I didn’t mean to be Girl, Interrupted. No one actively chooses that path. In fact, I had the choice in 2010 and I chose not to go that route. Wrong choice. I should have stayed at home and watched Angelina Jolie on cable. That was the day I got raped. The decision not to continue watching Girl, Interrupted and getting interrupted to go to his house was the decision that led to that assault.
And here we are.
No one wins at war. And make no mistake, as women our bodies are the battlefield.
In reality I know that is not why I was date raped. I’m older now. I’ve had time to process and reflect. He raped me because of something inside of him, it had nothing to do with me. He did it because he could. And the mental health repercussions I have experienced since are the poison he left inside of me to deal with.
For Mental Health Week I want to say the sooner you accept your reality, whatever that is, the better off you will be. The second thing I want to say is that until we talk about mental health in a productive way that includes prevention as the emphasis we will continue to spin our proverbial wheels. And this crisis is worse than I thought it was in 2010.
People break or suffer mentally more often than not from trauma. That trauma is often reproduced and passed on if we’re not careful. But as a society we’re all passing it on to each other. We collide like atoms in a gaseous state when we’re discombobulated. As time progresses pop culture gets heightened and and social norms evolve for better or worse in multiple directions. It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad.
Prevention is a subject that I think people need to discuss more in terms of mental health. I have a personal reason for wanting to further this cause, but this pre-dates diagnosis. For me, it’s past that moment, but it’s not for other people. And I’m not sure people realize just how prominent this issue is in our world.
I had a moment with a friend in 2009. I was on the treadmill in my building looking out the narrow window to the street crying on the phone. I had just been assaulted by this guy at a club and I was beginning to experience the equivalent of mental anguish. I stood on the motionless treadmill crying, feeling my brain swirl, and I tried desperately to explain to my friend how I was feeling. I couldn’t. For people who don’t understand mental health, that example is it’s essence. It took me a decade to say that.
You see what I couldn’t explain to my friend then was that I was entering a new reality. Or multiple realities over the years to come. While it may have been trauma-based, I was being introduced to the world from a new perspective. I sought counselling and got the immediate help I needed at the time but that did not stop my mental health issues from progressing. I was assaulted again, this time worse, and within a few years my life became the book you always wanted to read but no one wants to go through.
I hurt a lot of people, and burned some bridges while miraculously not burning others. I gained control of my mental state through rigorous attention to my own thoughts and actions. Sometimes it takes pivotal moments to recognize when you’ve gone down a path that isn’t working for you, or doesn’t make sense. And those moments can hurt, but they’re necessary growing pains for transition.
It’s important not to let your mental health control your life. Diagnoses are often equated with identity too largely. This is one of the heaviest burdens of stigma and it is possible for your mental health to worsen based off of this alone, I know that mine did.
Lastly, and most importantly. This is a message I say often because it is so important: mental health is physical health. Doctors are overwhelmed in the field of psychiatry. Every case is unique and contains elements that are unknown to medical professionals in ways that physical health problems are not in other fields. But just because you cannot see something that is going on inside of the body does not mean that it should be overlooked as anything different from a physical health condition. And the form of treatments available are outdated and in need of funding for research. And I am not just talking about research into finding how to manage symptoms but to find a cure.
At a party a friend leaned in and in his British accent told me “you know, you think different.”
You’re right, I do think different. And thank God for that.