This is one persons story about their experience of dignity. This person and others from Gateway Mental Health Association in Rathmines have given permission for us to print their Dignity Stories.
I am in my father’s living room and I am gazing into the fire with the television over on my left. I am deeply absorbed by the flames and I feel a sense of peace and warmth. Just as I stand up, the television seems to invade my mind – I feel a very strange inner phased electronic buzzing sound. It seems like my head is electrically charged. I get up after a brief moment of unconsciousness. A little concerned, I decide I should tell my father, who is in the other room, I want him to know in case he finds me out cold.
When he comes in, I tell him what just happened and he tells me how he thought I was a little too absorbed in the fire. But there is more to tell him. And before doing so, I warn him that due to my heightened sensitivity and a feeling of general suggestibility, I believe it’s possible that I could actually lose consciousness while talking to him.
He listens, calm and relaxed. I explain that this has not been the only time I’ve lost consciousness. On a couple of occasions, I had entered what seemed like comatose states for longer or shorter periods of time. States in which my sense of time was disturbed and I had no sense of life whatsoever.
As I say this – especially saying the word “comatose” I start to faint once more as I had expected. I was otherwise in good health, it seemed to be purely self-suggestion that made it happen.
But he caught me with his love and with his arms, and I didn’t faint fully this time. As it passed, I felt that the sharing of this experience with someone had actually helped me overcome the whole issue for once and for all. He told me kindly that “he was probably more relaxed about these things than most people, and that I shouldn’t worry “. He had had his own fair share of suffering and I believe his insight into suffering was behind his reassurance.
With this simple statement of reassurance, he acknowledged my dignity and autonomy as a human being allowed to experience the drama of life, supported by others without the burden of people’s worries: A real dad. I have had no more faints since.
What I want people to know from this story:
When you are suffering from mental illness, people who care make all the difference. They can even make very nasty episodes turn into positive ones by their own positive engagement. It is not hard to support someone with mental illness. It’s just to be a friend and accept them for who they are.
Sometimes you are helping more than you realise and you are giving them the ticket to normality. The only diagnosis I have been given is “anxiety “. Although I seem to have experienced all kinds of conditions since this started.
I can say that, while some of it is terrifying and some of it is exhilarating, it is all a valid part of the human condition and needs acceptance like everything else.
We get “ill” when it’s too much to handle but we just need a little support. We are the same person, just struggling with huge stresses coming from our minds, from time to time.