When I was first asked if I wanted to participate in the #HoldOntoTheLight blog campaign, I hopped on immediately. Treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD, bullying prevention, and other mental health issues are all serious things. Real things that need to be recognized. Things that we all need to be more aware of. I was happy to help spread the word.
Then reality set in: What did I have to talk about?
Over the course of several weeks, I looked at my life. Did I have anything to say?
I don’t know.
I’ve never suffered any kind of domestic abuse. I don’t have PTSD. I don’t recall having any suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t bullied…was I?
I don’t know.
Looking back and unboxing those memories was something I haven’t done in a long time. I remember taking a lot of shit from bands of classmates in grade school. Nothing physical, but it doesn’t always need to be does it? Days and years of getting picked on and laughed at and made to feel outcast in an educational environment that, clearly, had no way of handling things back then, builds up.
One of my most vivid memories from that time was a conversation with a friend who had just moved into the area – the guy, as it turns out, who would introduce me to Dungeons and Dragons – over what our middle names were. His was unusual (for my limited experience). Even after over three decades, I still feel a little shame that I spent the next couple of days worried about this little fact getting out and what kind of hell I was going to catch for being associated with this person. Which pretty much sums up the environment right there.
As I type this – and it’s a larger struggle than I thought it would be – I look back and see the seeds of the self-confidence issues that plague me to this day being sewn. Even now, part of my head is quietly urging me to discard this whole thing. Keep quiet about it. It’s worked for you so far, hasn’t it?
No. Not really. I remember the names of the kids I grew up with. Folk I haven’t seen in decades. Folk that I don’t miss a damned bit and would happily spend the rest of my days continuing to never see again.
High school was similar, though diffused somewhat, because I had a larger group of friends and I wasn’t cooped up with the same people all day long, but I remember choosing clothing based on whether or not someone said anything nasty about it.
I stayed quiet and let shit slide off as best I could. I never mentioned it to anyone (see the above-mentioned self-confidence issues) and I was glad to get out of there. To date, I’ve never been to any reunions and I’ve got no interest in seeing most of those folks again.
“Is that it?” I ask myself. “Decades old school issues? Do you think that’s worth mentioning alongside the REAL problems that other people have been posting?”
I don’t know.
I do know that low self-confidence mixed with impostor syndrome can be a real kick in the soft parts.
What about depression?
I don’t know.
I do know that almost daily I play host to arguments in my head with the various people in my life over things that have never happened, nor are ever likely to happen. If I don’t catch myself, they become bitter, terrible things that leave me mentally drained and standing on the edge of a fight-or-flight response.
Depression? Something else? I don’t know.
I admit it. There’s a lot that I don’t know…
Here’s what I do know:
I know that this post – and the self examination that preceded it – is the first step to getting answers.
I know that after 46 years, I’ve started shedding some of this dead-weight – and it’s not as easy as it sounds.
I know – and have known for a while now – that I’m not alone. That I have people in my life that care and are (and have been) supportive when I need them.
That’s what I want you to know. That there are people out there that care – that will be supportive. That the voice telling you to be quiet is wrong and to seek help if you need it.
You’re not alone. You’ve got your tribe, and we’re not going anywhere.