KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – I can talk about many subjects. I can sit and listen, while others talk about what is going on in their lives. I am not a very talkative guy, but if I have something to say, and I feel it’s important, I will say it. I am never one to talk just for the sake of talking.
With that in mind, talking about myself presents a conundrum. Talking about myself—I mean what is going on inside me, as well as the things that are going on in my life—is emotionally exhausting, especially when I am revealing something about myself for the first time. To truly talk about oneself is to leave oneself open and vulnerable; to trust others to react in a compassionate way is a leap that some just cannot take.
In my poverty advocacy, I encourage others to speak up on what their lives are like, what has happened or is happening to them. This is daunting to even think about, let alone do. I was scared before I first spoke about my life. I still get scared. I have been nervous while giving speeches on various poverty issues, but I still do it. I listened to other poverty advocates share their stories, and that inspired me to do the same. When I spoke up, others have told me that I have made them want to speak up, also. The result is well worth whatever fear and anxiety I may have felt. Instead of denying that fear and anxiety, I know I can acknowledge it, and take it with me as I live my life, and, maybe, just maybe, do great things. ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) taught me this. The more we talk about mental health, the more we empower others to talk about mental health. I feel the discussion is well worth the anxiety and fear. Discussing my mental health gives me a feeling of emotional exhaustion; Nonetheless, I still feel it’s important to have real discussions about mental health.
See what I mean? Conundrum.
My name is Tim Blades. I am a 39 year old welfare recipient. I have a variety of illnesses, some of which are rare and/or hard to define. I love creative arts and fine literature, but I am also a fan of The Trailer Park Boys and Family Guy. I used to write short stories and other fiction, but life has taken me down a road where I am more apt to tell stories like the one you are reading right now. I am a poverty advocate. My poverty advocacy started by reading the stories of others. I have met some great people through poverty advocacy, and I consider speaking up on poverty to be one of the greatest choices I have ever made. Poverty advocacy helps my mental health, while poverty hurts my mental health.
I am in a precarious living situation. I don’t know how much longer I will have my transportation expense. I, sometimes, isolate myself. It’s a defense mechanism for when life gets to be too much. It might be a few days or a few week. Many people are isolated due to lack of transportation expense, or their health makes it too difficult to travel. I see a therapist, and I am thankful for that, because there are people who go without the help they need.
I have lived with anxiety and depression all of my life. I don’t think that will come as a surprise to anyone that knows me, since I am pretty open about it. This is where I become emotionally exhausted. This is where I hit new territory, as most people probably would never guess what I am about to type.
I have anger issues. It has taken me a long time to understand and accept that. You see, I am not the “throw things, smash things and yell” type, and I have never struck anyone out of anger. I can’t even think of doing so without feeling bad. There are times where I might raise my voice, and I usually feel terrible immediately afterwards. I can be cranky. For the most part, I keep my anger to myself. There are reasons why I feel so angry (some are mentioned in this post, some are not), but the bottom line is that I feel angry because I am hurting. I have been hurt, and I am still hurting. There are things that happened years or even decades ago; one day I feel at peace with those things, and then it suddenly feels as if those things just happened yesterday. There are days when I wake up angry. There are nights when, even if I had a good day, I must get out of bed because I am suddenly too angry to sleep. I sometimes cry when I feel like this. I often feel like yelling out, not at anyone, but yelling out in frustration. I want things to get better, and I have tried to make things better. It took me a while to acknowledge my anger because people weren’t afraid of me; I don’t break things, and I am not yelling all the time. I am the antithesis of such things. My anger doesn’t fit what I thought I knew about anger. I have learned that anger is anger whether you take it out on yourself or someone else. Anger isn’t a disease; it’s merely a symptom of pain.
Now I want to delete that last paragraph. My heart is racing just from typing that last paragraph. The logical and illogical sides of me are having a conversation, and the emotional side of me is standing in the middle. While I want to be safe and delete that last paragraph, If I let go of that secret, it’s just one less thing for me to hold onto.
We need to be more open with each other, and that openness can be fostered with compassion.
Originally posted on the Feed Nova Scotia blog. Please consider making a donation. You can even sign up for a $25 Loblaw’s (Superstore, No Frills) card and donate that card. Feed Nova Scotia would love to receive those cards as a donation.
If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A paywall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of dedicated monthly sustainers.
Thank you so much for your post here Tim. Your courage and honesty enables others including myself to be open and honest. I’ve known many who struggle with mental health issues including those who have been and are closest to me and love dearly. I know and understand the stigma attached to every kind of health issue.
As a recovering alcoholic, the sister to a late brother who lived his life with MS and having lost a young husband to Schizophrenia I know how I’d rather not talk about it all because it’s painful, but not as painful as not talking about it all. I wouldn’t change a thing that happened in my life. It’s all made me who I am and I’m grateful, because it’s all helped me to grow into a compassionate woman.
Thank you Catherine for your comment. There is a saying that that goes “Only when you are comfortable in your darkness can you be present in the darkness of others”. I believe this to be true. Compassion is a great strength to have.
Thank you for your reply to my comment Tim. That is a beautiful and insightful saying. I’ll be writing that one down in my journal!