I have met more understanding people in my life than I ever expected. I was just talking to another writer the other day about how incredible it is to connect with others. So often when I share the stories of my issues and mental health troubles people respond with their own, “Omg I know! I totally get it! I went through such and such” or “My sibling went through” or “My wife/husband deals with…” and it is like an invisible connection lights up, a webbing we never knew was there. Almost everyone can relate somehow.
Only a couple times in my life have I really felt attacked for being who I am and suffering from what I have. In high school, my best friend decided that she didn’t want to be my best friend any more, so she simply stopped talking to me. Her mother was part of that decision, but that didn’t make it any less hurtful. This was after my first hospitalization and subsequent withdrawal from school into home-schooling. It confused me for years. Even in college I tried to reconnect because I couldn’t stand the idea of someone out there really hating me. She is the only person I know of who has actually blocked me on Facebook.
The most recent time that this was an issue was a few years ago, after I had to be hospitalized again following a late miscarriage, post-partum depression, and severe suicidal ideation. At the time I had been working with a couple of sisters on a jewelry company project that we were trying to get off the ground. They had wanted to take me on as a partner, so I was operating under the assumption that they thought of me as an equal in this endeavor. When I was released from the hospital, I felt so much better. They had fixed my meds a bit, I had gotten over the worst of the depression, and I felt it was an auspicious time. I may have been a little manic, in hindsight. So I started to work. One thing I did was to setup a Facebook ad for our page so that it would get more traffic. They went insane. I have an audio recording that’s like 10 minutes long of one of them going off on me about being too independent, being crazy, calling me insane and manic and every derogatory term you can think of for mentally ill. She said, verbatim, “You JUST got out of a MENTAL hospital!” I’m shaking my head even now. The funny thing is this woman has also experienced miscarriage and severe depression, to the point where she couldn’t live in an apartment that was too high up for fear that she might jump out the window. But I have never encountered anyone with such a lack of empathy.
That incident really destroyed me for a long time. It made me feel small and worthless. I didn’t understand how someone who had been so loving and understanding could turn so cold and heartless so quickly. I’m still not sure I understand. The way I’ve talked myself through it is to say, “Ok, these are their issues, not mine. I may have been manic and gotten carried away, but that didn’t give them the right to be so insensitive and cruel. But it’s not me, it’s them.” What’s the saying, holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die? There’s no reason I should hold on to this. I did for a while. It shook my core belief in myself because I had wrapped part of my identity around this new endeavor and my relationship with these women. The feeling has faded now. I can think of them and not feel a rush of anger, only pity. They have to live with who they are, not me.
After that encounter, they defriended me and removed me from all contact. They retained the artwork I and a friend had done for them, however, and that made me mad as hell. I repeatedly asked them to remove it all but they just wouldn’t. I gave up. If I’m in a bad mood it will still make me a little angry, but mostly it just makes me feel sad, disappointed in people, and afraid to share my story.
This blog is, at the moment, anonymous. My closest people know who I am and that this is here, but I haven’t shared it with the wide world yet. It is one of the greatest dilemmas I’ve faced lately: to share on Facebook with the people who know me, or not to share. I fear the stigma, I fear backlash and discrimination. I don’t anticipate getting that from the people on my FB feed but one never knows. I also think about my husband and his friends and family. Much of my story is tied up with his, so do I have the right to share that? I think about it every day. For now, I think, I’m happy with how things are. Happy to look for a community that understands where I’m coming from and happy to leave out the self-exposure until I feel safer.