I think everyone has times when they are down, easily discouraged, or even just want to withdraw from the world for a while. But I guess it’s the recent incident at Sandy Hook that’s gotten me thinking: Why are we so loathe to talk about emotional issues the way we talk about physical ailments?
Why is it so easy to talk about our aching backs, our arthritis, our bad knees, but if someone said they were really emotionally struggling to keep their head above water, everything would suddenly get…awkward.
I have, in the past, been clinically depressed enough to be on medication. I have to say it’s not the same as just being really sad, just as having a full-blown migraine is not the same as having a bad headache. When you are truly at the bottom of yourself, sometimes it’s even harder to recognize that you’re there, much less how to climb your way out of it.
I did occasionally have moments of clarity and self-awareness in which I knew that my behavior and my reactions were not my normal self, but it was sort of like I was watching from the outside and not knowing how to make it better. I knew that something that was making me angry should not be making me THAT angry. I knew that something that was making me sad should not be making me THAT sad. I just didn’t know how to temper my reactions.
When I was in that place, did I talk to people about it? No one but my very closest friends and family, and certainly not regularly or in great detail. I’m not sure that I really felt “ashamed” of my apparent weakness or defect, but I guess I figured most people would rather not talk about such an unpleasant subject.
Maybe part of it is that we are less connected to one another. Yes, we have social networking to keep us up on the most ridiculous minutiae of one another’s lives, but are we really connected? Are we emotionally invested in one another? Are we too busy to take the time to notice when our friends and family members are hurting? Are we sharing what’s really going on in our hearts and minds? Or are we letting our relationships remain superficial because anything deeper than that is uncomfortable?
Maybe it’s because we just don’t know what to say. Even when we’re trying to help a loved one through loss (death, miscarriage, divorce), we sometimes feel so compelled to say just the right words to “fix” the situation that we end up blurting out something that is not only unhelpful, but may even seem callous. Can we instead just offer a hug, an “I’m sorry that you’re going through this”, or even, “Is there anything I can do?”
I’d like to take this moment to stress that autism does NOT necessarily go hand in hand with mental instability. I know a few mothers with autistic children, and those kids savor life perhaps better than the rest of us, because they retain that child-like view of the world. I truly hope that Adam’s mental health issues do not become synonymous with autism, or Aspberger’s. Just because an individual is socially inept does not mean that they’re going to snap and go on a killing spree.
Having had two bright children, I can’t imagine the strain of having a mentally challenged child, especially one with behavioral and emotional issues. I can guess that I would have wanted to have all of the support that I could get to help me through the inevitable difficult days. I wonder, if more people were truly involved in the lives of Adam Lanza and his mother Nancy, would they have had the support they needed to get him the help he needed? I’m not saying I have a crystal ball and I know how Sandy Hook could have been avoided, but I do wonder if things might have turned out differently if they’d had the community rallying around them.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. Sometimes, I don’t think I have any of the answers. I guess I’m mostly just musing, and wondering why we so fearfully avoid talking about mental health issues. This blog is about Savoring Simple Life because I appreciate simplicity, and the peace that goes along with simplifying your daily life. Unfortunately, there are no simple answers when someone is dealing with a mental illness, or helping a family member through one. But it is also about SAVORING life, which we can’t do when we are in the depths of depression, or struggling with bipolar disorder, or any of those other disorders that we don’t want to talk about.
What do you think? If you are willing to share, have you or a family member ever struggled with depression, bipolar disorder, or other emotional issues? Do you feel that people go out of their way to avoid discussing these things? Why? Do you have someone who has supported you even when the situation was awkward? Have you told that person how much you appreciate their support?