Recently I have had some strange things happening to me. I have been finding out that sometimes we can share experiences of things without sharing the actual experiences themselves.
Two things really brought that into focus for me.
The first was reading a book by a very good friend of mine on the subject of his experiences of depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and finding startling similarities with the challenges I face due to my sight. "A Year In Melancholia" by Julian Harrison, is a diary of a year living with his Mental Health issues. It is honestly the best book I have read on the subject of Mental Health. It is also easy to read because it is as though you are going through it with him and he explains things without treating the reader like an idiot. He doesn't get technical either. I would, however, advise you to have a box of tissues handy when you read it - parts of the book were just heartbreaking (especially when Julian learns his son has developed OCD and wonders what would have happened if he had had the sort of help his son is getting when he was his age).
I suppose you are now thinking that Depression and OCD are Mental Health issues whilst being Registered Partially Sighted would indicate you have a physical disability??? You are correct. But the side-effects can be exactly the same - both depression and serious sight problems can (and do) make you want to crawl into a corner and escape from people sometimes. (Especially when your sight problems have made you feel like a performing seal for some reason.)
The other thing which brought home the idea that we can share experiences without actually sharing the experiences themselves was an event called - funnily enough - "Shared Experiences". This was one of my favourite "safe space" kind of events. The subject was "Sexual Assault and Abuse". I don't speak about it but I was actually the victim of a sexual assault in my last job (it was by a window cleaner). There were two very brave (and I am not using that term lightly) ladies there who were both from Asian backgrounds. They certainly educated me on the way that sexual assault and sexual violence are treated by their different communities - and I found it truly horrifying.
The main "takeaway" I got from that evening is - even though my experience of sexual assault was extremely mild compared to those two (and the other people who spoke) - the feelings they were describing (as in the shame, the feeling it was their fault, etc) are not unlike the feelings I had when I was bullied at school. You may or may not know I came extremely close to killing myself during my first year of secondary school due to being severely bullied.
So, next time someone tells you about something that has happened to them which you may find difficult to relate to, see if you have felt those same feelings even if they were from a different event in your life.
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