Because of my mental illnesses, I have been subject to a plethora of misconceptions. My depression tells me that I am a burden and not worthy of the attention and love of those around me. My panic disorder tells me that I am in extreme peril and my PTSD tells me that I will never be safe again. Those last two like to work in tandem. As paralyzing and inconvenient as those things are, they aren’t as damaging as the misconception that I held for years – that I was all alone. That nobody understood how I was feeling, that nobody could relate or truly empathize, that there was no community where I could belong. I was too broken to reveal my true self to anyone.
I have since come to discover that I am not alone. That belief is a load of shit. I actually belong to a rather extensive community, but few know it exists. Because of the stigma of mental illness and the shame associated with being a victim, people don’t talk their mental illness or abuse. Those that do are often labeled as outliers, over-sharers, attention seekers at best and are shamed and ridiculed at worst. It is not a “polite” topic of conversation. However, I feel that it is an absolutely essential topic of conversation.
By staying silent I felt alienated and that made all of my symptoms worse. Then one day I summoned up the courage and I wrote a blog post about my depression. In this post, I poured out my unique experience and the feelings that only I was feeling while out there all alone in my abyss. You can imagine my surprise when I got comments, both public and private, from people agreeing with me and saying that they feel exactly the same way. That they go through the exact same cycles and emotions. That I had put into words something they had been trying to say for years.
What? How could these people understand my inner most feelings when society had been telling me for years that I was an aberration? Simple. Society was wrong. I was not/am not an aberration. The things that I was going through, the thoughts that I was thinking were common place. In fact, I would hazard to guess that they run rampant throughout our society. This revelation that I was not alone and that people understood me, did more good than several months of therapy. It was like a burden had been lifted. I didn’t have to carry the weight of my illness by myself anymore.
For me this discovery was years ago. I bring it up now because I have been receiving messages from people who share their stories with me – either in part or in full – and a recurring theme that is coming through is that my blog helped them feel like they were not alone. I’m so glad that they got that message and I hope it sinks in. But for those who haven’t received that message, it occurred to me that it bore stating publicly. Because as I discovered years ago, with all of my other dark thoughts, the feeling of being all alone is not unique. You are not alone.