I’ve always considered my life to be an open book. I’m open about the tragedies from my past (i.e. my mom’s suicide, my heartbreaks, my failures in life, etc.) I suppose it’s because I love to talk. I love to converse with people. I love connecting with people on a deeper level. Even with my writing on previous blogs, I’ve been open. It’s almost literally an open book. A digital version.
But the one thing I never write in that open book, the one thing I never shared, was the deepest darkest destructive thoughts in my head. My darkness. My demons that lurks in the shadows. There’s only a select number of people who I’ve shared those pages with. Those select few are the ones that could understand the darkness, who are living in the darkness.
That was years ago. That was in a time when the internet wasn’t what it is now – an open door to each and every conceivable world. A time when the stigma attached to mental health was still relegated to insanity and people locked up in padded rooms.
We now live in a time where mental health issues gets a much needed spotlight. We live in a time when mental illness is on the road to general acceptance – a time when the varying degrees of mental illness is starting to be understood by the world at large. It’s still on its infant stages, true, but it’s on the right track. It’s getting there.
Since I started openly talking about my darkness and my depression on my blog, social media, and in real life, I’ve become one of the voices of mental health awareness in certain circles. I get messages from people going through the same darkness saying they’ve inspired me to move forward, to be better. They’ve told me that, as I mentioned, I’ve become the voice of so many others who can’t speak up yet.
Before I started getting treatment, I sort of assigned myself as the de facto guidance counselor to people who are in the same darkness as I am. I’ve always wanted to help people in whatever capacity I can. That was my way of doing that. It could be argued that talking to people about their suicidal tendencies while I’m on the same boat can be dangerous for me (and for them, as well) but I never let it affect me. For those moments when we talk, it’s about them. It’s about their tragedies. It’s about their problems. I am merely their cheerleader, I am the one talking them off the ledge. I do know my limits, of course. When I’m that deep in the abyss, I tell them that I can’t be there for them.
After treatment, my “patient list” has lengthened. Especially now that I talk about my mental health openly. There is, of course, a huge responsibility in being the go-to guy for conversations with the darkness. Again, I do know my limits. We all have different ways of going through life, different ways of coping and handling things. I am more than aware that what I say will greatly impact their lives, particularly when their lives are literally on the line. But being in the darkness a lot longer than those I talk to has given me a wider perspective, a wider experience. My fascination with psychology and the human condition is also a benefit. The more I talk to them, the more I learn about myself. And with my treatment, I have a much clearer mindset compared to how I was.
I have a whole new different way of seeing things. Much more optimistic. Cautiously optimistic, rather. I’m still getting used to the new perspective. Still learning. Still understanding it. I spent the last few years finding logic in the darkness. And I did. I did find the logic in all of it. Up to the point where my emotions took a backseat. Hell, it was in the trunk, gagged and tied up. I got used to that logical thinking, but now I’m sort of back to square one. I can use the logic I had prior to treatment and apply and integrate it to my way current way of thinking. It grants me a much bigger scope – one that I never would have had if I didn’t do the brave thing and sought treatment.
There was a time when I thought I can be one with the darkness. It was a foolish endeavor that, ultimately, I succeeded in. I became one with my depression. I became my depression. At least that’s what I thought at the time. I thought I was harnessing it, controlling it. That’s one of the reasons why I delayed seeking help. It was, in fact, the other way around. The depression was controlling me. I let myself become its bitch.
There’s really no way of controlling it without disastrous results. To even attempt it is another form of self-destruction that’s difficult to recover from. Take it from this stupid old man who barely survived it. I was inches away from a death that was devised by my own hand.
In my conversations with people like me and in tweets and social media status updates I’ve read, I see and hear a lot of those saying that they want to turn the switch off on their emotions. That’s akin to shutting down one’s humanity switch. I do get the appeal. I do understand the reasoning. Unbearable pain. Intolerable emotional quandary. Heaviest of hearts. The world weighing down on one’s soul that what seems like the logical thing to do is to stop feeling altogether. I get that. I understand that. I’ve done that. And let me tell you, it only fucked me up even more.
When I attempted to be one with the darkness, I didn’t know it at the time, but I flipped my humanity switch off. I stopped feeling what I needed to feel. I stopped feeling new emotions. I stopped feeling. The world didn’t weigh down on my soul that much. The pain became more bearable. My heart wasn’t as heavy as it was. And it felt good. Damn it, I felt good. It’s an ironic statement, I know, but without the emotions that made me miserable, I felt better.
But here’s the thing: there will come a time when, whether you’re aware of it or not, something will happen – an event or meeting someone – that will turn that humanity switch back on. And when it does, all those emotions that you didn’t get to feel, all those heartbreaks and emotional torrents that you chose not to feel will all come rushing in. At the same fucking time. It will be even more unbearable than you can imagine. It will make you so fucking overwhelmed with anger and love and frustration and heartbreak and anxiety and dread and insecurity and all those then inconsequential feelings – all at once – that it will drive you to the brink of insanity that the only course of action would be to end it all.
There’s only so much emotion that the brain can take.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a different time now. Mental health issues are more accepted compared to previous times. There are a lot of people who are suffering from various mental illnesses that talk openly about it. Yours truly included. And I’ve posited long ago that one of the things that would help people like me is the simple act of talking to people who are also in the darkness. There’s a great benefit to talking to someone who understands you. On a previous entry, I mentioned that talking to those who don’t go through it would yield only more pain and confusion. I don’t mean to knock them off the board, but more often than not, they won’t know how to handle us. They don’t know how to talk to us. They have their roles, of course. We have to give them that. They act as the positives to balance our negativity. Being around them helps us not to succumb to whatever we’re going through. They’re integral for our recovery. Talking to them when we’re knee deep in our illnesses, however, can be dangerous. As I said, most of them don’t know how to talk to us and may say the wrong things. I myself have been told the wrong things that would have ended with me with a bullet in my brain. They mean well. They love us with all their hearts. But their understanding of what it means to be broken is limited by what they can see and by their own experiences.
Talking to someone in the darkness about your darkness, of course, is a double edged sword. Like a magnet, two negatives would contradict each other. It can be equally as dangerous as talking to someone who’s “normal.” Talking about your issues to someone entrenched in emotional and mental volatility can be life threatening. Also talking to someone who doesn’t want to be better is also a definite no-no. If you want to be better, talk to someone who’s on the same page. Talk to someone who also wants to be better. That way, you can help each other out.
Heh, it’s funny, when I started writing this, my intention was to explain why I talk about my mental illness freely. Not that I need to, mind you. I don’t need to justify why I talk about my depression on an open forum such as my blog and my Facebook. It just started writing itself, I suppose.
On that note, I talk about it because A. I need to. I’ve always enclosed my deepest darkest thoughts. I put them all on a locked room and I, on “good” days, enjoyed being in there. I never talked about it because I was afraid of the connotations of being mentally ill. I was afraid of the stigma attached to it. That I’m sick. That I’m insane. That I’m crazy. That I’m not normal like most people. That I’m so weak-willed that I can’t even pick myself up when I’m down. That I chose to be this way. There are so many stigmas surrounding mental illness that I became voiceless when I needed to voice out what I was feeling, when I needed to scream. Now that I’m on the road to betterment, I’m not gonna silence myself any longer. Yes, I am broken. But what’s broken can be fixed. I am not beyond repair.
And more importantly, Reason B. if my stories and experiences and insights and my voice helps the broken ones like me, helps them find their way to recovery, then that’s a responsibility that I need to take. To walk away from that role now is irresponsible.
We are all we have in the dark. We have a responsibility to help each other out however we can. That’s just the right thing to do. That’s just the human thing to do.