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The Voices I Hear

At Medicine X I had the fortunate experience of being on a panel moderated by Carly Medosch on the topic of invisible pain and how it can affect people. My pain, caused by depression, really isn’t viewed as a debilitating pain by most people.

I was fully expecting to hear things like “You don’t deserve to be up there.”, “You don’t know pain.”, “So, being sad makes you hurt and cry? Be a man.”.

And boy, did I hear them.

Carly, co-panelists Emily Bradley, Joe Riffe (Check out his powerful Ignite! presentation), Summer Plum (who attended via video call from home) and the audience were very gracious to me, but those comments, haunting my thoughts, altered my participation. I just didn’t feel worthy of being up there with these people who were facing so much more challenging physical pain every day.

There are a lot of stigmas in society about our health. People with invisible conditions simply do not ‘look sick enough’, are faking it, just want attention, drugs.

The stigma involved with mental illness is pervasive, world-wide and universal. It is such a basic form of bigotry in human culture that we all learn it without understanding, practice it without realizing, and pass it on without trying.

And those voices, the condemnation in those voices. The disdain just dripping from the comments revealing how weak and tainted society, everyone at this conference, everyone in this room saw me.

Those voices? The ones haunting me? No one said those things to me. No, they were in my head.

Yes, in my head. It’s not just an issue of self-esteem, thought I’m certain that plays some role, it’s a much more basic issue of being human in this world.

Like everyone else, I learned at an early age that mental illness makes you broken. Even more so when you talk about it openly. Even more so as a man. It makes you weak in everyone’s eyes. Weak in my own eyes.

I have to fight that stigma, overcome that bigotry in myself before I can talk to anyone, let alone the world, about it.

Depression is debilitating at times, making it almost impossible to get out of bed, to function, to simply live for a day. And if I do? I spend most of the day laying on the couch mindlessly watching TV or being barely functional at my job. I’ve mentioned Spoon Theory before as a measure of how much energy I have to burn when I’m depressed, burned out. Some days it takes a spoon just to think about getting our of bed, a second to decide to sit up, a third to get up, and a fourth not to go back.

I don’t know how many spoons I had going into that discussion, but I had burnt them all by the time it was over. I felt so out-of-place, hampered by my own preconceptions of what I thought everyone else was thinking about me. I wonder how many actually were? With in an hour or two of that session closing, I was back at the hotel because I was falling asleep standing up, simply exhausted.

At one point the conversation turned to the ever mentioned pain scale and I did describe a 9 out of 10 as a day where I can’t get out of bed, a day when I simply don’t have those four spoons.

I was very glad that no one asked me what a 10 was.

** Disclaimer:  I was awarded a partial scholarship to attend Medicine X 2014. MedX is not compensating me for any social media posts I make and the words, ideas, and takeaways are my own.

© 2014 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

© 2014 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

  • Annette

    I’m glad you were there Scott.

    Pain takes different forms and has different causes. It’s not the cause of the pain that’s the issue, it’s the effect on your life.

    • Thanks Annette, I’m glad I got to finally meet you in person!

      With depression, the cause can be important but it varies from person to person

  • Colleen

    I’m happy you continue to write about depression. You never know (well, sometimes you do know) who you might be helping deal with their own depression.

    • Thanks Colleen, you guys ready for winter? Farmer’s Almanac says it might be rough up in your neck of the woods

  • Jenn C

    There is so much going through my head right now that I would love to put down, but it would be nothing but a rambled mess. THANK YOU for writing this. It is just what I needed to hear to day. thank you.

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  • Canttellya

    A ghost from the past that has every once of awe available looking at you and what you do for others. Keep your semi colon and continue to share!