Over the last two decades that I’ve dealt with my mental health issues, I’ve gone from happy and healthy to suicidal and depressed and back again.
I am easy to read, and when I’m struggling most of the people close to me can read me like a book. Still, when I’m struggling I still have to interact with people. I need to go shopping. I need to go to appointments. Just because I’m feeling like crap doesn’t mean that I can stop living my life.
The thing is, when I’m on my way into a significant depressive episode, I may be sullen and quiet, but if you didn’t know me, you would never know that inside I was being torn apart.
You would never know that the reason I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt was because I was feeling particularly conscious of my self-harm scars, or worse, that I have fresh self harm injuries that I don’t want people to see.
When I’m struggling, you could never know just how alone I could feel, in a room full of people.
You would never know by looking at me that I had contemplated ending my life that very morning.
You would say I looked tired, and you would be right, oh so very right. I would be tired, a tired so deep it can not be explained.
You could ask how I’m doing, and unless I really know you, I would lie. “I’m fine.”
The not knowing doesn’t limit itself to mental health sufferers though. Anyone can be stressed. They can be worried about bills, their kids, an ill loved one. They could be behind on the rent, or be suffering from chronic pain, yet they still get up and put one foot in front of the other.
The fact is, no-one really knows what anyone else is feeling, and though amplified in mental health sufferers, the insecurities, the loneliness, the fatigue, any of it can affect anyone else.
To paraphrase legendary news radio personality Paul Harvey, there’s always the rest of the story. I got thinking about this today after a chat with a friend. Decisions had been made that I questioned, and it wasn’t until he was kind enough to provide me the rest of the story that I understood.
To put this theory in visual terms, the people in the world are like icebergs floating on the sea. The part of the iceberg that can be seen is what we tend to make snap judgements and decisions about people on, yet it’s not until we explore under ocean’s surface that we get the full comprehension of how big icebergs actually are.
Throw in the enduring pandemic that we find ourselves in, with people becoming divided about the mask issue among other things, it seems an appropriate time to remind people that no matter the issue, no matter the subject, there is always more to the story than we will ever know.
I challenge anyone and everyone to hold your tongue, hold your judgement, and be nice to each other in these times unprecedented in our generation.