I’m a fairly insensitive person. My attitude to mental health is, that unless absolutely necessary, you should suck it up. I have always believed that adults have a responsibility not to display emotion outwardly, it might make someone else uncomfortable.
“Trigger warnings” are something that I have always thought were a case study in “Poe’s Law” in application to left wing identity politics. How could an article or some coarse Content upset anyone? Suck it up.
Mid-term weeks are stressful; there are copious amounts of assignments and exams around the corner. I have always tried to keep any stress I might be feeling totally to myself, aside from the occasional whinge about assessments.
Last week I found out sometimes it’s not possible.
I happened to be waiting for a friend, let’s call her E. E and I study together frequently. So I showed up at the agreed upon time, I waited for 10 minutes. She hadn’t come, I waited 20 minutes. I sent a text asking where she was after 30 minutes. After 40 minutes the Barnsley’s, an old academic couple, had occupied my table leaving no room for E even if she wanted to show up now. I’d still not received any word of cancelled plans after 50 minutes.
At this point I remember an experience from my childhood, I was about eleven at the time. My mother would not infrequently forget to pick me up from school. Not being independent enough to find my way home alone, this would invariably result in a huge amount of distress for a child. I remembered this vividly, but it’s never apparently affected me as adult.
I could feel myself struggling to deal with how upset I was about having been bailed on without explanation.
I went to the bathroom, and when I knew I was alone I heaved and my eyes leaked. After a few minutes, I went back out hoping that Mister Barnsley wouldn’t comment on the gleam of my eyes or my red face.
After I was finished I ran into E, who explained that her phone hadn’t been working. I was upset, but I felt that this wasn’t justified. It certainly wasn’t her fault. Uncomfortable where I was, I decided to get lunch.
While I ate my lunch, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about what had happened to me eleven years ago. As I ate, my vision became clouded by concealed tears and my face became red.
I tried to focus on my food, and not look up. I wanted to believe that no-one else in the room could see what was going on. “Are you ok?” I was asked. I tried to communicate in the affirmative. I was fine, of course I was fine, everything is always fine, I’m an adult. And then my face burst, and I was crying in a public place. I physically couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to just suck it up.
It was humiliating. I had failed everyone around me by exposing them to my emotions. I had failed to fulfil my expectations of myself, and I had done it in a full room of people just trying to eat their own lunch. It was as bad as making out in a café, or having a break up on a train.
I went outside and cleaned myself up. It took me some minutes to calm down. I was triggered by something small. Apparently I couldn’t just suck it up.
An experience sometimes invites us to reconsider our views, and it’s clear to me that mine needed re-evaluation.
If you think you may be experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem, please contact ANU Counselling on 6125 2442, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.