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Abi's mental health story

Mental Health Story: Stigma Lingers by Abigail Mc Donnell

‘My name is Abigail. I am a 24 year old from Dublin, Ireland and I have anxiety and depression.’…is not usually how I introduce myself. In fact, since moving country and starting a new chapter in my life, I find myself more cautious in even mentioning my struggles.

But let’s take it back a bit. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression at age 17 and have been experiencing the two in some way shape or form ever since. Through my advocacy with

depressed girl

organizations such as See Change, Jigsaw and Shona.ie, I’ve actually been very open about my journey. I use social media to hopefully inspire others about being more open about mental health in order to break the ever dangerous stigma that surrounds it. I have given talks and presentations and have even made videos about the struggles I face and I honestly have found it quite therapeutic to do so. The more I’ve talked about my journey, the less I’ve cared about what others may think when they hear my struggles. I’ve realized that actually a lot of people can relate to my
experiences and have found some sort of solace through me speaking out. Any chance I get to share my story I take and I’m honoured to be able to do so. I often think that others who know me would immediately think of my advocacy when they would think of me, because well, I tend to talk about mental health a lot. It really is a passion of mine.

Social MediaThis year, I spent some time as an inpatient as lockdown and life just got a bit too much for me. During this time I realised that I needed to make some big changes if I wanted to get better. This meant; slowing down, focusing more on myself and relaxation and working less to care what others think of me. So I made some big changes. I quit my job and applied for a job in Valencia, which luckily I got. I packed my bags and was over in Spain less than a month after I was discharged. Starting over is definitely scary but I am so happy I made the move. One thing that I have noticed here is my wariness about sharing my story again. Even though at home I was so open and vulnerable, here in Spain starting over, I feel cautious. When meeting new people I am always slightly worried that they will go through my instagram and see my posts about my struggles and therefore not want to associate themselves with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ashamed about my journey but a part of me still believes in the stigma that is out there. A part of me still takes that societal stigma and turns it into self stigma.

Considering I am a person who is still very open about my mental health, I cannot imagine the self stigma one may face if they are not as open. For me to still experience this self
stigma is strange and can be so difficult after all that I’ve been through. Being wary to share this part of my life also brings up a lot of questions for me that I’ve been overplaying in my mind. Is it wrong for me to hide this part of me? Am I pretending to be someone I’m not? Am I an imposter? The answer of course is no, of course not. It is not my fault that I have been affected by this
huge societal stigma regarding mental health difficulties. I have been through so much and just because I have been doesn’t mean I need to carry it around with me 24/7. Yes I have struggled, yes I have fallen and nearly given up but that does not define me. And I am so much more than what I have been through. I’m not saying I’m going to hide my journey, I’m not ashamed of it but I’ve realised it is not all who I am. Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward.

For now, I’m still growing and still learning about myself. If I need to take things slow and one step at a time so be it. My passion is being a true mental health advocate and I can choose what way I want to do that. I want to help break the stigma and normalise the conversation in the most casual of ways.
And when I feel like it, maybe I’ll share my story to more people, because it’s mine and I can choose what I do with it.

These stories are not treatment advice. Every story is unique and the writers speak only for themselves, including what worked or didn’t work for them. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you are concerned about symptoms you experience or if you would like to explore different treatment option.

By Abigail McDonnell Content Professional, Mental Health Advocate and Ambassador for See Change 

Abigail McDonnell

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