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Is Mental Health Another Loaded Word?
It surely feels like it.
At any given second of my life, my thoughts are wandering, sometimes even racing from a topic to another, from one state of mind to another, from one painful emotion to another.
It’s not a secret anymore, I don’t seem to be able to experience joy or other positive emotions, such as pleasure and excitement. These words, I use them to make conversation or to describe situations that are not negative, but to say I feel them is a bit much. On the other hand, I do feel pain, sadness, guilt, anger and disappointment. In fact, the latter has always been my less favourite of all. Whether it’s me disappointing someone (or myself) or me being disappointed, both are terribly uncomfortable and lead to immense distress.
Those tags I have collected for myself through the years, from anxious to gifted, with autistic in between, they are somewhere on the truth spectrum. What do they have in common? They seem like umbrella terms for people who have no clue what the hell is wrong with them, but they cannot be truly diagnosed. The only sure thing about the crazy creature I am is that there is something going on. What? We’ll probably never know.
I thought I had grown to become weird in my adult life, that I had taken some kind of character after high school after being a regular kid, maybe to start fresh in the grown-up school (we have an intermediate step in Quebec called Cégep – it’s either a professional school for technicians or a preparation for University degrees, it’s unique in the world but I still haven’t figured out if it’s good or just weird). When I got my High School book out and read the messages of my fellow students lately, I quickly remembered I was already weird and impossible to fit in, this scary person who’s never smiling or happy, who scare other kids without even saying a word. For some reason, I suppressed a lot of memories of my adolescence. Any positive memory seem to have vanished.
Mental health is a word I use too much, and one I hate. Like the rest, it’s unquantifiable and it’s become some sort of vicious trend, another fashionable concept that is worn like glitter. I sometimes mention my mental health issues to people (quite randomly, I must admit) and each time, I wonder what it even means and especially, why. It may be a way for me to excuse my weirdness, my lack of luster, my difference, because I know how deep the gap between me and everyone around is. This incapacity, or immense difficulty, to bond with regular people has always been there, and for unexplainable reason, I have always fought it back (it’s very easy to explain, deep down, I would like to be like them, they look happy-ish). However, through the ages, I have been able to manoeuvre it, kind of, and to make some viable utilitarian relationships, with people whom I pay for their services.
This week, I was very down. One could even say fucking depressed. Existing was hard. Might have been hormonal, might have been mental, might just be who I am, we’ll never know. What I do know is how unbearable life was. Never am I able to relate to others around, other parents, neighbours, teachers. Those people, they don’t even seem to exist in the same space-time as me. While they wander in their car, drive to work, walk their dog, drop their kids at school, I am there, existing in pain.
While I word it, explain it, write it, it may sound very intense, like I am about to end everything, but no, I won’t. Truth is, I can simultaneously live this state of horror and walk my son to school at the same time, while looking fabulous and sane. Last sentence was just a test, I never look fabulous, but I most certainly can look normal, for lack of a better term. For the sake of my mini-me, whom I want to shield from this constant existential depression state, I act. I could be very authentic with him and show him my upside-down dark self, but I doubt it would be of any use for his confidence and he would worry for me. This decades-long of acting ok made me good at pretending, so be it.
When I hit “soft” bottom on Thursday, unable to be efficient and to feel useful, or to even breathe correctly, I started to blame myself for my loneliness, for not keeping up with friends and family, and for not even trying, and not even liking most of them. The truth is, I am unfit for people, mostly, and my patience for pretending otherwise deflated with time. I wish I could have believed my mother, just a little, when she insisted that if I smiled and acted like I was happy, I would be. Unfortunately, I outsmarted her when I was 10 and I quickly realized that reality wasn’t something I could ever escape soberly, so I had to either drink myself to rest, or cope with pain. I quit drinking three years ago and most of the days, I can somewhat cope, for the rest, there is Substack.