mental health · Thoughts · writing

Sometimes…(opening an honest conversation)

Sometimes writing these love lists is difficult. One reason is because I never remember to write down the good things after they happen and when the times comes around to compile them, I’m mentally scrambling trying to remember them all. Another reason is because well, sometimes I don’t feel positive at all. Sure, there are still good things that happen, but my perception of them is skewed. I don’t always interpret them as being things that make me feel really good, even though I know that they should. Sometimes I’ll have a really positive experience in the moment, and then afterwards I’ll feel ambivalent about it. Intellectually, I know that “yes, these are really awesome experiences and I am so lucky to have these present in my near-daily life“, but my mind/body doesn’t always act according to this knowledge – there is a disconnect sometimes.

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A friend of mine is the editor of the university and community alternative newspaper. The editorial this week was about mental illness and stigma, reflecting on an event that was held in the community about the topic. In this editorial, she spoke candidly about her own personal experiences with anxiety and depression. This was powerful! I thought about it all day.

“For the first time, I allowed myself to believe that I wasn’t overreacting, and I wasn’t making everything up. There was real support out there for what I was dealing with, and it was okay to access this support. That was a revolutionary moment, and my first good day in a long while.”

This story spoke directly to the stigma attached to these topics that keeps people silent about their experiences. Stigma makes people hide/cover up/ignore/make light of/deflect/get defensive/numb these realities. Stigma makes people (such as myself) feel guilty about feeling bad sometimes – to feel guilty about feeling this way when “life is good”, or when “I am so privileged, I don’t have the right to feel this way”. Stigma prevents people from connecting to one another, from sharing experiences, from learning and growing, from building community, from healing.

“Mental health stigma isn’t about just hiding our symptoms or diagnoses from others. Mental health stigma is about not being able to understand your own experiences”

I am generally open about my struggle with anxiety. I am less open about struggles with depression. Depression is not always present in my life. It occurs in bursts and bouts, usually mild, but sometimes more. It’s not always obvious, even to me. Sometimes it just manifests in feelings of lethargy, feeling a loss of some sort (like something is missing), feeling disconnected from others (not wanting to be social) and feeling really negative and overwhelmed about life. I am generally an optimistic and enthusiastic person, but sometimes I need to fight for it.

Admitting this is difficult. I have even tried to lie to myself sometimes (though I am a really terrible liar, even on good days.)

I know when other people admit to their own experiences (whether they choose to name it or not-name it), it instantly connects me to that person. Rather than weak, this type of raw honesty makes them strong in my eyes – they seem more “real” to me. Depression is a  very complicated subject and everyone’s experiences are uniquely different, but sharing them can help open up this dialogue and can hopefully lead us to being able to say, without shame, “IT’S OKAY.”

The love lists I write shouldn’t be used as a tool to hide my experiences, to sweep them under a guise of consistent positivity. These lists are meant to be a celebration of life as I live it – the things I’ve done & seen & tasted & touched, the people I adore, the little things that make me smile and make the world beautiful. They also serve as a reminder of these awesome things when I am feeling like utter crap. And that’s okay.

xo.

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6 thoughts on “Sometimes…(opening an honest conversation)

  1. Wow!
    This is some awesome feedback. It’s rare that I get to hear that folks are thinking more than superficially about what I write.

    & for the record, “good things sunday” has given me these same feelings sometimes – of people thinking that I might be writing the lists to gloat about my various privileges. But, it began as a way of reassuring myself that there were other things in my life than my bleak feelings of sadness sometimes made me believe. More than just celebrating awesome shit, it is especially about keeping the sad stuff in perspective.

    1. Yeah! Thanks for getting the conversation started iris. I read it and thought “wow, something needs to be said about this” and that maybe it could be a springboard to get people to start talking more. It’s important.

      That’s really interesting what you wrote about your good-things list. It’s interesting because when I used to read them, I always interpreted it as you always being incredibly happy and your life having all these rich experiences all the time. I remember thinking to myself sometimes, “that’s really awesome, but shit, my life doesn’t seem to add up like that. what am i missing?” – crazy how you always measure yourself up to others..Perception is a funny thing. I wonder if my lists have the same effect? One of their purposes is that they are meant to also make people appreciate the small things in life and connect people to those things, but they also seem have the potential outcome of alienating people… That’s one reason why I wanted to be really honest in this post – to hopefully break that perception. If I’m not feeling uplifted when I am writing the lists, it feels really inauthentic, and that is self-alienating. It doesn’t acknowledge or honour real feelings. I don’t want that either.

      You are a super wicked cool lady, iris. Your writing has inspired me on many occasions. It’s so great that you can be so honest with your experiences, even the really shitty ones. I hope you’re doing okay. I’d love to make tea with you and chat sometime. I am so bad at making plans these days! And yes, sometimes it’s because they are “bad anxiety days” 🙂 xo.

  2. I felt an overwhelming sense of connection to your message here. Recently, I surrendered to “running away” or “ignoring” my anxiety and lifelong depression and decided to seek help and utilize the support systems I have in my life. Up until now, I had convinced myself that these feelings would just go away. I realized though, that I have been unable to nurture my talents, passions, and lost touch with the things that make me happy in life. My mental illness had, until now, been a hindrance and a very serious obstacle to what I define as “success” for me. Right after Jordan passed, I realized that my thoughts of a similar nature were sufficient to warrant reaching out for help. It is unfortunate that I lost a friend at the same time as I saved myself, but sometimes we have to try and get some good out of the bad. Thank you for your honesty Sharon. If you ever need to talk, I am here for you as I’m sure you would be there for me.

    Love,
    Sandy

    1. Dear Sandy,

      Thanks so much for being so honest and sharing this with me – holy crap, I felt so moved by it! I’m so happy for you for acknowledging your struggles enough to seek out support. This is a huge deal. It’s a fucking scary thing to admit that it is something both real and worthy enough to reach out to people for help. I’ve been thinking about Jordan a lot lately. Every time I feel upset or overwhelmed about something, he appears in my head. What a huge impact he has had on you though. Wow. I’m so glad that you are okay. You are such an amazing person and you have lots of people who love and support you (including me, of course!). Let’s definitely talk sometime (I’m around, just let me know). I’m thinking about you and hoping you’re doing okay. Love xoxo.

  3. You are a strong person to write so openly and boldly about something most people would rather sweep under the rug. Depression and anxiety are things that everyone experiences at one time or another – the only difference is how often and how strongly it effects us. It really is okay and I’m so glad you’re brave enough to say it. 🙂

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