Author T.J. Hamilton.
Author T.J. Hamilton.

Turning illness to art for mental health week

THIS week is Mental Health Week across the nation. I thought it was only fitting to write about a mental illness that I've been managing for years.

I've never publicly spoken about my battle with my disorder before, but I hope that my candidness may help others in understanding that even when people appear okay on the outside, they might be fighting some demons, on the inside.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, along with a whole range of other side effects such as anxiety and depression, insomnia and the list goes on.

I began my writing journey only 12 months into my treatment. It's quite common for doctors to suggest writing as a form of therapy, and I did just that.

For the most part, I am highly functioning and have managed to channel my illness into my work as an author.

In a lot of ways - and through lots of therapy - I've been able to understand that the way my brain works can actually help me to do what I do.

But it's my bad days that are exceptionally bad. My brain likes to lie to me; it goes all 'Chicken Little' and tells me that the sky is falling.

I'm still learning how to deal with those days, and am thankful that my family are there to catch me. I've only just taught myself to extend that support beyond my immediate family and doctors, and have recently spoken to friends about it.

Before now, I've felt like my issues were a burden, and I loathe sympathy, so I've kept them to myself.

I realise now just how important it is to allow people to help. I have witnessed too many suicides to remember all of them, so I don't want my life to end as a sad statistic.

There are parts of my disorder that I will probably never understand such as - I do better in a crowd than on my own; I work great in high-pressure situations, and don't cope so well with nothing to do. I've also understood the times and places where I'm more prone to triggers, so I feel better prepared for those moments.

I recently thought I could manage my disorder on my own, and attempted to go solo without the aid of health care professionals, but I've had to be frank with myself and accept that this is bigger than me.

So I am back in the patient's chair, and finding ways to better manage my interesting, and sometimes strange brain.

It's important to recognise when I need help, because I could quite easily shut down from those around me.

But I know if I do that, my problem isn't going to get better. It's also really important for family members , to recognise when someone is not dealing with relatively simple things. It's a lot harder to ask for help than you would realise.

What Mental Health Week means for people like me, is to get things out in the open, to discuss and normalise these illnesses, to understand that I'm going to have bad days, and that's okay; because bad days don't last forever.