If there is one thing that mental illness, and probably in particular depression, did to me was silence me. My voice, my opinions, ideals I felt passionately about, got sucked out of me as the depression grew deeper and more entrenched. I didn’t care anymore. Well, at least I didn’t have the energy to care any more. I just let things pass. My own misery was all I could focus on. Actually to be totally honest it was simply a matter of would I live another day?
Before I was ever diagnosed with a mental illness, and we’re talking nearly 20 years ago, I was an opinionated person, but only to a degree. Now I can look back and see that I had opinions but they were shaped by what, and who, was around me. I held little value in what I really thought, assuming that difference from others meant I was wrong. And I constantly thought I was either wrong or just dumb.
Often that difference from others meant that I remained silent. All that really did was contribute further to the growing depression. It’s a vicious circle. The silence contributes to the mental illness, and the mental illness contributes to more silence.
I’m sure there are some people close to me who always thought I was too opinionated. “A dog with a bone.” But gosh, what’s wrong with a dog with a bone? They’re happy. Isn’t that a good thing? Seemingly not. Becoming less depressed is not always seen as a welcome thing.
It seemed at times that finding my voice again was troublesome, and it actually did cost me dearly. When I was at my sickest I didn’t voice opinions, I didn’t disagree (apart from about putting food in my mouth!), I just let life happen around me.
Sometimes I look back at world events across those years and I can’t remember a scrap of it. These things just happened, and I wasn’t well enough to notice, let alone to form opinions and to have my voice. Actually the only event I could recall was the 9/11 World Trade Centre disaster. I was aware of it happening because in a brief psychotic state I believed I had caused it.
Now I’m starting to find my voice, and it feels good. I’m learning what I believe in, and what I am passionate about. I find those things are quite different from what I believed previously, but that doesn’t surprise me. You don’t go through prolonged suffering without being changed along the way.
My voice is not always popular, but that’s ok, because I am learning that my worth as a person is not based on agreeing with those around me. That is a huge step for me.
I’m learning that a ‘dog with a bone‘ is a good thing because, while some people will hate it (and they do!), ‘dogs‘ with ‘bones‘ achieve change in the world. Even me, with my one small voice can make change. Just as each one of us can.
The ‘bone‘ I have been chewing today has been on the issue of disaster tourism in my city, Christchurch, NZ. Before 2010 I doubt I knew the term disaster tourism even existed. Now I know it only too well. Wikipedia (and I know that’s not reliable but it will do for now) defines disaster tourism as:
“the act of traveling to a disaster area as a matter of curiosity. The behavior can be a nuisance if it hinders rescue, relief,
and recovery operations”
In my opinion it is taking people who have become victims and are possibly traumatised, and turning them into a sightseeing venture. It screams ‘wrong’ to me, but I know that there are many people who think it is a good thing, and many people who make a good livelihood from such ventures and will convince innocent victims that it is in their interests.
It’s happening everywhere around the world, anywhere there has been some type of disaster. Think of the last natural disaster you saw on the news, and the disaster tourism will be a big business there for years to come.
It’s a big issue in Christchurch, and is becoming bigger now that tourism operators want to take tourists further into what they call the disaster zones. I’m just not convinced that this is a good thing for the people who have lived through the disaster, and are now rebuilding their lives. Personally I need normalit, if that is possible. I don’t need buses full of tourists coming down my street.
You can pick the ‘rubberneckers’. They drive slow, and their eyes are not on the road. I live on the edge of the area tourist operators want access to, and frankly I don’t like being stared at. Letting tourists through doesn’t help me recover in any way. I get told that letting tourists see the ruins helps them to understand my suffering. Really? And how does their ‘understanding’ help me recover? I know it puts money in the pockets of the tourism operators, but I’m not at all convinced.
But I’ll stop chewing that ‘bone’, because that’s not really the point. What is the point is that having an opinion on disaster tourism (or anything else) is something to celebrate. It is a good thing to be finding my voice again, and to know (or to be learning) what matters to me. It feels great.
Not everyone agrees with that though. Some people in my life wish I would shut up. Some people might wish that I dropped the ‘bone‘, but personally I think that it is a good thing when people become passionate. And it is a great thing when people can recover from mental illness, and find their voice.
I’m sorry to those in my life who would prefer me to go back to silence, but I’m only sorry because you miss out on knowing who I really am.
“How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free