"Having a great intellect is no path to being happy" - Stephen Fry

My name is Rhiannon Topham. I am 18 years old and I have alexithymia (meaning I find great difficulty identifying emotions, talking about how I'm feeling and opening up in general) and I have extreme anxiety. I'm prone to panic attacks, feel incredibly awkward around new people and in foreign surroundings that aren't within my usual obsessively neat and organised paradigm, and often feel like I'm missing out on opportunities to make friends and make an impact because the thoughts whirling around in my head cease to form utterances coherent enough to care about. If I feel threatened in any way I completely shut down, emotionally and physically. I've lost countless hours of sleep from staying awake thinking through scenarios that might happen, what would be the ramifications if they did, what would be the ramifications if they didn't, how that would affect me, how that would affect everyone else...

What I'm trying to say is that talking about my dysfunctions does not come easily to me, but I'm doing it because Time To Talk is an important campaign that aims to destroy representations that stigmatize mental illness, and highlight that this is a more common issue that we perhaps initially thought. Unless the world's media and education systems establish an image of mental illness as a serious problem that ruins people's lives on a rapidly increasing basis, things will continue to worsen.

For too long mental illness has been swept under the carpet, because it's fundamentally a psychology phenomenon and not a biological or overtly visible problem, so it's seldom prioritsed. But mental illnesses like depression and paranoia are all encompassing and can infringe on every aspect of a person's life; merely stepping out of the comfort of their bedroom can be overwhelming, sitting next to strangers on public transport is unfathomably painful to endure, and no matter who the other party is nothing they say to you sinks in and compliments are fabrications in order to humiliate you.

I know this because I've been there. I'm still there. But I know I'm not the only one, and that's why campaigns like Time To Talk are so important; because all people with mental health issues need is to be told they are not alone, that everything will be ok, that there is a shoulder to cry on should they need it and that they are worth more than the melancholy that is overcoming them.

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