I have a guest post up today on StigmaFighters.com, a site devoted to ending the societal stigma of mental illness by telling the stories of real people who live with mental disorders. I myself am fortunate enough not to be a victim of one of these conditions. But as I point out in my post, you don’t have to be mentally ill to suffer the stigma associated with mental illness.
This is an important story to share, and one that shows courage in doing so. I’m sure your story will be an encouragement to many others who have suffered in similar ways. :)
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Thank you, Norah – it’s a relief to finally put it out there.
I think that may be so for a lot of people. Many bottle it up inside, expecting that no one will understand, that they are the only ones to have those feelings and experiences. Finally, if they do express what they have gone/are going through, they realise that they are not alone and that the empathy felt by others is genuine. The taunting and isolation were more indications of people’s fear for themselves. The relief that ‘I am not alone’ can be life changing. I think your story is a great one for starting discussions. :)
Left you a comment over on the post, but just wanted to say bravo for writing it with boldness, yet compassion for what you went through. Do you have siblings? I only ask because I don’t and well, I might have another question for you depending on your answer.
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I have a half-sister who is eight years older. She had her first kid and moved out when she was eighteen, so I spent a good deal of my youth as an “only” child.
So you went through your mother’s break down as the only child in the house. Do you think it impacted you differently? I remember feeling isolated and like no one believed me and took on a lot of self-blame, but I also became more resilient and was able to leave. I still feel awkward around people, though, like I have zero social graces. So I just be who I am! :-)
Very similar experience. I don’t know exactly what you went through, but for me, so much of what my mother did was so unbelievable that at first I had a hard time convincing people that any of it was real. Once I jumped out of her moving car because she threatened to kill me. Later that night my stepfather – who had moved out of the house already – came and found me at the friend’s house where I’d hidden out. He dragged me home and then yelled at me for making them worry! Talk about clueless. So yeah, the isolation was definitely a problem. On the other hand, at least I didn’t have anyone else to worry about. You see it all the time in child abuse cases, where one sibling won’t leave because they’re worried about their brothers or sisters. I know exactly what you mean about resilience, too, because when you have no outside support, you’re forced to develop it internally. And honestly, I think most of us feel as if we’re lacking in social graces. Sometimes it’s nice to have an excuse! :)
Boy, Lori, that’s some story. Like house arrest at school, with your mum in class. You know what’s helped me, reading this; what’s leavened the gloom with some element of hope? Having seen some of your video clips because I’ve heard your voice, and more to the point, I’ve heard your laugh. A really, ‘geez isn’t it amazing and weird and cool’ sort of laugh. I’d wonder at how you could really deal with this but your laughter suggests you deal with it ok – like your giving the universe the finger and laughing at its surprise. I bet there are loads of kids out there who’d be so helped if they read what you went through because it would help them believe there is another side to be reached.
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Funny you should mention that, Geoff. Recording these videos has actually given me a totally different perspective on myself, and it’s precisely because of that laugh. I tend to think of myself as a rather serious, sedate person, but when I listen to myself talking, it’s like, Wow – I sound so excited and happy! Of course, I’ve had many years to get past the unpleasantness of my adolescence. A while back I received a comment on my upcoming memoir from a lady who’s a nurse in a substance abuse clinic. She said that many of the young people she sees have stories similar in nature to mine, and that they aren’t actually ever able to get past those traumatic events of their youth. It would make me very happy to set a positive example for a kid like that, or maybe, at least, to make someone think that, in spite of everything, there’s still reason to hope.
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My first wife was manic-depressive. I didn’t know what was wrong for years . Everybody just accepted her bizarre manic behavior; the depressions were more obvious. It got worse, I gave up, my kids followed me soon afterwards. But no way was it what you had to put up with. You have my admiration indeed!
It’s a difficult position for anyone to be in, being the “loved one.” You want to be understanding and supportive, but there’s a limit, and in the end, only so much you can do. My experience was, at least, comparatively short – I don’t think it would have been bearable had I spent my whole childhood like that.
Thanks for sharing, Howard.