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Invisible pain

March 20, 2018

 

I read this blog recently on Moodscope and it struck a cord. Slowly we are getting better at asking people how they are. The more we ask, the more we support, the better we will all be ……

 

“A few years back I suffered a neck injury - which resulted in 7 months of non-stop intense pain. It wasn't fun; but the thought that kept occurring to me during this time was "It's nowhere near as bad as a bout of depression!" It became so clear to me that whilst physical pain can be acutely debilitating and life-changing, you can still be happy in parallel with the pain. I was, at the time, very happy, enjoying a new scene, a relationship and had started writing. Everything was fresh and new and I felt alive despite the physical pains. The opposite cannot be said. A bout of depression (for me at least) means a total blackout of the soul, and prohibits any happiness. 

A few years later and the neck injury reoccurred, but this time I was in London. It made me ponder again. With a huge ugly neck brace my injury was manifestly visible to all. And during those months commuting to work, I was struck time and time again by the sheer number of people jumping up to give me their seat and asking me how I was. I never once had to ask for help. (So much for selfish, busy Londoners!). The willingness with which people wanted to help, knowing that something was wrong, and knowing how they could help, was humbling. It saddened and comforted me at the same time. It saddened me because my neck injury (and me!) would have survived without those acts of kindness. We were getting on with it (and funnily enough standing was easier than sitting). Whereas when we're mentally ill, when we desperately need every last act of kindness and connection, strangers can't help. They probably don't even know that we're ill, they often don't know how to help, and would likely feel embarrassed to try. 

Could you imagine if Transport for London created another 'Baby on Board' badge: a "Feeling Blue" one instead? Could you imagine people spotting it and immediately giving you a smile or a hug, or  words of encouragement to help you through your day? How wonderful that would be! And yet, what I saw did give me precisely that same sense of comfort. Knowing that people would rush to your aid if only they knew, gave me a strange feeling of consolation - I felt the swell of good wishes and kind vibes from total strangers. 

I now secretly believe that if my inward pain were outwardly manifest, flocks of people would help in any way they could which comforts me. People basically wish others well. It took me those months commuting to fully realise this.”

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