Come Talk To Me

By Adrienne Gurman

BC2M_2015_MHAMonth_AdrienneI come from a family of talkers. At home, in public, it doesn’t make a difference. My relatives love, love, love to talk and have absolutely no problem striking up conversations with total strangers – any place, any time – waiting on line at the supermarket, or with the couple at the next table at a café. Even at social events where they know no one, they’ll go right up and introduce themselves. As the shy one, I’ve always been envious of their ability to chitchat with others, like it’s no big deal. For most of my life, I’ve had social anxiety combined with self-doubt, imagining myself invisible or wishing to go unnoticed, just so I wouldn’t have to talk.

As I got older, I found that my timid nature was holding me back from making new friends and finding a job. I hid my shyness well, but, because I didn’t talk about my self-doubts and depressive thoughts to anyone, keeping up the façade of a confident person led to intense anxiety. It seemed easier to camouflage myself as a “normal” person, rather than to reveal the scary thoughts of dying that plagued my brain – constantly. The few times I let it slip that I had been putting up with suicidal thoughts since adolescence didn’t go very well. I was immediately accused of making it up for shock value. Other times, depending on the crowd, just saying the word suicide became an instant repellent. I was dumbstruck that with three syllables I could clear a room. For close to 30 years I lived this way, unaware that I had a form of mental illness.

I started speaking openly about depression and anxiety the moment I realized that sharing my experiences would help others in the same boat. It was important to me that they know that they’re not alone. If I had someone that talked to me when I was a youngster about his or her own encounters with despair, suicidal ideation and worthlessness, I believe I wouldn’t have white-knuckled my way through life, anticipating a tragedy every moment. I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself if I’d known I was dealing with a real illness, not something I conjured up.

My depression and anxiety started when I was 12 years old. I talk about my journey with the crippling symptoms of these illnesses in the hopes of reaching the frightened and confused girls and boys who don’t comprehend what’s happening to them. I want to encourage them to get help, now, at this critical stage in development. While there is no shame in asking for help at any age, we can’t continue to let the culture of stigma and cruel judgments from others stand in the way of becoming our best selves and learning to enjoy life.

Once I began public speaking and writing about living with mental illness, people from all pockets of my life began to open up to me about their grapples with similar disorders. It’s incredible to witness the moment when someone who’d been struggling in silence, suddenly not feel so isolated and hopeless.

What I’ve learned is that while most people are secretly getting professional help, there are some who still refuse. Stigma is usually the main reason why they remain silent – the terror of having their family or peers see them as weak or cowardly keep them trapped. However, they’re also terrified of facing their own feelings in therapy.

I talk about living with mental illness and the consequences of not getting help. Yes, it’s scary to peel away the outer shell that the world sees and dig through the layers of buried pain. I get it. I was there, too, and it nearly killed me.

Depression makes life unreliable. What makes it so frightening is the unknown length of time it will last. It has the power to destroy days, weeks, and sometimes decades. I had convinced myself that the ugliness in my brain would stay forever, but now I know that my thought process was flawed. I talk about depression to show that with proper help, profound sadness and emptiness can dissipate. I want people to know that it’s okay to not be okay. Get help, talk to a therapist, psychiatrist, social worker. Devise a plan for yourself so that when you do get hit with depression, you’ve already created a strategy that will save your life.

My team of professionals has taught me how to effectively communicate what I need from my loved ones when I’m dealing with a bout of depression or anxiety. My family has become a critical part of my support network. While they still adore talking, they’ve also become experts at listening.

I talk about mental illness because it paves the road towards mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 responses to “Come Talk To Me”

  1. Miriam says:

    Thank you!

  2. Adrienne Gurman says:

    You’re welcome Miriam.

  3. Beth S says:

    Kudos to you Adrienne!!

  4. Brent says:

    I can relate to these events.

  5. Carol says:

    Hi,
    I have had depression probably since after I was 12 and my parents would fight openly when he was drunk and sometimes it would almost get physical, nothing drastic at that age but enough to make me cry and shake whenever I thought she might get hurt. I don’t know if this started my illness, but I was always after that age sometime in my teens was referred to as the quiet one that you were. Actually I think I was experiencing fear but did not know it at the time. Things of course went wrong practically my whole life and then finally I started hearing voices at age 30. I had no husband, boyfriend, children, and was angry (yes, there were good reasons) at or just lost touch with friends. I also started having anxiety. It is very strange but I seemed to push my feelings down all my life until suddenly lately fear seems less yet anger for things I let go seem strong. Can you believe I have been thinking about someone I met through a friend 35 years ago and have been constantly thinking about him and how he wrote me a letter after I had spent a fourth of July picnic with these people. We spoke briefly at the picnic but I did not write him back. I wish I had wrote him back and moved there and possibly started a relationship with this person. I wish I could just forget and I am having a hard time with it and I think a lot of lost feelings are coming up. I don’t know how I can stop feeling so depressed and lonely about this. I am sorry this is such a long story but maybe you have some suggestions or can refer me to someone else to talk to. Thank you and best of luck.

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