Suffering in silence
Telling some who is highly sensitive to harden up and stop taking things personally is like telling someone with anxiety to relax and stop worrying.
Or telling someone with depression that their life isn’t so bad and to cheer up.
Or telling someone who is suicidal that they are selfish and have plenty to live for.
All of these things are unhelpful, ignorant, and borderline offensive. It won’t change how their brains work and it certainly won’t make their situation easier.
A highly sensitive person takes things to heart before they have a chance to think twice about the comment. That initial hurt is imprinted in them and won’t just wipe away with an offhand comment about hardening up. That comment can make them feel worse and like there is something wrong with them to begin with. Not helpful, not necessary.
Anxiety can be crippling. It can be so bad that a person can’t leave the house for fear or worry of something. It could be something totally irrational to you, but your brain isn’t wired the same way. And it isn’t just a brain wiring difference either – anxiety is a condition that needs treatment, depending on the severity. Simply relaxing isn’t an option for a sufferer of anxiety.
That person with depression? They’ve tried to cheer up. It’s past the point where cheering up is even possible. No amount of hearing that their life is better than others’ lives or that they have a lot going for them is going to stop them being sick. Depression is an illness. You wouldn’t tell someone who has measles that other people are worse, and to get over it.
To get to the point of being suicidal means that someone has gone through depression, possibly crippling anxiety, maybe some sort of extreme grief – and they have not overcome those feelings, or their illness. For one reason or another, they’ve not received the help they need.
If you think someone is selfish for wanting to end their life, you truly don’t understand what is happening in their mind. To be completely convinced that every person around you and even the world itself would be better off without you is devastating. Someone who is truly suicidal believes they are no more than a burden, and that everyone would legitimately be better off and happier if they ceased to exist. They believe this the same way you and I believe the sun will rise tomorrow. These thoughts and beliefs are not bred of a healthy mind – so why do we think a firm hand and a strict talking to will help?
You don’t treat cancer with punishment, derision, or advice to suck it up and make yourself better. Cancer kills, so we treat it medically, we treat the sufferer with kindness, sympathy, and at the very least, pity. Depression kills. And we treat it with avoidance, insensitivity, and unnecessary lack of understanding.
Of course, I don’t mean everyone. Not every person avoids those who suffer from anxiety. Not every person is insensitive to someone who is depressed. Not every person loses respect for those who want to kill themselves, or even those who complete the act.
But some people do. And it needs to stop. We need to stop.
Whether you do it or not, it is up to every person in society to change the way we think. If you meet someone spouting ignorant opinions of mental illness – you generally have 2 choices. Sit back and disengage – you’re not agreeing, but you’re not participating. Or you stand up. Call them on what they say – if you know it to be incorrect, correct them. If you realise that they don’t see all sides of the story, but you do, open their eyes. Even if you don’t necessarily have any knowledge to the contrary of what they are saying, you can still remind them that they aren’t an expert – unless they are an expert in mental health, then that would be worrying to say the least – and that they don’t know all the facts, so should stop judging those we either don’t know or don’t understand.
Mental illness – particularly depression and anxiety – shouldn’t be a social stigma, but it is. And unfortunately, it probably won’t change for a long while. But the wheels need greasing so they can turn, and the wave needs pushing so it can change.
I’m not sure what I’m hoping to achieve with this post. I would like to think I might change someone’s viewpoint – maybe open someone’s eyes to something they hadn’t considered before. I’ll probably just get a few eye rolls for being dramatic and everyone will be on their way again. Unchanged.
But I hope not. I hope at least one person comes away from reading this with a slightly more open mind, a more understanding mind, or maybe a nod of agreement because they already felt this way too.
Please, if you find yourself in one of the categories I listed above, let me know. If for nothing else than my simple curiosity – and I am genuinely curious what people think of this post – please say something. You’ll have my eternal gratitude in return. A hefty prize, I know.
Anyway, I think I’ll end my waffle there. I have so many more thoughts about this topic, but this is enough for now. Maybe I’ll write more later.
Until next time,
For those needing help, or those wanting more information, please check out the links below.
These organisations do brilliant work in trying to stop the suffering.
You don’t have to be silent. You’re not alone.