The Silence Is Killing Us
Yet mental illness is still the ultimate conversation stopper.
When my mother took her life in 2014, no one could understand why. Like others facing this harrowing form of loss, there are certain common threads in many of our stories like “she was so full of life,” or “he was so talented,” or “I never saw any signs of her struggling.” Some never uncover the answers as to why it happened and while I, too, don’t know the exact catalyst for her death there are some significant clues that point me in enough of a meaningful direction to finally speak out.
Nearly a year after my mother died I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and treated for a year thereafter with a combination of anti-anxiety medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Losing her so suddenly and violently led to my own breakdown.
After many months of sleepless nights, erratic emotions, sudden outrage, periods of self-medicating and days on end in deep despair, I thought I was losing my mind and the truth is, I was losing my mind.
However, interestingly enough there was still little conversation about how my mental health was impacting me. Most of the people closest to me just kept their distance and simply carried on.
Which brings me to the reason of why I am writing today. After long periods of isolation, of feeling misunderstood and often criticised, and therefore left feeling sad and angry about it, I finally have something to say.
Dear Family, Friends, and Strangers Alike,
Although I have kept silent about mental health in the family, I think it’s finally time to challenge our own views. We can even hold ourselves accountable for how we treat others and ourselves because I don’t fully understand why it is we do the things we do.
For example, please help me to understand how we turn away from our so-called loved ones in their marked hour of need? You know who you are, the family members who live down the road but distance yourselves when your brother’s barely coping, or your parents appear fragile, or your sister in-law brings suicide uncomfortably close to your home. Everyone might be struggling but you won’t even do so much as simply pick up the phone or send a brief text to ask, “How are you today?”
Or how about those who instead wear a mask of polite smiles and brief exchanges in small talk, willing to engage as long as we choose, so long as the conversation doesn’t go beyond the weather report or a hope for an early spring?
Or perhaps some of you don’t even bother to smile, opting instead to privately name, shame, or even blame the vulnerable, or me, for where we find ourselves in life. Fair play to you but why not have the courage then to politely say it to my face? In fact, I dare you. At least at that stage we’d be sharing how we truly feel and in being so transparent and provocative as it were, we could at least move forward because we would have finally come clean about where we actually stand.
I’m writing to you today because in truth, I think we really need to talk.
We need to talk about what happened in our past that scarred us so painfully and still has the power to scare us when we’re left alone. We need to talk about what’s happening before our very eyes, about the pressure that’s mounting at work and at home and the fear that often follows us deep into the night. We need to talk about our humanity and its link to our insanity because no one, irrespective of any long-held personal beliefs, ever was an island.
What happens to you will undoubtedly impact me just as much as it will the other way around. We need to talk about our far-reaching dreams for a meaningful today and our star-dusted, razor sharp or even “still to be determined” vision for a better tomorrow. You do believe in tomorrow, don’t you? Then how are we going to fight for it?
We are stronger if stand together and we need to talk about that, too.
There is too much we leave to chance when we ignore little lies about our mental health like, “it’s not an issue for me or anyone I know” or “it’s someone else’s problem.” You see, yesterday’s little lies have become the daunting reality of today and tomorrow. Instead we might inadvertently sink to the bottom of a bottle or turn a blind eye to abuse by others. We may find other ways still to secretly self-harm so long as it means we’re never alone and more importantly, as long as it means we’re never called “crazy.”
But still nobody’s talking.
So let’s start the conversation there.
If we share what we’re really going through, we might be surprised by how suddenly and profoundly our lives begin to change. We may no longer settle for less than anything that is completely in our best interest or perhaps we’ll even learn to demand a little more. And I suspect we won’t just demand more solely for ourselves, I believe we’ll begin to demand more ultimately of ourselves and in turn, build a reservoir of compassion and authenticity we can entrust to each other.
So let us talk about that because silence and isolation has a track record of killing us.
Just look at the latest numbers. Suicide is at the top of too many lists and leaving behind a trail of trauma and destruction that few of us can cope with. While many of our loved ones are dying far too soon, with each of these harrowing losses, let us not forget that a significant part of us often dies, too. Only to be reborn again.
So lets talk. That’s all — just talk. We have so much to say and share and tomorrow is almost here. You do believe in tomorrow, don’t you? Then how are we going to fight for it?
With all my love,
Find out more about Thought Climber and the work we do to support those facing suicide postvention:
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