I talk often about the darkness of mental illness. And it is dark and scary. It isolates us, lies to us, drags us down into its dark depths. But it is a mistake to think it is just us who the darkness impacts.
No, the darkness spreads, like fractures on a pane of glass. It spreads across families and friends. The isolation felt by one creating a black hole, an absence from others in these social spheres. And the darkness swirls around, creating confusion, as so many seem to struggle with understanding this darkness.
For me, the isolation kept me from seeking help from those closest to me. I would self medicate with alcohol, or hold a knife wondering what it would feel like to cut the skin. Wondering if physical pain would distract me from the emotional/mental pain I felt. And while what kept me back was guilt over what my family would think if I did hurt myself, it nevertheless was still incredibly isolating. And I think about all the missed opportunities to connect with friends and family and I see the dark fractures, feeling them with deep regret even though I know it isn’t my fault.
And I know this isn’t just me either. I see families struggle to make sense of a family member’s darkness. And the worst fractures come when a family member dies by suicide, as those left behind are left to wonder why. And some wonder what they could have done differently. And sometimes the painful answer is nothing, because the darkness was so isolating.
I talk about mental illness as openly as I can for several reasons. One reason is to break the stigma of mental illness. Yet another reason is to let those who are stuck in the darkness right now know they are not alone. However, I also talk openly about it because mental illness impacts everyone. Even if they don’t have a diagnosis, they know someone who does.
So how do we fix these dark fractures? We talk about it. The darkness of mental illness hates the light. It hates the openness that comes when people are supported.
So lets all heal the fractures. Lets be open about the darkness of mental illness so that it can be replaced by the light.