See Change Ambassador Rick Rossiter is helping to change minds about mental health, one conversation at a time
My Bipolar years started around the age of 12 and came in like a rollercoaster without speed controls.
Things that were once shielded away from my emotional triggers were firing off on all cylinders. I could cry at the drop of a hat, or burst out in a mixture of fear and anger.
I was in a new limbo without a manual on how things should work.
In the 32 years since, I have had 10 suicide attempts, 9 hospital admissions to a psychiatric ward, several therapeutic or counselling interactions and 3 major breakdowns with too many setbacks to count and obstacles to overcome in between.
Throughout all of this I was either an emotionless zombie or the living incarnation of a tear itself and I loathed my existence and condemned my thoughts.
As a child I did cry, but only if I were alone and no one else could see. I cried mostly out of anger and confusion of what was my life. Outside these moments I was like ice, no matter the physical or mental pain.
Sadly, I know the starting point of all the walls I built and the masks that I created to keep people out, and prevent them from hurting me.
During a visit to the dentist when I was four years old, and in the process of having needle after needle in my gums to numb the pain, I was told if I started to cry and couldn’t stay still that my mother would have to leave me. I remained still, quiet and tearless throughout the entire procedure.
This was the moment when I began to shadow my emotions and hide my tears.
Over time I began creating new masks to replace the old ones, finding new ways to hide my pain and deepening my well of emotions. At first this was a well-balanced endeavour, but as time went by and having no clue or understanding, let alone a name of/or diagnoses to my mental disorders I found that my masks started to crack.
Oh how I wish that I were shown how to be emotional without feeling stupid, guilty and abnormal all in one breath. Why was it so wrong for me to cry? Why couldn’t someone just hug me and tell me that everything would be alright. If only I allowed others to help me and if only I could, as a boy or a man, look in the mirror and not hate what I was looking at.
This emotional journey is one everyone travels, there are only variations in levels of serenity or injury and yet, regardless of these differences, we still feel that empty pain.
We still share that darkness and only through different circumstances in our lives do we see various results or outcomes.
This is why the road I travel now is so important to me, to be involved with See Change as an Ambassador, sharing my story and experiences without malice. I am proud to wear a Green Ribbon in support of this new conversation towards a better understanding and awareness of mental health. We have to teach new ways of talking about mental health. The old conversation is outdated and damaging. We need to show that talking about our problems is not a sign of weakness, but rather a show of strength.
Be the Change.
Rick Rossiter is a See Change Ambassador. Today is National #TimeToTalk day which encourages a nationwide discussion on mental health. The See Change 'Green Ribbon' campaign aims to change minds about mental health, one conversation at a time.