyway), so you're asking the wrong questions.

It's not about 'how can I stop myself from succumbing to imminent death this Friday evening' it's about 'how can I free myself from the terrifying grips of panic disorder and health anxiety'.

It makes your life hell, so you've every right to seek help. Let's just hope that someone spots what the real problem is at some point soon. You don't want to miss next Friday's episode and the return of Janice 'oh my God' Litman next week (I'm thinking I should probably get out more at this point?)

3. The Party Animal

Sasha Svirsky / Via sashasvirsky.ru

There are some lucky people who go out on all night benders simply because they just love it!

Then there are others who do it because they can't afford not to.

That could be because they're so unhappy and restless that they can't sit at home. Or because they like going out but they're so socially anxious that they need the Sauvignon Blanc (it's the early 000s now, I'm improving) or a little snort of white confidence powder in order to spend time with other people.

And there are some people who are desperately running away from something, scared to stop still in case it comes back to bite them. They seek oblivion to protect them from reality.

Whatever the reason (apart from the very top one I mentioned - simply and purely loving it), loneliness may well be a driver for this seemingly reckless behaviour. I beg you, don't judge.

4. The Happy Pill Popper

Will Ferrell crazy pills / Via reddit.com

Firstly, they're not happy pills are they? You're hardly buzzing your tits off, monotonously moving in a trance like state to Armand van Helden are you?

If you had diabetes, you'd take meds. If you have thyroid problems, you'd take meds. Therefore you're absolutely entitled to do the same if your head is a bit poorly and a health professional recommends, and you agree, that it would be a useful part of your therapy.

Of course, it's not suitable for everyone, and it always has to be part of a much bigger picture (talking therapy, exercise, social support, diet, sleep, etc). But, if they work for you, then that's absolutely fine!

5. The Relapse

Black Sails / Via starz.com

One of the most important things I've learnt over the years (putting trigonometry and the works of Shakespeare in the dark - well, let's be honest, I never really learnt them anyway) is that there is a big difference between a relapse and a lapse.

Don't assume you're heading back to square one if your mental health suffers a set-back. You are not automatically destined to head directly back to crisis point.. Because even if you do experience a full blown relapse, you're not the person you were back then. You've learnt so much more about yourself, what works for you, what doesn't. You're on a journey. It might sometimes feel as bumpy as Indiana Jones' descent into the temple, but it doesn't have to be all doom. Do your best and pat yourself on the back for getting through it again. You're strong, and infinitely further forward than you think.

To read more on the above, and to kick a few more mental health stereotypes into shape, you can always give my book a read...A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes

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