Sunday 5 December 2021

"You're too sensitive"

Without warning I started to cry during the Santa parade and had to leave. 
Tears were pricking my eyes when I saw the "Welcome back Health Care Team" sign in front of the hospital. 
I had to take some deep breaths when I read the simple words "Welcome back" taped to the door of WalMart so I wouldn't start bawling like a loser right in front of WalMart. 

When I hear sad stories about patients my eyes get glassy from unshed tears. The nurses probably think I'm insane. 
When patients I know and cared for die I have to have a little cry in the bathroom at work.

Every single time I've seen First Nation Peoples drum or make music (during said Santa parade; in front of the post office last year in honour of essential workers; for our long-term care residents last summer; in remembrance of a friend's death) it makes me unspeakably sad. 

I can't explain the reason; I feel a heaviness descending upon me, as if I get a tiny glimpse into the suffering and unfairness they've endured, and all I want to do is wail. You know how people have sad music they listen to when they feel down? That's my sad music. 

Last week my husband said yes to a spontaneous invite to our friends' house without checking with me first if I wanted to go. I had settled in on the couch with a glass of wine, candles and Christmas tree lit, watching a Christmas movie. I wasn't mentally ready to go, but he begged and wheedled, so I agreed. 

At the beginning of the night I had a great time: we were talking and laughing and joking around. But after a while, I suddenly started to check out. They continued talking, but I grew quiet. I couldn't explain why; I told them I was tired. But it wasn't really tiredness; it was a bone-weariness that literally stole my ability to talk and interact. I just sat there silently, staring into space, wanting to go home and crawl into bed.
It was as if my light had been blown out and I was dark. No power in the world could have cajoled, threatened or forced me to participate and continue on; my batteries were completely drained.

Sometimes I get the sudden unshakable conviction that nobody likes me. I revert back to an insecure child that thinks that all her friends talk bad about her behind her back. Is it logical? No. But it's such a strong, overpowering belief that I feel all the pain and hurt I felt as a child when people really were mean to me. It feels 100% real. 

"You're too sensitive." I heard that all through my childhood. 
"Pull yourself together," was usually the follow-up. As if it were that easy. 
"What do you have to be sad/upset about? Don't be such a drama-queen."

Being accused of being attention-seeking or "ruining everybody's day/vacation/party/good time" when it requires all your energy to get through the day and act normal is a special kind of hell. 
It's like telling someone in a wheelchair to stop pretending and start walking. 
I feel guilty for being this way because I know how good my life is and how much I have to be thankful for. 
I am thankful. And I am happy. 

But I'm also sensitive. I cry easily. I feel things deeply. I sometimes think a vital layer of skin is missing; the one that protects from the harshness and cruelty of the world. I seem to have misplaced that layer, which means that outside forces can penetrate with laughable ease. 

I don't know if that's part of my mental illness, or if that's just how I am. On the Myers-Briggs scale I'm an INFJ, so maybe it's a combination of having depression and how I'm made. 

Why am I sharing this today?
Because one year ago a friend took his own life. We don't really know why the world became too heavy for him, because he didn't want to talk about it. 

One of the most awful and insidious parts of having depression is that it makes you feel like a burden. That's why we try so hard to hide it - we know how heavy it is, and we don't want to burden anybody else. So we smile on the outside, are the life of the party, offer shoulders to lean on and ears to listen, encourage others and pretend to be fine. But we are not fine. We are numb inside and feel disconnected from the world, like there is an invisible barrier separating us from everybody else. That separation is the loneliest feeling in the world. 

But it's incredibly hard to talk about, especially if we have friends and family who love us and a life that looks good. It might even be good, which makes it even worse! How can we complain if we have so much to be grateful for? When so many other people have it worse? How can we be so selfish and ungrateful?

Our friend didn't share how he felt, and now it's too late. There could be many possible reasons why he didn't seek help: shame, fear, embarrassment, feeling like he was the only one, not wanting to appear weak, not wanting to come across as a loser. 

I can't change that. All I can do is talk about how I feel, as someone who is sensitive and has depression, in the hopes to make it more acceptable to talk about. 
Let's normalize mental illness and the large variety of mental conditions. We know that there are hundreds or thousands of physical ailments; why is it so difficult to accept that there are just as many mental ones? The brain is our most sophisticated organ, so it only makes sense that it's prone to glitching, malfunctioning, or breaking down.  
Every machine does, our body does, why not our brain?
We are multi-faceted, complicated beings who have many more emotions than just happy or sad. The world isn't black and white, and human beings aren't just one of two things; they are a chaotic, complicated, beautiful mess of emotions. 

I'm grieving for our friend and his family. I'm grieving for anybody who has lost someone to mental illness. 
But most of all, I want to keep the conversation going, so that people out there who feel numb and lost and separated from the world find the courage to seek help.
I hope that a person who believes that the world would be better off without them realizes that it's their disease lying to them. Their malfunctioning brain has turned against them: it's telling them lies, twisting their thoughts, and messing with their body, mind and soul. 

Let's keep talking about it for as long as it takes for people to recognize mental illness as a real illness, not something that's "just in your head".

As Dumbledore said to Harry: 
"Of course it is all happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"



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  2. I love your words, as they really ring true. As someone who suffers from depression... but not ALL of the time, I get it. It's hard to let people know what's going on. Sometimes it's terrible and I check out for a while, and other times my friends probably think I have the world by the balls, so to speak. And sometimes I do, actually. Take care, Miriam!

    1. You as well Karen! My depression is the same, it comes and goes. I read something the other day that was a response to the question what we wish for people to understand about depression. It was so perfect, I have it saved on my phone:

      "You can go to work, go with friends, smile, etc. and still be depressed.
      You could be glowing the evening before with genuine happiness, and the next morning, be under the darkest of dark clouds and lock yourself away for an entire day.
      Long to short, depression has no schedule."

    2. That's such a perfect description! Saving that, thank you!


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