obsessed with mental health
The other day I ran into two people who came from a time in my life when I was unwell about four years ago, and who I had not really come across since. I can tell you, it’s a little bit unnerving. Notably, at the time neither of these people really knew that I was unwell. I’m quite alright with meeting people today who knew about my mental health issues then, because it is so lovely to tell them that I am well.
With these two people, I was quite unsettled. One of them didn’t recognize me (we both attended a small lunch), the other one did. I think two things happened. First, these people quite simply triggered memories of a difficult time. I think this effect is not to be underestimated. I find things triggering that had nothing to do with my mental health struggles at the time, but were simply part of my life then. These can be random things like clothes, songs (the entire album “Heart” by Stars, which is so beautiful), and yes, even people who played no role themselves in the hardship I encountered. Triggers are challenging, but I have strategies for managing them, especially if they are indirect as those above. Triggers which directly relate to traumatic experiences are a different beast. Look out for a blog post on how I manage triggers in the future.
Second, for people who didn’t know about my struggles then, it feels impossible to show them who I am today, because that is the result of overcoming those difficult times. How can you tell someone that you are a phoenix if they have no knowledge of the fire? I feel the same way with friends and aquaintances who I didn’t confide in at the time, perhaps appropriately so because we just weren’t close enough/in different countries/etc. It means that they have missed the entire journey of how I got to be who I am today, and catching them up seems such a big task. Maybe I’d like to be closer friends nowadays, but doesn’t friendship only grow if both parties feel seen/understood/”got” as who they truly are? If I were to catch them up, how do you have that conversation? “You see, what I care about and how I think these days is really the result of recovering from years of mental health issues several years ago …” I’m not saying it’s an impossible conversation to have, especially when spending time with someone one-on-one, but it’s a challenge at year group reunions and similar events. It takes a leap of faith across stigma and shame.