Talk the talk: Bell Let’s Talk
author: annie trussler | op-ed editor
“I promise that little goblin is full of sh*t.”
Jan. 25 is fast approaching, and for those of us who bite our nails until they bleed, stay in bed for days, count our strength in spoons, who hear voices, sprint for hours during manic episodes, we know Bell is encouraging us to “talk.” We take to social media, explain to an otherwise unwilling audience that our lives suck more than 90 per cent of the time, and attempt to emphasize just what we can and cannot do. This works, until it doesn’t. This works for a day, when statuses are flooded with likes, comments, and well wishes, and then there’s nothing. There’s no support on dark days, there’s no understanding when we cannot go outside, there’s huffs of frustration when we are incapable of completing traditionally simple tasks.
In my Holocaust and Anti-Semitism course, the concept of “tolerance” has been discussed at length. There is always, and has always been, a difference between tolerance and acceptance, care, or appreciation. You tolerate a rash, you tolerate your brother’s birthday party, you tolerate a bad warm up band, but you simply do not tolerate your mentally ill sister, friend, mother, and so on. We are not conveniences to boast to the world when a phone company asks you to because, believe me, we are mentally ill the other 364 days you “tolerate” our problems.
Consider this a crash course at the hands of someone who doesn’t care about being obnoxious and forthright anymore. Consider this employee training for Jan. 25, and every day after. Everyone needs to work on his or her customer service, and since many of us are paying with our sanity, it’s pretty important.
Let’s say your mentally ill “customer’s” name is Paul. Hypothetically, one day, Paul wakes up, and everything sucks. His limbs feel heavy and useless, there’s a weight on his chest, and there’s a little goblin in his brain reminding him how badly he “sucks,” much like his day. These are days that Paul doesn’t want to go outside. He doesn’t even want the sun to make contact with his “sucky” flesh; he wants to lie in bed, maybe shower, and contemplate why the little goblin in his brain is so very spiteful in the first place.
Paul texts his friend Lucy, who, in this hypothetical, is you. Your first response might consist of a few things: you might remind them to take their innumerable medications, you might tell them to go outside, you might go “yeah, that sucks, but did I tell you what Josh did to me?” It’s at this point that the little goblin is absolutely hysterical with glee, as poor Paul is left feeling worse than a tea bag soaked in black coffee (which is something I’ve witnessed).
Scrap that nonsense, start from the beginning, shake the etch-a-sketch. Paul texts you again, he tells you about the goblin, and how much he feels like a walking, talking garbage can, and what do you say? There’s no right answer, per se, everyone needs to hear something else; however, I guarantee Paul could use some affection, assurance that he’s safe and cared for, and a promise that he isn’t the worst person alive for taking a day to himself.
I know the real world isn’t exactly accommodating to those of us who have difficulty with a neurotypical reality. We cannot miss endless days of work or school, our friends will get upset if we’re constantly detached or moody, we cannot survive solely on Wheat Thins and existential dread. What life can offer, however, is a ready supply of “allies” that remain allies after January passes. It may just be me, though I have my doubts, but I keep a mental list of those who proudly support my decaying mental wellness online, only to groan when I skip an outing or party because I’d rather be set on fire.
For my neurotypical readers and peers, take your kindness outside the comment section. Back your friends up, and defend their right to say no; you truly have more than you think you do, more freedom than you could ever consider. For my neurodivergent readers, I promise that little goblin is full of sh*t.