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sharing with family

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I have not shared my situation with mental illness with my family in the past, but that changed last night. I sent an email to my brother, sister, and two sons giving them a brief overview of my lifetime with depression and where I think I’m at now. My brother replied this morning; if I don’t get a reply from the others, that’s ok. It’s quite the burden I’ve dumped on them: to say something about this significant thing that re-creates me into a different person in their eyes.


What do I know about what people I do not hear from are thinking? That’s kind of arrogant of me to even guess at. And useless. Far better to leave that to whenever/if they reply. But here’s what just came to mind as I thought about this version of “coming out” I did last night:

Some of us humans seem to have a need to announce our otherness. This strikes me as odd (oh how I wish the old, original version of the word “queer” were available because it’s just the right word). Being “other” is dangerous. Humans have killed “others” for our entire history. Much of the world’s violence today is the organized and mass slaughter of people considered “other”. So to declare oneself “other” is to place a target on your back.

No one is going to kill me for my otherness. In fact, my brother’s response was compassionate. The worst I’ve gotten from anyone is a form of ableism that amounts to using my brain to overcome my brain’s illness, to think my way out of depression. That is something that is as viable as running off a broken leg. Not gonna happen.

And I’m not very other, not in terms of mental illness and, in particular, depression. 20% of Americans will face some kind of mental health challenge this year. Depression is depressingly common. However, no two people suffer from depression in the same way. (And I use “suffer” intentionally; there is a misery in mental illness that is different than what most physical challenges offer.) My depression has its roots in my life, going back to my kindergarten years at least. (Not to mention having a father who was bipolar; I know I’m not bipolar myself but I also know I inherited some shit that has done me no good in life.)

But the vast majority of people I live among are not mentally ill. I am an other in that regard. I will no doubt continue to be dosed with positive-thinking ableism until I can educate my friends about the fact that I cannot simply think and will myself out of this. I need help. That’s the second reason I wrote my family: I need their help. At the very least, for them to understand and accept that I’m not an asshole or uncaring or thoughtless but damaged in ways that make it so fucking hard to do the things I wish I could do.

My #1 need and intention in moving forward towards health is to write daily. I’ll finish this, post it to my neglected website and then post a link to Facebook. Maybe a few folks will read it; that doesn’t matter. (I was going to write “I don’t care” but I do care. I would like to have a huge audience, but until I make writing that important, I obviously will have a negligible audience.) Today I will write and post this. Maybe I’ll also do something else, perhaps about the election. Tomorrow, definitely I need to write about the election on my political blog – but I should probably also write here as well.

I apologize for these huge paragraphs. One of the downsides of not writing enough is not developing a voice, and that means rambling paragraphs that challenge the few readers I might have to stay the course. So: abrupt ending.

If you want me to get better and like what I do, (“do” was the 666th word of this blog; hail Satan!) let me know in some way. Any word of encouragement is like gold to me. Thanks.

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T.A. Barnhart