Mental Health/False Intimacy

mental-health-1st-aid

In my twenties, I never thought it would be me. I should have, really. All the signs were there. They’d been there since I was thirteen. But I never saw them, nor did the people around me.

It was only two years ago when the light bulb switched on. Chronic depression. I’d been living it with for most of my life, and the destruction it left in its wake is probably still smoking in the burned bridges behind me.

Perhaps it’s because I figured it out so late in life, (very nearly too late), that I’m willing to talk about it. That I won’t let anyone shame me into silence. That I tell other people to do the same. Don’t hide. Don’t hold it in. Don’t be afraid to reach out. When you feel the spiral hit, find your touchstones. Hold tight until the spiral slows and eventually levels out to solid ground again.

I think what I also want to mention here is the issue of false intimacy. I’ve mentioned it before, but in the context of mental health and reaching out, I think it’s worth mentioning, because I think there’s a safety issue involved.

Social media and email make people think they know you. You share details, elements, of your daily life and thoughts. But those aren’t the total of you, are they? You’re more than the 150 characters you put in a status update. You’re more than the politics you share, or the meal you ate last night, or the cute cat picture. Just as the people on your news feed are far more than you can see through their photos of trees or puppies.

I share certain thoughts. Certain pieces of me. But very, very, few people know me. I have many acquaintances, but very few friends. So, while plenty of folks know I have depression, they don’t know what that means to me, or how it effects my daily existence. They don’t know about my multi-faced demons, or where a lot of it stems from. What they know are the bits I share, breadcrumbs of the person I am today. And if they think they truly know and understand me because of those breadcrumbs, then they’re not looking very closely. (This is an interesting phenomena when it comes to writing, which will be in a blog on my author site.)

So, when I tell you to reach out, to talk to people, to not suffer in silence until your spiral sucks you into the tar forever, I also urge caution. Reach out to those you genuinely trust. To someone you know will simply listen, and be the hand you can hold so you don’t go under. But avoid the false intimacy of social media and email. Remember that people only know the bits you’ve shared, and you also only know the bits they’ve shared. Under the surface of a multi-user screen, we are far more complex than we show online. Turn to the flesh and blood people around you. To organizations there to support you no matter what. When you’re hurting, when you’re at your most vulnerable, keep yourself safe in every way, including deciding who to trust with where you’re at.

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