I think the term mental illness has a huge stigma attached to it. A lot of people suffer in silence for fear of being labeled, criticized or treated differently. Back in the good ole’ days people with issues were covered under the blanket category of crazy. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been called crazy and/or weird I could live comfortably in Iqaluit for the rest of my life. When I was young, crazy was a term I didn’t concern myself too much with. I knew I wasn’t short bus & helmet crazy, but I was certainly different from my chums. Nothing I did or said was typical. I savored being different. It made me feel unique in the sense that no one else acted as I did. Heck, crazy is what got me through high school relatively unscathed. Even bullies wanted no piece of “the crazy guy”. It’s amazing the aura of protection you get when no one wants to be the one to set you off. I have friends to this day that remember me not for being a super awesome fantabulous buddy but a certified nutcase. Mind you, although I’d never done anything outrageously insane all it took was some embellishment by my peers to turn molehills into mountains. Clinical terms such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Depression, etc started to become more popular as I grew old and were frequently used to label individuals who were different. While I’ve never been diagnosed with having any condition I know there’s stuff going on inside my dome that isn’t considered normal by a lot of people’s standards.
That’s the part that irks me the most. The whole effort to be “normal”.
What is normal?
There’s so much energy invested in trying to achieve this idealistic vision of normalcy put before us that it’s easy to see how when someone is mentally ill they can succumb to their inner demons. People tend to treat those with mental illness as though they’re lepers, meeting them with looks of pity or disdain. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the world today that doesn’t have some sort of issue. It’s the shame implied and reinforced by those who don’t understand it that makes dealing with it so hard. Very few out there are cognizant enough to know how to deal with the situation when confronted with it. Those who are sick don’t need pity. They need help. An illness, be it physical or mental, is still an illness. Some are more serious than others. Some can be remedied completely while others can only be treated partially. It sickens me that people keep problems buried in the dark corners of their minds because they fear being looked at differently. They fear showing weakness. I get it. It’s human nature to always want to appear strong or infallible. A defensive mechanism of sorts. One shouldn’t feel weak by sharing their problems. The amount of effort put into hiding it is what causes the true weakness. It’s hard to keep that “normal face” up if you’re constantly in flux with yourself internally.
Writing is a great outlet. I write on two blogs but this particular one is as close to therapy as I can get. Sometimes just saying what’s on your mind is incredibly cleansing, especially when you don’t have the weight of disgrace hovering over you. I have very little shame. I shed the brunt of that a long time ago. I find it easy to talk about matters that years ago I would have just avoided. Maybe its age that changed things. Maybe it’s repetition. It’s often said that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. All I know is that burying my problems only served to bolster them.
Of the half dozen disorders I believe I may have, the one I’m certain of is depression. It’s been the Lex Luthor of my life for quite a long time now. It’s arguable to many that anger management issues might be my ultimate nemesis but I counter that with the fact that I have never raised a fist or my voice to anyone in anger in 20 years. They think heated emails or grumbles of frustration constitute me being an angry person. Trust me when I say this, if I had anger management issues I would either be dead or in jail; not writing for blogs and sharing my experiences. Yes. Depression is the true beast. I have no shame in saying topics like suicide are a daily occurrence in my head. Everyone automatically thinks that because I’m the funnyman it’s always cartoons and pop culture in my world. Quite the contrary. There are mornings when I open my eyes and wish I hadn’t. Times where I cycle through the many ways one could take their own life. Pills, gun, blade, hanging… you name it I’ve probably thought about it. Depression is a very real thing. I’m not talking feeling blue or having a bad day. I’m talking real depression. Having a bad month, year or even decade.
Some would question what would put me in such a state of mind considering I have a loving wife, two great parents and a bevy of friends I’d shed blood for. It’s twisted but sometimes it’s almost impossible to recognize those that have unwavering love for you. The brain is wired awkwardly like that. Problems seem insurmountable and you easily lose sight of all the bright lights in your life. My family and friends are what keep me trudging along. That and the ability to speak about it freely about anything. My life is no more or less difficult than the next person but we each deal with the hand we’ve been dealt differently. I don’t look for sympathy for having the thoughts I have sometimes. I embrace it, acknowledge it and look for help when I can. If I kept it bottled in me then it would be all consuming. I can see why so many get engulfed by their own feelings.
Having lived in the north for a couple of years now the subject of suicide has been in my face more than ever. So many young people up here take their lives because they feel worthless, neglected or just flat out helpless. They’re embarrassed or ashamed to share what’s on their minds and it’s truly heartbreaking. I’ve not only been in that boat but I captain it every day. Depression is scary. It takes you to places you never thought you could go. If you’ve never been through it before it can seem like a no-win situation. That’s what often leads to the actual act of suicide. Just because you’re experiencing depression doesn’t mean you have no options. Write what’s on your mind. Keep a journal. Share it with others or just use it as a release for your thoughts. Talk with someone. Anyone. Doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you know. People are often so wrapped up in what others think about them that speaking to family or friends ends up being the hardest thing to do. Talking to a stranger is easier than a lot of people think. If you can’t do it face-to-face then text somebody or chat with them online. The point is get what’s clawing at the back of your mind out in the open so that you can confront it. Smash that boulder of insecurity resting on your back and know that there are others – many others – out there who struggle with this every day. As sappy as it sounds, feeling like you’re alone is incredibly crippling. Depression is a festering lesion that will spread if not treated.
I don’t know who reads this blog. Well… I know some but the multitude I have no clue about. They come from all over the world to my amazement. Some are just killing time. Some stumble upon it. Many never come back. I’m not a trained medical professional or a psychologist. I don’t write to entertain or get hits. If people find amusement or enlightenment in what I have to say it’s a bonus. My words are only useful to whoever finds value in it. I can have a conversation in an empty room so I’m quite content talking to myself. I’m just a dude who’s been down that road too and still continues to walk down it. Whatever your situation may be, wherever you may reside, whoever you are if what I said here makes you think twice about what you may consider a helpless situation then I’ve done what I can with my words.
Hell, if you have no one to speak to my ears are always open. I don’t have to know you to relate to what you’re going through.
There’s no manual for life. You’re expected to do on-the-job training with it. There’s no shame in asking for help sometimes.
Stay strong peeps!