I went to a Jewish mental health conference a while ago, hoping to find… something.
I did find something. I found professionals who wanted to provide education and information to the Jewish community, especially that the Jewish community is not immune to mental illness, and in fact has an incidence of depression that equals and sometimes exceeds that of the general population, made all the more problematic when rabbis refuse to acknowledge depression as a real problem.
I also found family members and friends of people with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia looking for information and resources.
And I found people who were themselves dealing with depression and bipolar and anxiety and a host of other problems.
I had so wanted to be able to come clean, to come out, to reveal what I’ve hidden behind my “professional” mask. I wanted to say yes, I have screwy brain chemistry too.
I wanted to belong. Until I saw who I would be “belonging” to.
I’m sure these were nice folks. I really want to believe they’re nice folks. But my experience during the few hours I was there was anything but nice. They were whiny and clingy and needy and complained about providers and meds and side effects and how the government has thrown them away. They were so negative and everywhere they turned, they were desperate for some unsuspecting codependent caretaker to be their friend.
Not only did I want nothing to do with that, I never wanted to be perceived that way. I shored up my mask, my competent front that I show the world, and I pretended I had nothing in common with them at all.
And then I figured I could never talk to anyone about how I felt, especially when I was feeling low, for fear I’d become one of them.
It makes me want to take this blog down, for fear I’m spreading negativity throughout the blogosphere. I know that I don’t have to be happy all the time, but I don’t want to be down all the time either. And I don’t want to drive people away with my feelings the way these other folks created an environment I didn’t want to be in.
My answer so far has been to share my feelings with my husband and my counselor. And now, my blog. To the rest of the world, I’m intelligent and competent and respectful and considerate and empathetic and all those things that are moral and valued and not associated with depression. Were you to meet me in real life, you would probably never know the pain I hide.
Because sometimes it’s just safer that way.