“It’s okay, what you are feeling is normal”, “We all feel like this”, “Give it time it’ll go away”, “Stop being such a pussy” or “Man up”. If I had a single facial hair for every time I heard one of these sentences, I’d have a fully grown manly beard by now. These are probably the worst support or advisory remarks a person dealing with OCD and depression, or mental illness in general, could be told. No it’s not okay, it’s not normal, not everyone feels like this, time will only make it worse, and no it doesn’t mean I’m weak if I feel this way. And finally I am not a pussy, I have never felt like a cat my whole life.
I am not blaming anyone. I’m not even blaming myself. It’s just how things were. Trying to open up to others was such a hard feat that I thought so much before doing. I tried telling a lot of my close friends but not once, not a single time, was I met with support or understanding. Again I am not blaming anyone. If I didn’t have what I have, I might have had the same approach. It’s just the lack of understanding and awareness that is very difficult to deal with. Having understanding and support (as well as a support group or system) would make life so much easier for people with mental illness.
It is very difficult for a person with a mental illness to come out and say it publicly and let it be known to people close to them. It’s very difficult without taking the prevalent stigma associated with mental illness. It’s very difficult without some people’s view that the mentally ill are crazy or attention seekers or even wimps.
I was always the smiling guy. The happy-go-lucky guy, who seemed liked he had no care in the world. I would always be met with “You? No way!! You are always laughing and being silly and happy”. There’s a book by Ross Szabo and Melanie Hall whose title captures this perfectly. It’s called “Beyond Happy Faces”. Three simple words that capture the hell out of most people’s experience with mental illness. Not every “happy face” is a happy face and a happy life. I wasn’t even happy if I ordered a Happy Meal (Dear McDonalds, who can I talk to in order to get my lifetime supply of happy meals after this free plug for your delicious healthy burgers. Even our health minister would eat there; provided he brings his own food).
Even after I started treatment I kept my case on the down-low. I never felt comfortable sharing except with a select few. Even with them it was never easy. Then something happened that would change this for me. A very beautiful childhood friend of mine, whom I had known since we were very young, mentioned an organization whose main goal was to break the stigma. That organization is called Embrace (it’s a fund at AUBMC). You know the cliche saying that says “the day that changed my life” well that was it. It was a process that helped me day by day get to the openness I am having today. Some might say it is too much, and I should keep things to myself due to the aforementioned prevalent stigma and stereotyping which may lead to less job opportunities for me. I really, seriously, honestly don’t care about that. I don’t care if I never get a job opportunity in my life, I know I can do many things to make ends meet even if barely, because for once in my life, I am happy. I feel like due to all this I am sleeping better at night. I am content. I am grateful. I am enjoying the small things in life. I can read a book, go out, meet people, do so many things while being happy on the inside, not just putting on a happy facade.
My goal in life is for people who are still suffering alone to be able to come out and talk more freely, and know that they are not alone, there are others. Believe me it’s gets better when one becomes part of a whole.
That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.