The most interesting thing about sharing my blog has been the response. So many people have come to me privately with stories they think I’ll “get” because of what I write here (and I do!) and others have simply come back out of nowhere to offer support and kind words of encouragement. It’s heartening. What I love most is that it’s exactly what I hoped to do. I just wanted to be a part of the larger conversation about mental health so that other people, either affected or just open-minded, would be a part of it as well.
My response is very often the same. “I’m so sorry you can relate but I’m so grateful for your support. Let me know if you ever need to talk.” This is my response in person too, when I share my experiences and people reciprocate with their own. I want to be a sounding board. I want to be a person that people feel like they can talk to without judgement.
I’ve also noticed a couple key words that people respond with about the things I write: raw and honest. Truthfully, if I’m not writing for academic purposes, this is the only way I know how to write. I subscribe to the idea, “Write what you know.” What I know is my life, and my life has been raw. There is no sense in not being honest about it. Especially if it has the chance to make someone else feel less alone.
What all of this says to me is that the majority of people are willing and able to hear raw truths about mental health. The number of people who reconnected with me is a testament to our collective desire to know one another on a deeper level. I think fear holds most of us back. I have opted for Carrie Fisher’s motto: “Be afraid but do it anyway.” Do it anyway. Those are powerful words. There is always fear and uncertainty in human relations because people are ever-changing chemical structures and society is a fluctuating organism fraught with stigmas and preconceptions. Nothing is every the same moment to moment, but that’s what makes change possible and that’s why even if we’re afraid, we should be raw and honest.
Not everyone needs to be raw and honest, it doesn’t fulfill everyone and I’m sure that for some people it’s actually something that causes more harm than good. For me, it’s a good thing. Andrew Solomon, a speaker on many issues like overcoming negative events, says that after “bad” things happen, we “forge meaning and build identity.” That is precisely what this writing exercise is for me. I am trying to draw meaning from what I’ve been through in order to make sense of who I am and who I have become. One way to do this has been to embrace everything that happened and be (almost) completely honest about it. Certain details don’t need to be shared because in so doing they would harm me, and that is not my goal. That’s my litmus test: is this information relevant and will it make me or someone else feel better?
The trouble I’m encountering is that I have a lot of friends but I don’t always have a lot of energy. My mental health struggles are still active, even though they are mostly under control. But I still cycle through moods. I still go days without showering because I don’t see the point in anything. I fight with Husband because I have serious borderline relationship issues and interpersonal stuff is thoroughly confusing to me. So how do I become the social person I want to be while acknowledging that sometimes I’m a shitty friend because I just want to be at home with my dogs?
I think this is a very common problem for people with MI. We disappear, it’s hard to get us to come out and play, but we long for the connection at the same time. Luckily the Internet age has made staying connected easier, but it doesn’t help when you make plans and suddenly can’t follow through because you’ve hit a depressive day. To all my friends who I’ve canceled plans with, which is pretty much all of you, I’m so sorry. It’s not that I don’t want to be there, it’s just at the time I don’t feel like I can be there. I do try. I’m getting better, but every day is a new battle.
I’ve been thinking about the power of pets lately. My dogs are amazing little creatures that love unconditionally and want to be with me, on me, licking me, as much as physically possible, to the point where I very often have to refuse love. They are great companions when you’re sad, depressed, lonely, or sick. They are a great excuse to get outside and get some exercise. They are conversation starters. They are a reason to get up in the morning. They are things that need my care and affection to survive. I am responsible.
Therein lies the problem. Sometimes having a dog when you have MI is a monumental struggle. I can’t get them out for walks, it’s hard to even get them fed and watered. I start to feel like the worst pet parent in the world because they deserve so much more than I can give them. I try to make up for it but I know it’s not enough.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Just that I think about it a lot.
I’ll leave you with Calvin.