Last week, I talked about the scars you don’t see. Those little wounds that we’ve incurred to our soul that form part and parcel of who we are. This week I want to look at another aspect of depression and anxiety that I’m finding seems to be common; what we don’t say.
I am one of those people who can talk and talk, I can rattle on and on about nothing at all. You’d think that it would mean I don’t have issues with talking about my feelings. You couldn’t be more wrong.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Yes, I know this is the infamous American Military policy for handling homosexuality within its ranks. The idiocy of the ‘stick your head in the sand and its doesn’t exist’ attitude astounds me. And yet in so many ways I do it too in regards to my own mental health. For a long time I have been resolutely adamant that I do not have anxiety; I only gave in and admitted that my depression had re-surfaced after I’d already let it deteriorate to the extent that self-harm had become an issue. I am stupidly stubborn that way.
What’s surprising is that I am not alone in this. Even people I know who have had long-term issues with depression seem to wait until things get desperate before taking the trip to the doctor for help. But why? If you found a lump and suspected cancer you’d go to the doctor as soon as possible, especially if you have had a tumor before. So why not for your mental health? Likewise you’d tell those you care about, even if only to ask their advice. Yet we don’t
Fear and Loathing
After talking to one of my friends, I realised there were commonalities that seem to hold people back . Fear of being stigmatised, prejudices about medication, judgement over relapsing and lack of understanding all were common factors. Combine all that with crippling self-doubt, low self-esteem and self-hatred and it’s no wonder our lips remain sealed! The list of ‘what we don’t say’ mounts up, begins to cripple us mentally and add to the feelings of self-loathing.
One outlet that does seem to work for sufferers is social media. Yes, social media can have it evils too for sufferers. (check out Alex’s post on Social media) But I do find it heartening how many people are incredibly supportive to each other on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe it’s the anonymity of being behind a keyboard, but the barriers come down and we’ve found that people are able to share their stories, give and gain advice and find a sense of community.
This is all wonderful and I fully support it. In modern times there is precious little community to be found. We don’t know our neighbours, families are more spread out, everyone is just so busy. The amount of times I and Alex have heard the comment ‘people have lives, they’re too busy’ from people trying to excuse their lack of support in the real world is ridiculous. Too busy to send a text? Not likely. I get tired of the onus that’s placed on sufferers to always reach out first.
The Flip Side
But it also cuts both ways. I am as guilty of this as anyone. There is the constant struggle to admit what is going on with me to those I care about. I fear that look in their eyes, I fear their rejection more than those I can talk to online. It will hurt in a way that is more brutal than I could bear. A stranger on-line can be simply un-followed or blocked. A friend, a loved one that you see every day? That’s just not so easy. It’s why I probably don’t always say what I mean.
Too many times I’ve put myself out there and found I’ve ended up crushed. The internal scars I bear from a long-term controlling relationship have already made me want to retreat and hide. Years of being made to feel unworthy and useless have left their mark. And the last time I opened my heart to someone, the rejection sent me spinning off into the darkness so deeply it nearly claimed me permanently. It just validated everything I’d been told all those years. I WAS useless, undesirable and stupid for believing that anyone could or would love me. So I typed the word ‘bye’, locked the bathroom door and put the blade to my wrist.
What We Don’t Say Can’t Hurt Us
Now, none of this is to make anyone feel guilty or bad. I certainly don’t want your pity. There are times when I feel that pull into the darkness again. (I’m battling it now as I write this, the pervasive thought has been nagging so much my head hurts) But I wanted to give you an idea of why. Why I, and others can’t open up. The scars of what has happened to us before make it difficult to talk, to be frank about how we feel. Combine that with the fears and stigma we face because of our mental health, we become gagged.
All I can say is that, for both sides, supporters and sufferers alike, we have to keep trying. Keep talking. Try and speak the words we don’t say. By whatever medium works, because it could save a life.
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