Transparent Regarding Pain, Mental Health and the Stigma

Transparent Regarding Pain, Mental Health and the Stigma December 2, 2018

“Dolores’ Pain”

Transparent Expedition as a title was not only a clever play on words, but it was also designed to allow for writing about other matters. Today, I will be speaking on matters of personal pain. I do need to warn you that it is graphic, raw and likely full of triggers. Some have suggested, out of concern for me, that I not write this publically. They are afraid of stigma being associated to me robbing me of opportunities. If someone wants to have discriminatory practices and ethos, that is on them and not on me. I am a writer and I love my words to be read. I have never really been very good at journaling.

Down the rabbit hole of pain we go.

I saw a movie last weekend. After the movie I sat in the car and cried uncontrollably. They were heaving sobs that I could not control.

The trigger was seeing a fantasy movie.

For some reason it reminded me of seeing “The Last Unicorn” when I was 12 with some friends. All of us were messed up kids from abused homes. Every Saturday, one of the moms would give three or four of us money to go to the theater and see a matinee. I always enjoyed watching the movies and was lost in the story, but the prospect of going home was scary to me.

When I got home from the theater that Saturday, my step dad, a Lebanese drug dealer, was mad I did not do the dishes. He had prepared a sink of dish water for me. I remember his rough hands as he dragged me across the kitchen floor and he shoved my head under a full sink of dish water. I struggled to get my head out but he held me there. He held me until I could not hold my breath and gulped in thick and soapy water. Only then did he let me go.

I heaved for my breath on all fours on the kitchen floor. Through coughs and gasps I vomited on the floor. I had to clean it up and then do the dishes. That was the flashback. I was in the car in 2018, but I was also on the kitchen floor in 1982. But that jut begins the journey in my mind.

I was in a corner in the same house in 1981 or 1982. He used to put me in the corner for punishment. Sometimes he would walk by, grab the back of my head by the hair, and shove my head and face into the wall a few times. Other times he would take a belt or something and whip it across the back of my knees and tell me that if I did not stand up it would be worse for me.

I am in the corner, I am on the kitchen floor, and I am trying not to hyperventilate in a car in a movie theater parking lot.

I’m also sitting in a dark closet nursing broken ribs, locked inside caught between scared and resigned to my fate.

I am sixteen years old and being raped by a youth leader from my church.

Then I am in my thirties on an overseas missions trips. I can hear the young girl scream as soldiers rape her and there is nothing I can do.

I see a young man shot in the head. He does a bizarre pirouette like a marionette controlled by a madman before he falls to the ground. He is seventeen years old.

I am in all of these places at the same time. I cannot find the off switch for the horror movie in my mind. The pain is unspeakable. Why now? Why not ten years ago? No. Now.

Two weeks ago I started a partial hospitalization program. It will go anywhere from three to six weeks. We will see.

How did I get here? Where was the breaking point in the pain? For a few weeks prior to going in for an evaluation, I would find myself standing on the train platform waiting for the 6:30 am train to go to work. There is an express train that passes by the station 5 minutes before my train. One morning, as it passed by, my eye twitched and I had this sudden urge to jump off the platform and in front of the speeding train. It was a dark thought that passed as swiftly as the express train did.

Then it happened again. And again. And again. Every night I went to bed, there were more flashbacks. I lost interest in the things I love to do. I pushed people I love away from me. There was no sense of purpose. There was also no hope. At least for me.

Despite being surrounded by people that love me I felt I was unlovable. Despite everything to live for I had weird random thoughts about jumping in front of a train as my eye twitched.

When I wrote my most popular article to date, it helped a lot of people.  “On Dolores O’Riordan: Abuse, Depression, Suicide And Surviving” included a past struggle I had with suicidal ideation. The difference was that this time I did not want to die. I knew the thoughts I was having were irrational, but it did not matter.

There was no trust in myself or my thoughts. I called Dave and asked my 18 year old child to drive me to the hospital because I was too afraid to go alone. Dave stood by me as I went through this hell of honesty and a plan was created.

Why Am I Writing My Pain?

I am writing my pain because the last time I wrote on this topic, it helped people. While I focus on helping myself, I am hoping that being transparent about this pain filled chapter of my expedition will help others. Suicide and mental health affects all genders, races, beliefs and sexualities. Some are affected greater than others for various reasons. Too many people find reasons to stigmatize those who suffer with mental health issues in ways we would never treat someone who has MS or is diabetic. This is important to talk about. I do not come armed with my usual facts and figures. I stand before you writing this and saying I am in pain, I am not alone, and I am not less. If you are going through this, so are you.

Don’t judge people going through PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, or any other such thing they may be going through.

Pain is not Failure

Pain tells us something is wrong. We need our pain to guide us to what hurts. Some Christians will call pain in the heart or mind demon possession. There are some Yoga Pant Culture “Eastern” Mystics that will say that detox, meditation and some MLM essential oils is all you need. Sadly, some atheist will just say you are weak. They are all wrong. Talk therapy, coping skills and medication will help many people. We just have to know what hurts and why.  In medical science this is about learning all the symptoms to isolate the cause and then administer the treatment.

We live in a black and white world of healthy and not healthy. Sick and cured. I have believed in that myth as well. A diabetic has to check their blood sugar, watch their diet, and take their insulin throughout their life. That is all right. For some with mental health concerns, it is the exact same thing. Like the diabetic, they live full lives and are completely capable every day. However, those with mental health concerns often suffer in silence because of irrational and incorrect stigmas.

I stand here unashamed, but a little scared of the repercussions. I’m in pain. I suffer from mental illness. But we are not less. There are more of us than many think. According to the World Health Organization,

about 1 in 4 of us suffer from some form of neurological or mental health concern. With over 450 million diagnosed, it is leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. Yet we keep this pain a secret? That makes no sense. We have an epidemic on our hands. It is an epidemic of the minds and precious hearts of an entire world.


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