Pain is such a strange word. We think of pain as being something physical, something tangible. Where does it hurt? One might ask. How do you explain where it hurts when the pain isn’t even physical? How do you describe a pain where there are no nerves sending signals to the brain telling you about the stubbed toe or the pulled muscle or the arthritic knee? Is pain even the right word for what I’m feeling? “It hurts” is all I can say but it goes beyond that. I have felt pain. I have had operations, I have been cut up by doctors, I have been hit and kicked and attacked. I know what a bruise feels like. I know what the physical pain of a blade slicing skin feels like. All of that I understand. All of that people can see and they understand too. But this is a different pain. This is a pain that emanates from your soul. Not in any spiritual sense, but in the sense that it is not tangible, it can’t be pin pointed on a diagram. This is a pain I want to end and a pain I never want to feel again. Physical pain is something I can understand. Something I can deal with. Something I know how to treat when it happens. I don’t know how to treat this other than to keep taking the pills, keep talking to the shrink and keep buggering on. But when someone is in that much pain, pills and talking simply are not enough. This is how I feel every minute of every day. This is why when people dismiss depression it makes my blood boil. Dismiss it all you like, but I would not wish this on you. But if you did experience for one moment what I experience from wake till sleep, just maybe you wouldn’t tell me to cheer up.
In the past year I have become VERY open about talking of my mental health issues. I have clinical depression and I won’t go into too much detail here as I have addressed it numerous times over on the mental health blog I run – Shattering the Stigma.
But over the past year something positive has happened, despite the complete depressive depths to which I have sunk, dealing with mild agoraphobia (I say mild simply because I rarely had panic attacks), paranoia and self hatred – boy is that fun! Some positive things have happened. I originally set out to be open and honest about my depression because I accepted it as just an illness like any other and I wouldn’t be ashamed if I had most other illnesses (Okay, I might keep quiet publicly if I had Chlamydia!). One thing I did was start the blog Shattering the Stigma initially as a way for atheists and skeptics to express and discuss their dealings with a variety of mental health issues. The response was wonderful and even resulted in a stage play that will again be put on during this years Fringe!
I had hoped the blog might encourage discussion and has had a great outcome of actually making people more aware of what people with mental health go through. But something has happened I never expected- the number of people who have said to me that they are impressed with my ability to be so open- some of them themselves ill but not speaking as openly. I didn’t set out to be someone others would, well not look up to, but appreciate for my openness. I only set out to tell my story and provide a platform for others to do. And I know people do appreciate what I’m doing.
I want to help spread awareness of mental health issues and show the world that we are normal. We’re just ill. I have had some very supportive people around me in recent years and without their help I would not be in the current state I am of being better and dealing with things easier. It is still hard, there past few days have been quite bad, likely because I am no keeping busy at the moment as we’re on a break from Uni. But I am much better now than I have been and I hope it continues.
I don’t insist that those with health conditions like mine “come out”. The stigma and fear is still very much a part of mental health issues and the publics perception of them, but I will offer this final word to those who are maybe in the mental health closet- you are not alone, and if you want to announce it to the world or just keep it to yourself you have the support of not just me but many, many more people around the world. Mental health issues will affect many– We are your waiters, your bosses, your sons and daughters, your neighbours, your taxi drivers, your politicians, your entertainers, your authors, your friends, your family and maybe, we’re you. You are not alone and you don’t need to feel that you are.