Sep 19, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
In considering what I wanted to say and, more importantly, how… I’ve run through more edits and rewrites than I care to admit. No matter which approach I tried, it felt forced, ill-fitting, wrong.
Yet, what I actually want to say is very simple. But it requires a self portrait to provide a frame of reference and that is not something I was comfortable with.
Fuck that, let’s pull back the curtain.
My name is Thom, I am 45 and until 3 years ago, I didn’t really know what was wrong with me. It took a suicide attempt, days in intensive care and follow up hospitalization under psychiatric care to point me toward a diagnosis.
It’s also the end result of a condition that ten years ago cost me a marriage, my home, my business and set me on an ultimate path devoid of self worth, steeped in isolation and of the opinion that I was poisonous to know.
I’ve known for a long time that depression was a thing for me
That’s a very colourful way to describe recurrent major depression with psychotic aspects, general and social anxiety, I suppose. But the name of a thing does not always convey the reality, does it?
For what it’s worth, I’ve known for a long time that depression was a thing for me; but, I viewed it as a weakness of the will and a failing of personal strength.
Like many, I didn’t have the vocabulary to name the landmarks on my journey. I had no idea that untreated depression could worsen over time. I didn’t understand my mental health would continue to deteriorate regardless of how stern I was with myself, how rigid I was with self inventories and fact checking or how diligently I kept my nose to a self imposed grindstone.
Bouts of delusional belief, the appearance of auditory hallucinations, psychogenic seizures and episodes of crippling anxiety so severe I’d spend days on the bathroom floor didn’t make sense. When I was unable to leave the house, it was because I was weak. When I was clearly symptomatic, it was because I was a failure as a human being.
And the shame of reaching out to anyone to describe the insufferable, malignant things gliding beneath the surface was too great.
Even after the diagnosis, upon learning and absorbing as much as possible regarding my condition the situation only improved marginally as it was a lone journey. We are social creatures by nature’s own design. Solipsism is a fun philosophical concept, it is not a successful means to heal and I couldn’t openly have this conversation with anyone.
Over time, despite my understanding of symptomology, a three year journey through medications and therapy, I once again reached a point where self termination seemed the proper conclusion.
Six weeks ago while having a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning I knew the answer to the question I had been asking myself every morning for the better part of a year was, “Today.” Were it not for the fact that the closest actual friend I have in the world would be the one to find my body a second time, I would not be writing this today. I just couldn’t that to him again.
And nobody knew I was a member of the tribe.
Oh, hang on… I just realized that I forgot to add something to my earlier bio. I’m an administrator in the public education system and have been for the last ten years. A regular part of society, a common face among many.
And nobody knew I was a member of the tribe, off my rocker and behind every smile I was screaming in pain. From a glance, I might be a little odd, but I wouldn’t let people close enough to recognize it was a mask I began crafting as a child, one that I had nearly perfected.
Much like our children today are learning to craft theirs — and this is what I want to address.
Even before working in public education, I have always believed that the preparation of the next generation to take the wheel is the greatest responsibility society holds. Upon signing on with a sizable school district in an economically challenged region of the United States and that provides services for large population of immigrant families it was underscored.
After my own personal struggles and the silence I have lived in, it is now an imperative for me.
Many of our children are raised with trauma, poor diets and unstable home environments. I have seen homes without heat or power during extreme winters and children without proper clothing that we recognize as homeless.
These babies exist in a world where standard, vanilla medical and dental attention is not a part of life, much less attention to mental health needs.
In a society that still cannot have an open and honest conversation regarding mental health… how can tomorrow’s stewards receive an early diagnosis and the tools necessary to help them navigate the world?
How will we achieve our potential as a species?
More to the point, if the adults responsible for their well being and preparation are unable to even recognize and discuss their own illnesses, how can we possibly address the needs of a developing mind impacted by those same illnesses?
Self awareness is the greatest tool we have as a species.
This must change now. Delays in doing so ruin futures and cost lives; this cannot continue.
Self awareness is the greatest tool we have as a species. It is foundational to all acts great and small that we are capable of — and if that self awareness does not include the skills to identify aberrant thoughts and moods then we are victims of our circumstances.
I do not believe we are victims. I do not be live we are weak. I believe we are sick and I refuse to believe that means we have to live in isolation.
I implore everyone to start the conversation not only with your family and your close friends, but find ways to have the conversation with your colleagues. Foster the conversation without prejudice. Be open to having the conversation with acquaintances and react with empathy with strangers. Consider that the odd cat at the office that just doesn’t seem to fit in might be fighting for their life.
There are people struggling in silence and they shouldn’t have to. We don’t have to let them. We can change this starting today.
Love yourselves, love each other and make a better world.