Years of the Invisible

This is from guest blogger iridescent spirits, and her blog is Iridescent Spirits. I am honoured that she took that time to share this here.

‘Ah, okay, just stop whining already!’

‘It’s just your imagination!’

‘You are thinking too much!’

That’s what they all said ever since I was little. Maybe I do think too much but not in the way they meant. I had problems no one around me realised or understood as they never went through the things I did. I knew I had problems, but when every people says the same you start to think maybe they are right, even if you may know really deep inside that they have absolutely no idea. I hid my pain because I didn’t want anyone to tell me I’m whining anymore. It hurt too much. I hid it and hid it so deep in myself that after a while even I thought that there’s no problem anymore. I was sure there was no problem at all. I was happy, on the surface. I thought I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. I was glad because I thought I became stronger. And they told me I got stronger, they even praised me for not whining anymore. Even when my father died, despite the painful feeling in my chest and throat, I couldn’t shed a single tear up until the funeral.  No matter how hard I tried nothing made me cry, but the pain in the chest was still there. At one point, I even felt some kind of pride, thinking that ‘Oh! A year ago or two, how broken I would have been by something like this, but now I’m so strong! I am an adult finally!’ I wasn’t whining anymore. Nor was I smiling, talking or doing anything passionately. And for a very long time I didn’t notice that this was a real problem. Panic attacks became my regular visitors day and night. Yet, I really thought I was strong. But you know what they say, those are the strong who can face their weaknesses and brave enough to show their feelings, brave enough to cry when they need to. Despite the pain, I continued my life as if nothing had happened. I never talked about my panic attacks anymore as I knew ‘whining’ would come back right away. Instead of strong, as I believed, I became invisible, even to myself. I became one of those ignorants towards my inner self. Not only the pain went so hidden that I couldn’t find the reason of it but with that my real self. But only until another almost-tragedy. Panic attacks became my only friends, the most frightening and invisible friends, yet they were real, more than those who were made of flesh and bone. They were standing steadily by my side not willing to let me go. They knew more about me than anyone else, than me. Unlike real people, friends, doctors and so on. Everyone said I was fine, it’s just imagination or everyday stress. I’m just way too sensitive. True. But is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Is that a weakness? No, it’s not. Can it be the reason of the pain? Yes, but not solely. People realised the problem and took my words for granted only after proper diagnosis. I felt I was still invisible, and it was still hard to talk about my illness. I often said, I allegedly have panic disorder, yet it was proven. Still, that’s it and I have to face it. It is still hard talking about it as I was misled for years that talking or thinking about it is a mere waste of time and only increases pain. But you know what? I realised as a result of this is really cruel lesson that hiding it won’t solve the problem, it only increases it. I have to fight and I intend to win, not willing to hide it anymore especially for the sake of pleasing others.

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When pain makes me feel better

So when I’m in physical pain I tend to feel psychologically better. I’ve never really clarified this in my head until I read Joy Curtis’ post on the subject. It made so much sense.

I need to point out that the source of physical pain I’m talking about here is not chronic or the result of a terminal or life threatening illness.

I can be on the lowest of lows I mean really low, dangerously low – ward admittance low. A strange part of my lows is that I look fine – it is now in my medical notes that I’m high functioning but can be a danger to myself and don’t present in a way that psychiatric staff expect (see my other blog for anecdote about that). I’ve had support teams in my living room saying ‘well you look fine’.
Yes don’t I.

Then pain  –  illness. I take to my bed. I feel awful…… and start to realise that I have found some real compassion for myself, because my pain is ‘real’. In this moment I know I’m not well, I’m in pain, I need to look after myself.

When it was psychological I believed none of that and now when I own my physical pain I start to own the psychological too. And I feel better.
A lot better.
Tons better.
I mean I start actually feeling happy.
Very happy.

A comment from TV series: House – half remembered, but you get the gist.

Cessation of extreme pain can cause euphoria

Is that what is happening ? Maybe. Can phenomena from physiological pain be applied to psychological ?

Dunno but it’s kind of interesting.
Thanks Joy 

A not so good variant of that experience is self harm.
I have been there. There is definitely an element of this going on with my self harm. Owning and seeing my own pain, but it is so mixed in with guilt / shame and knowing that the very nature of the activity is not looking after myself.

I’ve no cures for psychological pain here – I do not advocate self harm – I do not advocate being in pain.
But I feel a bit clearer on a few things.

Invisible pain

Years ago I was a patient in a psychiatric ward.

I was a ‘well behaved’ service user, not problematic to the staff. I quietly planned my suicide from within an open ward. I couldn’t believe that nobody could hear the noise from inside my head. Psychiatric nurses even mistook me for a doctor one day as I visited a friend I’d made in a nearby ward (large psychiatric unit). I didn’t realise until my friend mentioned that she was supposed to be escorted at all times by a responsible adult and they’d thought I was a doctor !

Bad practice issues aside, I’m sure there was some protocol about ID missing there, what really struck me was, “Can they not see that I’m a patient!” That was the first time it struck me how invisible depression can be. I’m not sure how I thought they could read my mind….. and guess what they couldn’t.

How many of us don’t realise that people can’t see our anguish, so used to covering it up that it’s not conscious hiding anymore but habit.

So my thoughts today – find someone you trust and tell them what you’ve been hiding.