While I write these articles to the great unknown mass of people affected by mood disorders, the only way I can say anything meaningful is by revisiting my triggers and episodes. Writing about my disorder induces a sort of voluntary post-traumatic stress, if you will.
It’s like this for anyone who talks about something stressful that has happened to them, whether it be racial injustice, abortion, abuse, or any sort of disease. To share the experience means revisiting it.
For instance, have you ever had to fight back the urge to cry while talking about an old friend you lost, or noticed your voice raising with anger while describing something your family had done to you that really hurt? It should not be surprising when people stay quiet instead of speaking out about their trauma; if you managed to survive it then you don’t usually want to have to do it again. What more, sharing experiences of trauma becomes even harder when there isn’t a safe place to talk about them.
I’ve heard many conversations that go in some variation of this formula:
(X) was never a problem ‘til now! It just didn’t exist. Now everybody is/has (X). It’s a new fad!
Many people consistently participate in this ideology that ignores a history of silence due to stigma.
“Now everybody is gay!” “Now all women experience sexual harassment!” “Now everyone is racist!”
“Now everybody has a mood disorder!”
And this ideology devastates potentially safe places with animosity. It’s not the only formula for cultivating silence, but a prevalent and effective one.
The difference between now and then is the advancement of science, technology, and general knowledge of the world according to more than just the diagnosis free, heterosexual, Christian white male. Over a billion people, in the year 2015, carry the internet and a camera everywhere they go, free to show the world anything they may see just by taking a short video and posting it online, which was not the case even so much as 5 years ago.
Yes, the world has changed, and yes, these issues weren’t a public problem until now but only because they were strategically left out of the history books and everyday lives, tucked neatly under their blanket of shame and hidden from the world. But now that virtually anyone has unlimited access to revealing these guilt ridden injustices under the comforting superhero cape of anonymity, we have finally been able to see all these human atrocities that have been swept under the rug for quite some time. That doesn’t mean they didn’t exist before; it means that you were kept blind to them.
And what about all the brave souls speaking out? Even anonymously?
Their courage and persistence brings me mine, and many other millions of people who are finally able to speak. It only takes one story to spark the flame of courage necessary for the rest of us to validate who we are and stand by those who share our journey.
No, nobody should have to tell you their life story if they don’t want to, and no, no one should feel obligated to relive a pain if they don’t have to. The process of sharing your story with the world has to be entirely consensual, and there is no shame in just wanting to live your life undefined by your trauma.
And no, these ideas are not original but just an echo of a growing crowd of pissed off people wanting their humanity recognized and validated.
Every individual story, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is one more story put out into the world for someone in need to find. It’s one more relived pain that someone put themselves through because they saw the value that someone else’s story gave to their life. Although you only carry one voice in the chanting crowd, every added voice ensures that the sound carries just a little further for someone new to hear. And keep in mind that a chanting crowd never started with a single person, but with a small group that convened to share their pain and speak out together.
For me, not writing, not sharing kills my soul. I have only found catharsis through release and connection. The year and a half I spent with a significant other who had me convinced that my disorder was all in my head brought on a blanket of razor sharp pins, the infamous blanket of shame. For the sake of my own livelihood I speak out in any way I can, even if it means something as small as going to therapy to tell my story to someone who will spare me the overwhelming ignominy surrounding mood disorders in our American culture.
I write and speak out even when it hurts, even if it means being judged, because it is far better than atrophying inside from silence and denial. And who knows? Maybe someone who reads one of my stories will finally find the courage to free themselves, too, from whatever blanket they hide under.