Hello. My name is Ciara Hall. It’s nice to meet you.
That’s a lovely shirt you’re wearing; it really matches your eyes. And who am I, you ask?
Well, I’m a lot of things, many of which aren’t relevant to the discussion that we’re having right now, so I won’t mention them. Instead, I will mention that I sometimes struggle with depression, and I almost always struggle with anxiety. I have dealt with suicidal thoughts off and on for pretty much my whole life; and although I am trying to break the habit, and I have made significant improvement, I have also dealt with issues surrounding self-harm since I was about 10 years old.
Again, it’s very nice to meet you.
I have been told that I should not be so open about these issues. And, I mean, I don’t usually greet someone in quite the same way that I greeted you, humble reader. Usually, I’m a bit more discreet than that. But that being said, I do not try to hide it either, and this little exchange between us is not the first time I have written about this. I mean, I sort of wish that I could say it was, because that would imply that this doesn’t occupy much of my brain space.
And I come from a rather private family, so it should come as no surprise that I have been criticized for talking about this. I’ve been asked, “How do you think the people who care about you feel, having to read about that?”
And I have no doubt, my mother did not wake up this morning thinking, “Oh boy, I really hope that I can read about my daughter’s battle with depression today!” My grandmother does not want to know that I deal with anxiety; my sister does not want me to dig my nails into my skin in frustration.
I know all of this. Every time that I write these articles, this exact thought crosses my mind.
And I am not writing these articles because I want them to worry, or feel bad, or anything like that. That is not the point—which, truth be told, has very little to do with them. The point is me. The point is that I feel better when these thoughts exist outside of my own head. The point is, I know that there are people out there who are dealing with the exact same problems that I am, and I do not want those people to feel like they are alone.
The point is, these are pervasive issues that our society has been ignoring for far too long now, and somebody needs to stand up and speak about them. I cannot control the voices of other people, but I can control my own voice. And I choose to speak.
It just so happens, the unfortunate side effect of this is that the people who care about me learn that my life isn’t exactly perfect.
And I hate to come across as callous and cruel here, but my answer to that is: so what? Nobody’s life is perfect. That’s just one of those things that we all know and accept, one of those phrases that we pass around to make ourselves feel better about our own dumb lives. And yet, we never want to believe it when it comes to our loves ones. I know that I wish my loved ones never had to hurt. But the fact of the matter is, they do, even if it hurts me to know it.
In fact, we all do.
Maybe your issue isn’t depression or mental illness, but you have an issue of some sort.
I have known people who spent their teenage years in the closet and hating themselves for it, and the only way to make things better was to come out to the world around them, even if some people in their lives wished they hadn’t.
I have known people who have been hurt and abused, and despite that, lied about it for years, even to themselves. And the only way to stop the hurt and abuse was to come forward and talk about it, to deal with it, even if their loved ones did not want to hear that they had dealt with something so horrible.
I have also known people who claim to have the perfect life on social media, never once making a single complaint; and yet, in every picture, their eyes are hollow and their smile is forced. When I see these people, I always wonder what they aren’t saying.
Because at the end of the day, we are all suffering, to one degree or another. That is simply part of the human experience, and it’s unfortunate—but denying it won’t make it any better. And hiding your pain may make your loved ones a little bit less concerned, but it most certainly isn’t fair to you. Nobody should have to suffer in silence.
And, in a perfect world, revealing your pain to others shouldn’t make them shy away from you or feel angry. Rather, it should bring you closer. Maybe my family doesn’t want to hear that I deal with depression and anxiety, but if they are aware of what is going through my head, I have someone to turn to when things get particularly bad.
But I get it; the world doesn’t always work that way. Not everyone responds to things they don’t like in the most ideal fashion.
But that still doesn’t mean that we should be silent. Rather, we need to keep talking about it.
Talk about your experience to anyone who you feel comfortable enough with, and either one of two things will happen:
1. Those who don’t respond well will come around eventually, understanding that your safety and happiness sometimes needs to come before their comfort, or
2. You will find someone who does, in fact, accept you for all that you are, and lends an ear to your troubles when you need one.
Maybe we don’t want to hear that our loved ones are suffering, but they are suffering nonetheless. That’s just the nature of life. And if it’s truly someone you care about, then ask yourself this: is it not better to be there for them and do everything we can to alleviate their pain, rather than allowing them to suffer in silence?
So lend an ear to some who needs it. Listen to people, try to understand them, and be their emotional support. Try to help them if you think that you can; and if you can’t, then just be present. Just that alone—not judging them and listening when they need you to—will help them.
And if you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to someone directly, there are ways to get around this while still making yourself heard. Speak out on social media—it will feel less personal, but you will have made a positive, helpful statement of some sort.
Or, if you aren’t comfortable with that, you can speak out on a blog, even anonymously if you want. Or, if you aren’t comfortable with that either, you can write in a journal, or you can reach out to a support network—there are many of these tailored to individual needs including mental health, LGBTQ issues, addiction, and so much more that a simple Google search can provide.
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina