This is no place to be. No way to live in the shadows. In the dark. Reaching for scraps that fall from the table and scratching your tongue on the floor as you lick them up in a rush to feed your starvation. Not for the feeling of nourishment or the enjoyment of food but the actual need of sustenance. Because you actually are starving, you just don't know it yet... Scraps that taste like burnt match ends and dirt. Scraps that are rotten and moldy. Scraps. All that you think you deserve. Because you are abnormal. Because you are different. Because you are not the perfect size zero or you wear glasses. Because you have braces or freckles. Because you are too short, too tall, or your nose is too big. Because your hair is too curly or too straight, or God forbid too ginger. Because you may suffer from mental illness. Because you are not what the magazines and television adds say you should be. You do not look the way they say you should. You do not sound the way they say you need to. You are odd. Because you may have a hard time fitting in or being understood. Because you have phobias, or worries, or worse doubts. Doubts that you are important or worthy. Doubts that you are lovable. Doubts that anyone anywhere has ever given one single damn about you as a person. Doubts are the sea in which we swim in to our own personal hells. Singular for each of us but no less devastating.
Many people have told me I am brave for writing so honestly about my life long struggle with mental illness, or as I like to call it "My struggle to seem normal". Not because I am struggling to be normal, mind you. That ship has already sailed a loooong time ago. My struggle is to appear normal because that is what many of us do. We dumb down, we wear too tight of pants to hold in the muffin top we have been denying exists for two years now, we get particular haircuts that we sometimes dislike just to appear to be something we are not. Not really. We pretend to not suffer when we do until we are unable to pretend anymore. We are not stupid. We are not three sizes smaller than we actually are and we are not always people that want the newfangled bob haircut every actress and her brother is sporting this week. We do suffer and it's okay to talk about it.
I am always humbled by these comments of my bravery simply because I am the least brave individual on the planet. I look and talk tough but in reality, I am just a woman who sits in front of a computer screen and writes about my pain. A woman who is fine writing about the betrayal of my mind over and over again to anyone who will listen, not due to bravery, but simply due to the fact that I do not want others to hurt the way I have. I am overly sensitive and overtly empathetic. I am many things but I am not sure courageous or brave is one of things. My case in point, I have a phobia. A terrible gut wrenching phobia.....of rabbits. Yep you heard me right, those God awful fluffy big eared creatures that munch not on undeserving children's faces or the mail man's calf muscle as he walks by to deliver the mail, but dandelions and grass. Ewwww....scary. But that is my point. Phobias rarely make sense and yet there they are hanging around our necks like bad eighties costume jewelry. They don't have to make sense to scare you to the point of hysteria. Try explaining that to a normal person....
In reality, I think that especially for the mental illness community, we try very hard to appear normal. We too, long to be accepted. Or at the very least we try very hard not to be ostracized from the rest of the world. We too, want to have a place to fit in. A tribe. A sanctuary. A home. And when we fail to be what the media and television says is normal, we blame ourselves. We punish ourselves. We self hate and degrade ourselves. Simply because we are different. It makes us sad. It makes us scared. It makes us feel alone and often times it makes us hide our true selves from the rest of the world. Not because we are dangerous or scary but simply because we don't want to be hurt again. We simply don't want to hurt. It's not complicated. There is no rocket science going on here, no great and powerful OZ behind the curtain, no mystery to be had. We simply don't want to be judged. We are afraid to be singled out and laughed at, pushed away, mocked, and even worse we are afraid of being feared. And so often times we retreat into ourselves. We shut ourselves up so tight that no one can get in and even our own words fail to tumble out of our own mouths anymore. Our words don't simply cease to exist. They disintegrate. They turn to dust. They turn to blackened char. Til we forget we could even speak in the first place. We forget that we once were able to discuss what our lives were like at one time. Before the troubles came. Before the diagnoses. Before we realized what we have is taboo to discuss. Now all we have left is ashes in our mouths. Ashes that taste bitter and foul as they go down. And I am not willing to accept that.
I am not willing to accept that people will and do suffer in silence because no one wants to talk about the ugly things. The things we are scared of. The things that make us uncomfortable. I am unwilling to accept that by my remaining silent, simply so I can continue to appear to be more normal, someone somewhere is hurting with the same symptoms I have had and has no idea that they are not alone. That they are not bad. That they are not broken china waiting to be swept up by the proverbial societal broom and placed in the waist basket. Where all the broken things belong. I look back when I was a child, teenager, or even when I was a young adult and NO ONE was talking about mental illness. No one. It was a shady topic only to be spoken by doctors with fat degrees under the belts and hanging on their walls and the hushed tones of families that dealt with it. Secretly. Ashamed. Petrified of what others might think. I am unwilling to be silent about it. If we had the social platforms we have today when I was younger, I may have not had to have been so scared of my symptoms. I may not have had to believe I was secretly an evil and vile person and just didn't know it yet, for years on end. I would have had the option of knowing exactly what I had and exactly how it worked. I am unwilling to continue this charade of being silent and acting normal when clearly I am nothing of the sort. If it means I am judged, then so be it. If some people are uncomfortable with the things I have to say, then fine. I don't really care. If they can't accept the topics I choose to discuss or the issues I deal with on a daily basis, then they weren't really my friends to begin with anyway.
I do not believe I am brave or courageous as much as I am unwilling. Unwilling to let those that suffer or those that don't fit in think they are anything less than the magnificent people they are. I am unwilling to sit by and let good people place themselves in the same dark places, I spent most of my life in. I am unwilling to let them crawl around on the floor begging for table scraps and dirt because that is all they think they deserve in life. I am unwilling to agree to stay silent and let them live ashamed and stigmatized and so very, very alone. Those dark places are nothing but shadows and dust. Blackened bone and moss covered stones. Empty, hollowed out, and void of all life. There is nothing there but cold hard self degradation and no one deserves that. I don't want others to shroud themselves in the shadows and hide from the light. I want them to feel the sunshine on their faces again because they are human, and fallible, and unique, and beautiful, and they deserve happiness too. So if that means I have to talk about what I have gone through over and over again until I am blue in the face, then I can do that. If it makes just one person feel less scared of their symptoms or feel less alone. If it helps just one person, then it is worth it. If I have to put myself out there for the whole world to judge, then I can do that to. There is nothing they can say to me that I haven't already said to myself back when I was living in the dark place. When I was licking the floor for scraps.When I had ashes in my mouth instead of words. For me it isn't bravery that seeps into my mind when I write these posts, in so much as, unwillingness to ignore what is so blatantly obvious. That we suffer and we remain silent out of fear. It isn't bravery as much as it is pure stubbornness. It's being unmovable. It's the remembrance of all the pain and suffering and loneliness I went through and the realization that if people had been allowed to talk about it when I was growing up, then I might not have had to suffer so much, or agonize so deeply, or felt so very very alone. If they had been allowed to talk many of us would not suffer as greatly from the stigma that surrounds our diagnoses. If they had only been allowed to soothe others or to help others with their words, this could be a completely different conversation we are having right now. But they weren't and we are not. I am not brave or courageous anymore than anyone else is. I just want to help people, and it is my hope that maybe my story can do just that. Help someone somewhere along the way. That maybe my story will help them feel like they are able to finally open up and talk about their pain and struggles and realize that they are deserving of the sun's warmth, the acceptance of their peers, the happiness life possesses, and the truth. That they don't have to beg for scraps on the floor anymore, they can actually sit at the table. That they can finally spit the ashes from their mouths and use their words again....That it is not always comfortable, or a terrific experience, or uplifting to do so, but it is okay to talk about it.