Today’s Mental Health Month prompt – how do you decide what to share on your blog? – is an exceedingly easy one to answer:
I don’t. I just write whatever the hell I’m thinking. People’s reactions be damned!
One of my biggest frustrations with today’s world is the incessant game playing that everyone feels the need to undertake on an hourly basis. We share this side of our personality with one person, lie our asses off to the next person, pretend to be someone completely different to some random stranger and feel the need to hide vast quantities of personal information from our friends and family in fear of being judged and/or laughed at.
I know this because I used to be that guy. The person I was when around Louise was different to the person I was when around my friends, the person I was when around my friends was a completely different person to who I was around my colleagues. Whereas the person I was when around complete strangers or women I was attracted to was an absolute anxiety plagued, having arsehat!
I hid my mental health from everyone.
Although Louise knew I suffered from depression (as I was taking antidepressants for a time) and had freely admitted I’d once attempted(even to the point of taking her to to show her where I nearly died; the only person I’ve ever taken there) she wasn’t aware of my or hallucinations as I did everything I could to hide them from her in fear of being dumped for being an insane lunatic.
The same went for my parents. They knew I suffered from depression (as I was taking antidepressants for a time) they weren’t aware of the depth of my problems until I began writing the blog in late 2007. In fact, I’ve written previously of the phone call I made to let them know what I was doing so they weren’t going in cold.
As for my friends, there was no chance in hell I was ever going to share with them the mental health problems I was dealing with. Not only would it have been completely humiliating, embarrassing and shameful to admit my weaknesses and insanity, admitting to self-harm, multiple, hallucinations, mood swings and delusional psychosis to such amazing human beings would have been the equivalent of social suicide.
It didn’t occur to me until after I’d lost everything (and everyone) just how stupid this was. Louise worked within the mental health industry and could (had she not immediately dumped me) organised me to get some professional assistance. My family, too, had a lengthy history within the mental health community (courtesy of my sister’s illness and their establishment of a local charity for the carers of people with mental illness) so they would hardly have shunned me. Whilst my friends…well, that’s slightly different, because after my breakdown I was unable to keep my problems hidden from them.
The self-harm came out, leading to one person reacting with: “I can’t have anything to do with anyone who self-harms,”
The depression was out of control, leading to several people reacting with: “I can’t have anything to do with you until you’ve cheered up,”
The suicidal ideation became known, leading to me wondering why no-one offered to help me find professional support.
Whilst the hallucinations stayed hidden because (a) that’s the way they wanted it and (b) the whole social suicide issue!
Despite the reaction my friends had given, when I began writing the blog after several months of loneliness and isolation I made a conscious decision to write about my mental health in as much detail as I could. A warts and all account of Addy’s life, so to speak.
Nothing was too much.
Nothing was too detailed.
Nothing was too personal.
Everything was fair game…aside from a deliberate series of exceptions that, until now, I’ve never shared on this blog:
Things you (probably) won’t see on All that I am, all that I ever was…
1. Detailed descriptions of my suicide attempts…
Whenever I have written of my suicide attempts I’ve done so by talking about how I remember feeling, the things that came up that either prevented or nearly prevented the attempt, how I felt afterwards and a miniscule amount of information about what I did. This information usually amounting to I tried to hang myself or I took a handful of pills with the occasional snippet more if the post deserved.
The reason I decided not to write detailed descriptions of how I attempted to take my own life is because I don’t want to encourage suicide. Although I vehemently disagree with the Australian media‘s silent credence of never talking about suicide and instead writing pathetically obvious idioms to disguise what actually happened (‘no suspicious circumstances’), I do agree that precisely described methods of suicide is a no-go area as it would give vulnerable people ideas as to how they could end their life.
2. Photographs of my self-harm and/or self-harm scars…
Firstly, although my scars remind me of time, place and emotion, I am on the whole not proud of them in any way, shape or form. I find them ugly and repulsive and cannot stand looking at them myself, let alone putting them out there for the whole world to see.
I also find the pro-self-harm movement disgusting and do not wish to encourage others to do to themselves what I have done. So although I have written of (some) of the things I’ve done to myself, I will never share the results with the world visually for similar reasons to the above.
This was the first thing I decided on. After years of hiding, lying and showing different people, different sides of my personality, I was tired. I had lost everything and everyone I had ever cared about, so all of that work to protect myself from possible harm and abuse had all been for nothing. Thus, my blog was to be a truthful account of my life; the happiness, the pain, the torment, the everything!
4. Certain sexual predilections
In 2007, however much I wanted to, I decided not to write about certain sexual predilections. I didn’t want people finding out about this side of my personality because of the trauma Louise and Kathy had instilled in me following the abuse they’d hurled. I was ashamed of myself, embarrassed and genuinely believed that I was/am disgusting, wrong, repulsive, grotesque and pure evil
Admitting to mental health is one thing; admitting to that is something else entirely!
However, in recent months, I’ve reneged on this. With the abuse I received still eating away at me I realised the only way I could combat it (suggested years ago by Sammi) was to write about it. To delve into all those hidden nooks and crannies of my mind as I had done with self-harm, suicide, hallucinations and all the other things I’m scared to have people know about me.
I will freely talk about the abuse I received and the damage that it wreaked on my life. But I will not abuse anyone on this blog, because I am all too aware of the pain, trauma and damage that someone can suffer when they’re the recipient of abuse.
6. My physical health…
Back in the day I decided not to write about my physical health because I wanted the focus to be on mental health and the stigma that exists around it, so I deliberately never went into detail surrounding the myriad of physical health problems I’ve had throughout my life (some rather serious!). Thus, aside from a few references and name-dropping, I’ve never written posts about how these issues affected and/or continue to effect my life.
But as physical health is so closely linked to mental health, I realise now that this was a mistake, and one I hope to rectify in the future.
7. Real names…
Now, I’ve always been honest about this from the very beginning. Aside from my name (which is real) every name, bar two, that appears on this blog is a pseudonym. The reason for this is simple. It’s all well and good me taking to the internet to embarrass myself and destroy any chance of ever being employed, educated or in friendships and relationships again (damn discrimination!) but to publicly name the people I love and connect them to my insane life would be grotesquely unfair on them and all the wonderful things they deserve.
The simple truth is, lying to my partners, friends and family destroyed my life. If I’d been honest about the problems I was having there is a good chance someone could have helped me access the care, support and treatment I needed to stabilise long before homelessness and insanity claimed my soul. However, there is also a very good chance my fears of social suicide would have eventuated and I would have ended up in the exact same place I am now.
But, I have never regretted the too much information critique I often receive from readers of my blog. I would much rather try to draw people into the chaos and mess of mental health and homelessness than sugarcoat these illnesses so people can continue pretending they’re not as serious as they are.
This is just how I want to write; to challenge people, to confront people, to (possibly) change people in some small, positive way.
- Where Do I Find Help for Someone Who Is Suicidal? (everydayhealth.com)
- It’s the happiest time of year – Not for all of us! (truenorthonline.org)
- Attempted suicide should not be a crime (todayonline.com)
- Scottish suicides greater than road deaths, according to mental health charity (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- You: Mental health: starting a conversation – The Flat Hat (flathatnews.com)
- Five ways working mums can take better care of their mental health (workingmumsaustralia.com.au)
- It’s time to tackle mental health stigma in our classrooms (schoolsimprovement.net)
- When Your Friends Do Not Understand You Mental Health Condition (managingfear.wordpress.com)