Hiding in Plain Sight: The Taboo of Mental Health

I’ve always been confident and ambitious, often described by those around me as one of the happiest people they know. My career as a hairstylist and salon owner gives me the direct opportunity every day to encourage and motivate multiple clients in various aspects of their lives. I have always prided myself on my mental fortitude and ability to be an “overcomer” never letting the obstacles of life slow me down. But what many of even my closest friends and family don’t know is that I am this way because of where I have been. 

My father committed suicide when I was twelve years old.

My parents were divorced, and although my mother attempted to shield us from the pain and the hurt of losing a parent, what she didn’t realize was that we also needed to be shielded from the scrutiny and the stigma that society places on suicide. I’ll never forget the day I finally went back to school after having dealt with the death of my father. I was in seventh grade in a small town, and I cried alone in a bathroom stall wishing that I could die too. Part of this because I missed my Daddy, but mainly because of the whispers and the stares as I fumbled with the combination on my locker that morning before the first bell.

I’ll never forget hearing a girl I thought was my friend say to a group, “My Dad said he was crazy, or he was on drugs, nobody normal just shoots themselves especially if he loved his kids.”  It was that day, in March of 2002 that I told myself suicide is NOT something we talk about, it is to be mourned, dealt with, embarrassed by, and then swept under the rug. 

Years later as a sophomore in high school I began cutting (formally known as non-suicidal self-injury). I didn’t cut because I wanted to die, but because I wanted to feel. I had been bottling up so many feelings and emotions refusing to let myself acknowledge them that I had become numb inside, on the outside I was still the same happy-go-lucky Hali as always but inside I was shriveling up. 

Fast forward to May of 2009, I was 19 and it my first year celebrating Mother’s Day as a Mother. When asked what I wanted for a gift I simply said “sleep.” Not because I was tired, but because I was so empty inside it echoed. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew it was serious. Terrified I scheduled an appointment at the clinic and was promptly diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. This is impossible I thought, PPD is for people who don’t love their babies, who can’t bond with them. I have loved my son since the moment I laid eyes on him, and being with him brings me peace and hope. I began seeing a therapist regularly and for the most part worked through my issues and imbalances. 

It is now 2018 and I have two wonderful children who are the reason I keep fighting.

In my experience mental health isn’t something that you just “fix”. Mental health is a practice, and just like lifting weights to strengthen your body, we have to practice mental health to strengthen our mind. Because of the taboos around PPD and suicide, we aren’t sure what to say and so we say nothing which furthers the isolation that people who are contemplating, or whom have attempted suicide feel.

In my experience it’s not just the talking that you do, its the listening. Listen to hear and understand, not to respond. Don’t argue, judge, blame, or tell the person you know how they feel because you probably don’t. If you are someone, or know someone who has contemplated or attempted suicide talk about it. It is a conversation worth having. Mental illness is an epidemic that is plaguing our society, there are so many of us fighting the battle every day.

Hiding our struggles in plain sight. 

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2 Responses to Hiding in Plain Sight: The Taboo of Mental Health

  1. Miranda McGehee July 23, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

    Thanks I have almost did it after I had my hysterectomy. I texted my brother and told him to take care of my dogs and he can have the house. I still think about doing it sometimes just to make the pain stop. I was raped when I was 16 and I could take it anymore seeing him around and loosing my babies and watching everyone else have them.

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