I don’t know how to start this article so I guess I’ll just get straight to the point.
Somehow we have been taught that being ‘happy’ –or rather, ‘content’— is the norm for everyday life. This has gotten to the point that the question “how are you?” has become more a matter of routine than an actual expression of interest in or concern for the well-being of the person we are addressing; an ice-breaker of sorts to which we are expected to reply with words such as “fine”, “OK” or “good”. There seems to be an underlying belief that others will see us as weak and vulnerable if we tell them that in fact we are not feeling all that well, and oh, God forbid if we tell them we are not fine at all. This belief puts so much pressure on us that most of the time, when asked how we are feeling, we reply in a sort of automated way – that is, we don’t stop to think about it, because – well, because what does it matter anyway, right? Because what’s going to change if we spill out the truth and tell them about the knot in our throat and the tears building up inside our eyes and the marks on our arms, stomach or thighs? Because why should we be ‘selfish’ and worry others? After all, we’re already in pain ourselves, why make more people suffer, right? Right? It makes sense. Of course right. Except it’s *not*. It’s really, really, really not.
Due to the underlying belief I was referring to, whenever we open up to someone, we tend to feel a sense of shame. We think we are being weak. This is why we hardly ever talk about our feelings. But look at it this way: if opening up to others is so hard, if asking for advice, a shoulder to cry on, or any other form of help is so hard, would it not then be a braver, bolder move to reach out and to speak the truth, as opposed to letting it continue to secretly eat away at everything we are? I’m telling you, few things are a greater show of courage and strength than sharing your story – fighting for yourself when all you want to do is give up because no-one could ever understand – or could they?
The key question here is: do you want to end the pain? My guess is, ten times out of ten, you do. You may even have thought of suicide because you simply cannot stand it any longer. You want to end “it”, one way or another. Well, let me tell you, that’s not something you will be able to achieve if you keep up your all-is-well act. You have to speak. I know it’s hard. I know it’s probably one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. But if you are in pain and don’t know how to end it without getting rid of yourself in the process – you are going to need knowledge. You are going to need help.
The first step towards recovery is acceptance. You have already taken that first step – from the bottom of my heart, congratulations! But sadly, that on its own is not going to be enough. It’s time to take the second step and actually communicate with someone else. This can be a parent, a friend, a counsellor, a hotline, people on certain internet forums, a therapist, a doctor… Whatever feels right for you. Those who know me well are aware of the fact that I am always very critical of our day and age, but at least there is no denying that we live in a time where the options are almost endless, largely –though not exclusively— thanks to the Internet. There are so many pages where you can find help: discussion boards, blogs, Twitter accounts… If you research thoroughly I guarantee that you will eventually come across at least several stories of real people who went through situations similar to the one(s) you are experiencing. By reading what these other people have written, you can learn what helped them get better, what helped them deal with their issues, and also what they learned to avoid. Of course what was right for them does not necessarily have to be right for you, but your options will definitely broaden. This very page is an example of one of those sites. Everyone on Stigma Fighters leaves contact information, I definitely do. I am here for you. We are here for you. This does not have to be the end. So please – take the step. Please – reach out.

Catherine Stone

2015-10-17-22.17.59Catherine Stone is a mental health advocate, Psychology student and aspiring author.

Catherine can be found on Twitter

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