(Continued from part 1..)
As said, he was so enthusiastic and so outward going, I always felt a little overwhelmed by him.
But we got talking, and when I told him about my illness, he turned round and told me that he had had exactly the same experience. He was probably in his mid 60’s, and told me he had worked in finance up in the city for many years, until he started to develop symptoms of serious mental illness.
He told me that before he left his job, when he was still suffering horrendously and trying to hold it all together, he used to take his lunch, go by himself to the nearby park, sit on a bench and cry to himself for the hour of his lunch break.
He said he felt so terrible, but had absolutely no idea why at that time. I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe that this outgoing, upbeat and positive guy had had these experiences as well, and that he was as willing to talk about them as I was.
It was another reminder to me how common these experiences are, and, moreover; it made me realise that I shouldn’t simply assume that because a person was loud and outward going etc, they were going to be judgemental and dismissive of my condition! The reality was in fact quite the opposite, and we chatted for ages about commonalities and differences in our experiences.
This encounter reminded me not to judge a book by it’s cover- and to never assume that I knew how a person would react to my illness.
As I already said, most people have either had experiences themselves, or know somebody who has, and are as willing to talk about them as you are. If you approach the subject openly and without restraint, most people will follow suit and carry on a conversation in the tone that you set.
This can feel awkward, and it can feel scary at first- to open yourself up and tell a person you do not know very well about something which has been painful and is massively personal. And I am not arguing that you always, should, tell everybody you know about your mental illness diagnosis- I am not saying that at all. I completely understand that for some people, these close personal issues will always be privates ones.
I just think that the important thing is to study your own reasons for telling someone or not telling someone about it.
It seems to me that if you wish to keep these aspects of your life private because that is what they are to you, and you simply do not see the need for anybody else to know about them, then as I said- keep them to yourself. There is no need to tell everyone and it is, obviously, completely and utterly up to you what you share and what you don’t.
However, I personally believe that if you are keeping your diagnosis to yourself out of fear of someone’s reaction; ultimately if you are keeping it to yourself because of a sense of shame, and because you would feel ashamed to admit to other people that you have had mental illness, then this is when you might want to stop and examine your motives and your feelings a little more closely.
(Although- I want to emphatically state here that this is all in my opinion, and I do not mean to preach, or sound like I’m telling other people what they should and shouldn’t disclose to the people around them. What do I know? I’m just exploring the idea of stigma, and the reasons why we do or don’t tell other people about our experiences with mental illness..)
(Continued in part 3…)