Bearing the mark
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
“Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.”
Our fight against mental and emotional health issues can be a frustrating, painful one. We face unrelenting giants that seem unbeatable. And even though we fight, and push, and get up from the dirt after every fall, sometimes it’s just too much.
As I write these lines today, I am in pain. Physically, and emotionally. I feel tired, frustrated and in serious need of a respite. Having said that, there’s still enough fight left in my heart and brain to rebel against these giants that seek to destroy me. And that is why I keep typing. Because I can, and because I have to. Because I cannot give in, ad because this will pass, and better days will come. Even if I can’t see them on the horizon today.
In this post, I am going to talk about some of these giants we face, most specifically about three of them because, for me, they are the nastiest ones.
Stigma, or the mark of disgrace:
One of the definitions for “stigma” is: “A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”
At the same time, “disgrace” is described as the “loss of reputation or respect as the result of a dishonorable action.” It has several synonyms such as “shame”, “dishonor”, and “discredit”.
What a heavy burden to carry.
As if pain and trauma brought by mental health conditions were not enough, social “shaming” exerts brutal pressure on people afflicted by them. Being emotionally challenged is not something our society seems able to understand. Not yet.
Strangely enough though, it’s not unusual to promote this stigma ourselves, its very own targets.
I understand this may not make much sense but, personally, I used to believe —and say— that depression was not a real thing. Maybe it was just my ignorance, or my lack of willingness to face the issue. Regardless, that reasoning did little to help me. I still remember telling others that would suggest therapy as an option that “it was not for me” or, plainly, that I did not “believe” in it. Looking back at those days, I’ve come to realize that, for me, asking for help meant accepting the stigma. It was putting that mark on my forehead.
Don’t take it the wrong way, please. I am not trying to point fingers at you while judging my former self — at least that is not my intention — but I do need to own the fact that I was not willing to face my own demons.
Maybe we all need to do that.
And yes… holding ourselves accountable is a whole different struggle which I understand. It would be extremely hypocritical of me to say otherwise because I failed at that, time and again. And that is why I need to share this with you because, if you are taking the same path I did then, all you’re doing is making things worse.
Lying to ourselves or ignoring reality is not the answer. There’s help available, and you should take advantage of that.
There is no shame in your pain.
Ignorance, or the root of all evil:
As I mentioned before, part of the reason for my poor choice-making was my ignorance. It would be fair to say that I probably embraced it because I wasn’t ready to accept there were things I could – and should — do. Sometimes, we are not ready to look at ourselves in the mirror. We might take a quick glance down the abyss but look away immediately. We know that we’ll see things we don’t want to. It might be fear, remorse, guilt, regret, or just plain pain. But whatever it is, it will stare right back at us, and that is frightening.
Have you ever felt like that? If you have, know you are certainly not alone.
Sooner or later, you will need to look. It will be hard to face whatever you find hiding in that void but, I promise you, it will also be liberating.
There’s also another kind of ignorance: the one that affects people around us, the whole society, and it is hard to handle. We can talk about mental health issues, try to explain them, and give people a whole lecture about why they should care. But chances are they will neither understand, nor change their minds about our struggles, because that is what ignorance does. It numbs people. Our loved ones, family and friends, they will care and try to help, but without proper education on the issue, they will also struggle while trying to rescue us.
Does that mean there’s no hope? Am I implying there’s nothing we can do? Absolutely not. All I am saying is it is a process that takes time, and we need to do our part to change the outcome. Which brings me to…
Pain, an inevitable result?
Maybe. But that does not mean it needs to be permanent, because it doesn’t.
But why did I go from ignorance to pain?
I understand how nefarious emotional and physical can be. Both present their own challenges that become even more difficult to combat as time goes on.
Ignorance makes everything worse, our pain included. It exacerbates our loneliness and our frustration. If it’s the kind that we are responsible for, it prolongs our suffering because we don’t look for answers that are hidden behind it. If it’s other people’s ignorance, it alienates us and shuts us down. And that is painful too.
When it comes to emotional anguish, I’ve experienced the consequences of the lack of awareness I see in our society. But I have also found out that there is plenty of people that are in my shoes. That is why I keep repeating, over and over, that you should not feel alone. And I say that because you are not. And if you are going to remember just one thing from all I’ve been sharing with you, I hope that is it. I hope you can truly understand and accept that you are not an island, and that the way your mental struggles make you feel, is shared by thousands upon thousands of people in this country and in the world. Millions of them actually.
I really, really hope you can understand that, because when you do, you will be taking the first step toward guilt relief.
There’s so much more to say about this. So much more I want to express and share, and we’ll have plenty of time to do that. Today, I only wanted to put these thoughts out there as a first step toward our healing. And while you sit on these words, reach out for help, and give yourself a chance.
Might as well be the best decision of your life.
* Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher (around 428 BC – 348 BCE).