I found out from my experience that most people don’t feel comfortable when facing a person who has a depression or a melancholic person. I first discovered this long time ago. Those who I have came out to about my depression and they still managed to stand there listening to my story (instead of running away) were actually a few friends who have psychological background or friends who happen to be mature enough to accept it. They were not that many though. For most people, they still looked uncomfortable when I mentioned about it. One person, whom I did not even tell about the depression but somehow managed to guess it, said that I have “self-pity.” And from then on, whenever I disagreed or got angry a little bit at him, those two words would show up. It got to be comical, really. I actually thought perhaps I have gained a new nickname. How did he manage to guess it? Who knows. Something in the way I carry myself, the way I talk, my thought process, whatever clue it was, I honestly don’t really know for sure. I guess we humans have a tendency to think that we know other people better than they know themselves. That is how assumption is made. We assume we know.
If I have to put myself in those other people’s shoes, I understand why they would feel uncomfortable. Depression is the most common mental illness out of all mental illnesses, but it’s the least talked about. Why is that? Because the stigma is still there, felt by us who have experienced depression. We feel embarrassed. We feel ashamed by having it. We feel that we may become a burden to others. We are afraid that people will look down on us for having it. We think that people will not understand us, or it. We fear that we will have repercussion as a result of coming out with the fact that we have a mental illness. I know what I don’t like the most. I don’t like it when people would then look at me with a sympathy look on their face after I told them about it. A part of me thinks that that look is like a form of sarcasm actually, not a real sympathy. I’m fully aware that I’m not being fair by saying that the sympathy look and statement are not genuine because they may actually be genuine. But it’s because my defensive wall is up and preventing me from taking it kindly.
Please do understand, just like with all physical illnesses out there, a person’s body automatically enters a defensive zone mode whenever a bacteria enters the body or an old virus is acting out again. The same with us who suffer from chronic mental illness with an episode that comes and goes, when we think our old “ghost” is back, we mentally goes into a defensive mode too. We search around us for who are the people that we can trust to tell our problem and who we should stay away from. We become better at that over time. We pick carefully who we can open up to. I, myself, have experienced this and have seen the same phenomenon with people who have come to me to share their stories. They came to me NOT because they knew I have dealt with a mental problem before too, but they must have seen something in me that they thought they could open up to. It’s their defense radar who did the work.
And that is what I meant by having that defense wall up. We will know if the sympathy statement is genuine or not. The wall is up in order to protect us, to recognize the genuine people whom we can trust over the ones who may cause us more harm–whether intentionally (using our mental illness to bully us) or unintentionally (saying stupid, wrong, or insensitive things accidentally). The wall is up because we don’t want to crumble in front of a wrong person, or at a wrong time and place. The example of “that’s self-pity” or “that’s self-pity again” statement is what I consider as unintentional. I’m positive that the person saying it did not mean any harm to me, but at that time, those short statements hurt. Whether they were true or not, they still hurt. In actuality, I admit that they were true. I do have the self-pity, and it is something that I struggle with until now. It is not something that will go away in a short time. Needless to say, after the very first time I was called “self-pity,” I entered into a restless sleep later that night with a disturbing dream that woke me up in tears.
We never know how our words will affect others, even though those comments may be true. I’m positive that I’ve been guilty of saying the wrong things to other people many times too. I just hope that we all can forgive each other as much as we forgive try to forgive ourselves.
And so the road to healing and the stories continue… God bless.