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Day two (again)

January 10, 2017

Thank you, dear reader. You got me to the gym yesterday. Well, that’s not quite true, is it? I got me to the gym, but the knowledge that someone was keeping an eye on me did provide some impetus. A mile and a quarter on the treadmill, which is not overly ambitious, but it’s a start.

After the gym there was a rehearsal of An Unhelpful Complication, my play. All three of us are taking the acting workshop, the director, my co-star (god, that sounds pretentious)and me. Based on lessons learnt (or rather lessons remembered from previous workshops) we decided to spend some time discussing what’s actually going on in the play. Two hours whizzed by without a line read, but it was a useful discussion.

And then, of course, there’s the big news: what didn’t happen when I got home from the non-rehearsal. I did not play any computer game. It’s only one day, but I’m still going to give myself a pat on the back.

You know that thing Facebook does, reminding you of the posts you made on a certain date some previous year? Yesterday it threw this one up from January 2012:

Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are NOT a sign of weakness. Would you post this on your wall, at least for one day? Most people won’t but it’s Mental Health Awareness week. Did you know that 1 in 3 of us will go through this at some point in our lives? Share the support! Let those who struggle know they’re not alone, that they are loved and surrounded by a lot of people who understand and care.

I’m pretty sure I know which of my friends originally posted this and for whom I shared it to show support. A young woman whose anxiety could at times become completely paralysing. Even though I’m not particularly big on sharing these things, but I would have done it for her. (Despite the grammar pendant in me screaming about the failure to spell out one and three. On reflection, I’m surprised I didn’t correct this before sharing.)

I don’t know if that figure of one in three is accurate. It seems so high and yet at the same time it doesn’t surprise me. There’s a reason my doctor told me not to be afraid to tell my friends what I’m going through. The specific reason he gave is that they will want to help. And of course that’s true. The friends with whom I’ve shared this journey have been very supportive, showing a great deal of empathy (versus sympathy).

Those on the island who see me regularly voiced surprise along with empathy, saying they had no idea what I was going through. Well, of course they didn’t. How could they? I’ve had a lifetime of practising my “I’m just fine, thank you very much” role. In that one at least, I am a very good actress.

What has truly touched me is the messages I’ve received from some friends (and one complete stranger) thanking me for this exercise, sharing their own dark journeys with me. The message is clear: You are not alone. And it’s an important message, because this illness isolates you. You are convinced that you are inexcusably weak, that everyone else is coping with whatever life throws at them much better than you are. If, like me, you’ve always prided yourself on making yourself untouchable, that is a very bitter pill to swallow.

That said, the phrase “too much sharing” suddenly springs to mind. Two days from now I will be attending the first session of the depression group at the medical clinic. I know I’ve mentioned this before. I have very mixed feelings about the prospect. On the one hand, part of me (the rational part) recognises that this could be a good thing, that talking to others could be beneficial. Then there’s the other part, the irrational part, the part that cannot seem to shake off the shameful (to irrational me) prospect that people I might see in the grocery store will know I’m not as strong as I like to pretend.

Both my doctor and The Nurse have suggested to me that, what with me being so eloquent and all, I might be able to help some of the others in the group. Me? The woman who cannot remember the last time she washed the bathroom floor – despite swearing before going to bed every night that it will get done tomorrow? What the hell do I have to offer?

It’s one thing to write words on a page (or computer screen). That’s usually easy. Looking strangers (or, god forbid, acquaintances) in the eye and admitting  you need help? Whoa. That’s something completely different. Gulp.

Enough for today. I am going to get some housework done.

From → Black dog diary

One Comment
  1. krysross permalink

    Participated in a twelve week group therapy thing in the summer. It was for people who had a loved one with mental illness, essentially to help us understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Also went into it with much trepidation–not big on “sharing” (and, god, after virtually every single participant comment one of the therapists would say, “thank you for sharing”). But it was useful and we kept going. I wish I’d had access to a group like that fifteen years ago–it might have saved our family a lot of grief. Hope your experience is similarly positive.

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