May 25, 2011

Flaw-dar

Some people "just know" if a person they meet is gay.  It's colloquially known as gaydar.  I've had some conversations recently where I've listened to some stories from the people in my life that cut close to their bones.  I won't betray those stories, but it got me thinking that maybe people who have been through the fire and rain of mental illness can just tell when they meet another who's suffering, or has suffered in the past.  We have Flawdar.

Me?  I suffer from anxiety and depression.  I wallowed in it during my college years, and it's the reason why I only was able to spend two years at Dickinson College.  I was plenty smart and capable enough to meet their academic standards, but I was so sick that I wasn't able to do much more than exist.  I went to class, I puttered around the internet back in my dorm room.  I went to work as a computer lab monitor.  That was about it.  I considered jumping off the library, and it was only two stories tall.  The worst of it was when I finally told my parents that I was suicidal, that my depression had gotten that far.

It happened during break between semesters my Sophomore year.  I said I couldn't stay there, I had to transfer.  I was told that I had to go back.  The second semester was already paid for.  Talk about a slap in the face; your life for tuition money.  As a teenager, it was a lesson learned in not trusting your emotional state to anyone but yourself.  (That would later be reinforced by an emotionally abusive partner in my early 20s, sad to say.)  I did eventually finish my degree at a state school.  It's a piece of paper that I'm not using, but it's proof that someone with mental and emotional problems can function in the world.

My point is, I've been through it.  I know some of the tells, some of the feelings, and the shame of being "broken" or "flawed".  Certainly, having been through some of what I have was difficult, but I wouldn't trade it.  It's perspective that those who haven't been through it don't have.  It's filled my empathy coffers, which is important for an ENTJ.  We're not known to be all that...  sensitive.  And being the type to do so, I make myself my own case study.  Perhaps my experiences make me better able to talk to others in the same or similar situation.  And in a way, it helps me deal with my own demons too. 

I say all this, because I think having been there, those of us who have suffered are better equipped to just Know who their brethren are.  It's like gaydar.  And it makes getting to know someone a little easier if you know they're not going to judge you because you're some kind of Crazy, when in fact there's no need to be shamed at all.  I'm proud to have the people who's stories I've heard among my friends.  A person's strengths paint a broad picture, but the flaws fill in the details.  And the details are what make us real, make us honest, genuine.  I promise never to forget that.

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