Stephen Fry has admitted in the last couple of days that he attempted suicide last year due to his bi-polar disorder and it got me thinking about things I have been through, the results of those things and how many of them are so “discomforting” to people that I am unable to talk about them for fear of reprisal.
Stigma causes as much damage as the actual acts themselves sometimes and it hurts.
Mental health has a huge stigma surrounding it. Mention depression and you often get the “snap out of it” or “you have such a wonderful life what do you have to be depressed about” or, worse, you get ignored from then on.
My depression can be intermittent and I sometimes resort to anti depressants from the GP if it gets too much or I sometimes self manage it with things like blogging and I have a few people who I trust to talk to about the other mental things I have going on in my head but I made a mistake once by being too public with it and it caused potential problems when I registered for a particular job – in the end though the inspectors for that job were satisfied I wasn’t a danger but they looked into it. Others don’t. Others simply walk away.
I was abused as a child. This has very much been “stigma-surrounded” and I have had people end friendships with me when I have told them. Can you possibly imagine how much more painful and difficult that made the abuse to endure?
Now I am a little more open about the whole abuse thing and all these recent allegations and arrests following Jimmy Saville are starting to wipe away the stigma of childhood abuse but they are also having another, sadder effect. They are making it easier for victims to talk about it but there s now a sense of “dumbing down” – “oh another celeb” and out come the jokes. Yes jokes!
My abuser died when I was 16 (not long after I moved to college which is what ended the 8 years I suffered) and I feel cheated somehow because I will never know the answers to my questions but I am also very aware that there aren’t really any answers. Why me? Why didn’t I shout out or say something when I was asked? How many others were there and could I have saved them? Why didn’t they save me? There are no answers to these questions. Same as there are no answers to why it still affects me mentally.
It is also the reason why I struggle to do church things. My abuse was carried out by a devout catholic who carried out his vile acts “in the name of the Pope and Jesus” and I struggle to maintain any amount of belief in anything religious but I try to believe in something but God? That brings about its own set of questions. Why didn’t God save me? Was I evil and a sinner and deserved punishment? Was I paying for the sins of man from ages past? And again – why me?
Mind you it didn’t help that a vicar turned around to me and told me that “it was about time you dealt with that and come to church”. Suffice it to say I ended that phone call extremely quickly and with even more fear, self-loathing and anger about the whole thing. I’ve not been anywhere near him since and shake when I see him in his car. Besides I am often in a church – when it is safe – when I am photographing weddings. No talk of paying the price for sin then!
The abuse has caused no end of mental trauma for me – besides the depressive instances – and it is these that people don’t or won’t understand. I had two years of intense weekly therapy which helped tremendously but I still have severe self doubt and no esteem at all. I know I have a wonderful family and I am very lucky but that doesn’t detract from the fear I face every night as I shut my eyes – even now after being married to a wonderfully supportive man who understands me more than any one else ever could and deals so brilliantly with my roller coaster of a mind and its facets – even now I am still afraid and will read or use the iPad or do something until I am at the point that I will fall asleep immediately I turn the light off because laying in the dark brings out the zombies. 😥 I think he thinks I have a problem with him – I certainly don’t but it is the darkness of my mind.
Stigma. We can talk about so many illnesses but when it comes to the illnesses of the mind – whether caused by the mind itself or as a protection for itself by dissociating – there is a mental barrier that goes up in other people’s minds so I thank you Stephen Fry for starting the discussions and for trying to start to bring down some of those barriers. Maybe one day it will be easier. 😦