This morning, I thought I’d email an old friend. We have, at times, been close – worked together; travelled overseas together; caught up semi-regularly for meals and coffee. She was never a “best friend”, but I always considered her a pretty great person.
I didn’t write the email.
She’s too close a friend to lie to, even by omission, but not close enough to talk about what my mental health has been doing these last few months, and the huge impact it’s had on my life (loss of livelihood, weight gain, months in hospital).
Perhaps I am selling her short: she is a very good person, and if she thought that I thought I couldn’t speak openly with her, I think she’d be … upset; but I still can’t bring myself to type the story.
I’ve stigmatized myself.
Wow. I can’t believe I’m censoring myself because I’m ashamed of my anxiety and depression. When did this happen? When did I become this person? When will my mind stop finding inventive ways to hate itself?
I think the shame is not so much about the mental health conditions per se but because of their consequences, especially these last six months. I was self-employed; my business went bust after my long hospitalizations earlier this year. I had been fit; I now weigh … a lot, and puff after walking up steep hills. I had been sociable; I now find it difficult to make plans to go out of the house and meet friends, because I don’t know how I will be in a few days’ time.
What would help me overcome this barrier? Right now, I don’t know. But I am feeling very low, and very down on myself for thinking this way. How can I campaign against stigma in the wider community if I feel ashamed of myself?
I feel as though I’ve jumbled a lot of thoughts, emotions and “rules” together here: there’s too much going on – grief/shame about the difference between me now and back then, guilt/shame about not wanting to write to my friend, “should”-ing about various things (“you should keep in touch with your friends”, “you should not feel bad about your mental health status”).
What’s needed is a bit of time out, a good dose of meditation to clear the mind and untangle this knot.
See you on the other side.