Facing it… by “Greg”

I’ve had this document open for a while now, and not written anything on it. It’s not that I’ve nothing to say, it’s not that I don’t want to say it, it’s that I can’t face it. So the window is open, and I open other programs on the computer (a web browser, and a computer game) and just leave it in the background. But because I have trouble concentrating (I also have a book in front of me, and a book of Sudoku – I multitask a great deal!), I ‘Alt+Tab’ through the windows I have open, and keep seeing this open program.

Eventually, here I am.

In many ways it’s hard to know where to begin; what kind of thing is wanted, what kind of thing is acceptable? It’s not even conscious – I constantly second guess myself and others. I’ll be reading something, or trying to write, and thoughts will pop into my head. Critical thoughts. Censuring thoughts.

You’re not going to express yourself well enough! Compare yourself to other people: they have it far worse than you do! You don’t count! It’s not that you’re depressed, and struggle for motivation, it’s just that you’re lazy. You’re pathetic – you’re not even trying. It’s not as if what happened to you is bad, you just didn’t try hard enough.

I didn’t try hard enough. I don’t try hard enough. Damn, but compared to some people I probably did – I do – have it easy.

It’s amazing how easily the thoughts become my own. How easy it is to believe them. What isn’t amazing is how quickly all these critical thoughts can increase once you put your conscious mind to it. That’s not in the least surprising.

That’s because they’re true!

There may be some truth to them, it’s hard to say. Maybe a lot of people would have coped with the things I had to go through and which left me in the mess I’m currently trying to extricate myself from. There are certainly some things I could have done differently that would have changed my life a great deal. Yet how unfair, and absurd is it to blame a ten year old for not being able to do the best possible thing? But I’ve found it is very easy to lose objectivity and rationality when suffering from depression.

Excuses, excuses. The cold hard truth is that other people get physically abused when they are children, and seem to get through life far better than you do. All your problems were in your mind. Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can never hurt you. Remember? Clearly not. You let them hurt you.

Without going into great detail about it, my father suffered a breakdown when I was about five (cue light bulbs over psychiatrists’ heads: it runs in the family!) – he was a teacher. He also wasn’t the only teacher in that school to suffer that fate: the headmistress was a real piece of work apparently, eventually someone took her to court I believe. I don’t know anything about her – but I like to think of her as being like Ms Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. (I like to think that afore mentioned light bulbs now dim somewhat with the knowledge that many people suffered the same as my father, yet in my experience, it doesn’t.) That breakdown caused us to move country a couple of years later. I had just turned 7. For the next decade or so, I was bullied. It started off because of my nationality, and once they saw it hurt, other things joined it.

Whine, whine, whine. “Ooh, I got bullied.” Well newsflash, every child does. Only the truly pathetic ones get bullied for ten years. The ones that deserve it. The ones that are weak.

Hey, but at least as I’m a white male, I don’t know what it’s like to be subjected to abuse just because of who I intrinsically am, right? (And if you think that sounds a bit bitter, well, yes, I guess it probably is. I try to let comments like that wash over me, but when your emotions are raw, bubbling, and close to the surface it’s hard. It’s easy to resent people who behave as though they have it far harder than you do when they seem to have essentially a normal life, and you struggle to even face being in a social situation for ten minutes. You know perfectly well you’d switch situations with them in an instant, and yet you also know there are people who’d say they’d switch with you in an instant too. And always – always – those negative, censuring thoughts are never far away.)

They’re your thoughts. Who else is having them? Look at you, too scared of criticism, you have to treat your own thoughts as if someone else is having them.

Anyway, in this new country I didn’t have friends really. There were a couple of people who I was briefly friendly with – bizarrely enough (considering my current religious views) they were all in different fringe (crazy) religious sects. The kind who don’t usually socialise with people who aren’t also in their sects. Also, the kind that hardly even existed in the country I was living. An oddity that I attracted them really!

These brief friendships generally ended with me feeling I’d been stabbed in the back and scared to try to make another. Home life was difficult, to put it mildly, considering my dad’s condition and numerous other issues.  Let’s just leave it as: it was difficult. I learnt to shut myself away, putting up a facade whenever I had to meet people and avoiding it completely where possible. I didn’t want to burden my parents with my problems , because of the problems at home, and I didn’t want to seek help in general because of the stigma about mental health.

You should have been able to deal with it on your own. If you weren’t a failure you could have.

And I guess that is why I’m writing this. If that stigma about mental health wasn’t there, I might have asked for help. If we – and here I’m talking especially about boys and men – weren’t bombarded with the belief that having emotions and being upset  meant you were a failure, then maybe I, and others would have felt able to ask for help. If my posting here and admitting to my state can in any way help destigmatise it, then that’s what I’m going to do. At the very least I can feel like I’m sticking a metaphorical finger or two up at some of the people whose attitude was: ‘for heaven’s sake, just pull it together’.

Could never say it to these people, could you? It’s not as if doing this is going to make one iota of difference in reality, is it?

Granted, the fact I can’t face putting my surname to it might lessen the impact of it somewhat. But I truly can’t face it. My depression is a dirty little secret I try to keep away from everyone. The worse it gets, the more impossible it is to keep it but it doesn’t stop me trying. When I withdrew from University, and finally started getting some treatment, I had to force myself to write to friends in University explaining why. The first real friends of my own gender I’d ever had – I’ve two female friends I met in school but didn’t see that often, but before then, no male friends worth the name. In the end, I wrote an email, and sent it to two of them, asking them to explain to everyone else.

And you cried like a baby. Pathetic.

I’ve only even slightly corresponded with one of them in the six or so years since, apart from a very brief conversation following the suicide of one of them.

Call yourself a friend? Hah!

Why? Because I’m ashamed of my depression.

And isn’t that one of the biggest problems mental health – and particularly depression – has to deal with?

So often destigmatising something involves coming out, not admitting to something, but instead proudly proclaiming it. I’m sure that any of us who are atheists, and have been at all involved in the online community, have lost count of the amount of posts, or youtube videos  we’ve seen, exhorting us to come out to friends and family as atheists, and let them know that we exist and are just normal people like everyone else. I’m not ashamed of my atheism – if anyone asks, I’ll tell them without hesitation.

My depression on the other hand? That’s going to take some work before I can feel remotely comfortable even admitting it, let alone proclaiming it. But I’ll try.

And fail.

We’ll see.

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About shatteringthestigma

An open blog taking submissions from skeptics and skeptic friendly individuals on the subject of mental health.

Posted on April 2, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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