Leave it to me to be the dissenting voice. My mother wouldn’t at all be surprised. She might however be surprised to know that a few years ago I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. In fact most people in my life don’t know. Not because of stigma, not because of any sense of shame – simply because I want it that way. I have no desire to discuss my illnesses with my colleagues and acquaintances, let alone the world (or you fine folks in cyberspace). Those who need to know – those who may potentially be impacted and those who can help – know: my doctor, my counselor, my manager, my son and very very close friends. As much as I appreciate & respect the phenomenal work of campaigns like Stigma Fighters, Bell Let’s Talk and others, I don’t want to speak up. When there is so much push for people to stand up and speak out, all I want to do is sit down and be quiet (this is rare, trust me). The good news is I don’t have to speak out.
For awhile I had to hide social media pages like Stigma Fighters from my Facebook newsfeed –I couldn’t handle it, I was tired of it being in my face non-stop. It wasn’t helping my healing. In fact it began to trigger my anxiety because I was thinking about it all the time. Instead of being inspired and empowered I was overwhelmed and ruminating. On top of that I felt guilt at not speaking up. The very thing that was supposed to (and for so many did!) empower and give a voice to those suffering mental illness was actually making me feel more ill. I felt bad because I was always hearing that if I spoke up maybe just maybe my story would resonate with someone, that they would know they weren’t alone, maybe I could even save a life! I felt the pressure to speak up because you should be able to – I could be the solidarity sister, the fight the good fight warrior, the inspiration, the spokesperson, the key to changing the minds of the misinformed masses. This of course was fantastic because depression had for so long smothered me with a blanket of guilt – clearly what I needed was more guilt (if there was punctuation to indicate sarcasm it would go here). For me the reality is I can’t champion this right now. I don’t want to champion this right now. Maybe I never will. And that is ok.
Opening up to the world about my health conditions isn’t the same as finally announcing to the world that my pump-up song before I go out is Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (gosh that felt good to get that off my chest!). Sharing my experience living with depression and anxiety with the world would be opening a deep wound, a window into a very personal and private struggle with a chronic illness, the reality that I have stared death in the eye and walked away. For many, sharing their story is an important part of their healing process, a gift (intentional or incidental) of hope and camaraderie to those also battling these illnesses. But something no one told me is that it is not my responsibility to fight stigma. I am in no way obliged to share my story. It is not my responsibility to save anyone else. When I came to that realization it was as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
As someone who lives with a significant medical illness, my priority is to manage my health the way that best promotes my healing. Just as we are all individuals, what we need in order to heal is unique to each of us. For me that is privacy.
I have the right to remain silent.
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Anonymous dislikes early mornings and celery. They like strong coffee and live music in small venues.
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