Of course you will ask me, “But is it safe to talk?” Is it safe to open up about mental health problems one might be struggling with? Don’t we all know what we are inviting? Aren’t we well acquainted with those awkward stares, flippant dismissals, tag of drama Queens/Kings or worse – the glorious conclusion that so and so has “lost it/gone mad/mentally ill”??
Yes these are there. But to give into these is like a dog chasing its own tail. They stigmatise – you buckle under it – remain a closet survivor – these issues never see the light of day and get even more stigmatised as ‘shameful aberrations’ – more strugglers/survivors are stigmatised and forced into closet. It’s a never-ending cycle of repressing and denying something that desperately needs to be recognised as a legitimate serious health issue deserving as much respectful treatment and compassion as cancer, leukaemia, HIV or any other potentially fatal condition. So if you ask me is it safe to talk I will ask you – what’s your definition of safe? People’s false image of you that is forever a thin ice to walk on anyway? Or your mental wellness that could give you back your groundedness in Self, making you happy, functional and productive? Which safety do we want for ourselves is the bigger question then.
It was initially never easy for me too, I remember, to boldly acknowledge in public that I was a mental health survivor. Of course, I had somehow long acknowledged it to myself and my trusted few. Later I even went into full-fledged therapy and was unabashedly talking to some of the most non-judgmental professional practitioners. Most of the times these are enough. The next leap perhaps isn’t mandatory but yes, socially much necessary. For me back then to go that extra step to openly acknowledge it in front of the world, not minding the raised eyebrows, still wasn’t easy. Then came along another. A stranger who somehow came to know I had issues and he began talking to me about his own, asking for some professional contact he could use. I was amazed. There was a stranger standing before me and using words like OCD, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks. Ever since he has become a good friend. And a brethren in the crusade of Mental Health Awareness. His opening up about himself, not minding how unsafe it might make him brought me an unprecedented courage to not mind my false sense of safety either. You see, that’s how it works! You come across fellow struggling survivors. You realise you aren’t the only one or ‘weird’. You open up with honesty, risking vulnerability. And something shifts. Within all parties involved. Light shines forth. The taboo shatters. Strength gushes in. It is healing. Much therapeutic!
Of course, this doesn’t mean one has to shout out their list of mental health struggles from the rooftop into the ears of a world much ignorant and judgmental about the same. Going that unabashed extra mile comes much later. Initially, confide. Talk to a trusted few. It could be a family member or a friend (who you’re sure will understand without judgment and try find you further support) or for initial days even to a professional caregiver whose clinic you might be secretly hopping over to, watching out over your shoulders for any familiar set of eyes. Trust you me, It Is Alright! But that one or more carefully chosen ears to hear out our journey and struggles, with compassion and understanding of the subject is CRUCIAL. For our own recovery and wellness and in the process of million other fellow survivors. We heal our minds by opening up the wounds to air and light. In turn we empower ourselves and others to do the same. For themselves and countless others. This chain of positivity and recovery is infinitely more safe than the false sense of safety in hiding our struggles from the world lest they judge us. The world would any day love to keep certain topics at bay, festering in the dark. But is it safe to know they won’t be there when that next bout of depression makes your ribcage burst in pain or that next psychotic bout makes you feel like slicing your wrist or jumping before a train? You or your loved ones, whoever. Does that feel safe? If you answer in the negative then I will answer your first question in the positive and with absolute certainty – Yes! It Is Safe to talk. About your mental health issues. To your trusted few. And to a professional caregiver. It is Absolutely safe. And more – Absolutely necessary. For yourself. For million others.
Take care, dear mind.
© & Author : Nivedita Dey, 2016
Photography : Devraj Lahiri