For those who don't know, I work in customer service at a local business. Yesterday (August 3, 2017), I took advantage of an opportunity to crack open some of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses but also to help educate and encourage someone.
You see, one of my regular customers commented that he really appreciated that he never saw me in sour mood, and that I always seemed to be positive and enjoying my job.
That's when the lightbulb came on - so I asked him if he would be surprised if I struggled almost daily with depression to some degree and that I've battled suicidal thoughts within the last 2 years….his jaw dropping open was answer enough, as was the shocked expression on his face. He couldn't believe that someone could appear to be so upbeat and positive could also struggle with crushing thoughts that come with depression and anxiety. I admitted there were many, many days where it was a complete act - but that the last few months I have been relatively stable and doing better. I talked a little bit about my treatment and counselling. It was a risk to talk about it - it always is, thanks to the false ideas that people still hold about mental illnesses.
I'm glad I took the chance to open up that part of my life to him. You see, he had some ideas about what depression could be like, or what some of the aspects of it are, but he was so hungry for “insider information" as it were. He wasn't asking for himself…He was asking for someone that he has connections to. He wanted insights from “the inside" (as I call it) and ways to help this individual. I talked about a few of the online mental health communities I interact with, but mentioned in specific sicknotweak.com, because that's where I feel the most connected. I talked about The Daily Landsblog. What I didn't have a chance to talk about was why I talk about it.
I've said it before. I'll say it again. I'll talk about it if there's an opportunity. And I probably won't stop taking those opportunities for a long time. I do it for 2 reasons:
- Because there are way too many people out there like me who hide behind a smile and a damn convincing act that everything is normal. I talk about it so the general public realizes that there isn't a “look” to depression. That we are just normal people trying to survive life day-to-day with an invisible illness that most people don't fully understand, but they think they do
2) Because my mental illnesses are like a monster under the bed, like an unexpected noise in your quiet house, like a skeleton rattling its bones in your closet… It's noise, and the darkness and silence makes the noise seem even louder, and even scarier than it is. So by me talking about it, it's like me dragging the monster out from under the bed, and looking it in the eye. It's like turning on the lights in my place and the noise that scared me in the middle of the night was something quite ordinary and not someone coming to kill me. It's throwing open the closet doors, flooding the closet with light, and seeing that the skeleton that was making so much noise rapidly weakens when exposed to reality. In my mind, I see depression feeding on darkness, fear, isolation, and deception. By talking about mental illness in general, and my own experiences in specific, I'm effectively cutting off the very things that depression feeds off of.
I do it to educate others. I do it to free myself.
Fuck the stigma surrounding mental illness! The fear surrounding mental illnesses is killing people literally every day. I’m doing what I can to change that.