Friday, 25 January 2013

Vignette: Alone in a crowd

Valerie Aurora writes on suicides, and on the torrent of well-meaning advice that comes in its wake.

Read the blog post. She writes eloquently and with personal insight on how much of the advice that shows up — “Remember all those who love you”, or “Just TALK to someone” — can be counter-productive, even exacerbating a bad situation for some depression sufferers.

She also writes concretely on things that do help:

  • Reducing the stigma of mental illnesses — this, by the way, is the main reason I write in this blog, the main reason I speak out as an academic with a mental illness. If we are invisible, how will anyone else realize they are not alone?
  • Share information on trained assistance.
  • Support and push for research into prevention and treatment.
There are things that Valerie describes that touch concretely on my own experiences.

Less than a week before I actually got started on my current treatment, I had a bad dream. It sounds oh so trite when I describe it now, but what I remembered from it when waking up was that my mother was disappointed in me. My brother was upset that I had not kept a promise. And my wife was disappointed in me.

So there I was. Awake. Sad. Upset. Weighed down by the accumulated disappointments. Well aware that these were things that happened in a dream, that had no concrete relationship to my family. My wife slept right next to me — but rather than reaching out, talking to her, seeking her comfort, I grew disgusted with myself. I was convinced the dream disappointment carried over to the real woman, and could not conceive of her tolerating my presence. So I sneaked out of bed. Cried for about half an hour before I could pull myself together well enough to get dressed and put on clothes. Barely managed to convince myself it was really a dream, and was not related to the real world.

Then she woke up. Overslept by well over an hour from what she expected to sleep. Her first words were
“But why did you not wake me up when you got out of bed?”
…and I just cracked.

She is my loving, supporting wife. She will drop everything to bring me back down to earth. And while I knew this even at the depth of my distress, I could not for the life of me remember the immediate implication: if only I were to talk to her, everything would have gotten better. Earlier. “Just talk to someone” does not help as advice here: I knew it. I thought of it as I was fighting with my own anguish. And it did not help me actually reach out, actually talk to anyone.

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