How to talk to me

So since I’ve started this blog a few people have asked how they should talk to me/treat me/what topics of conversation are ok/not ok? 

Now I can understand this – I’ve been very open with these blogs, really put myself out there. It’s probably opened up some things most people didn’t know about me, and yes that can make people more aware that certain things may be triggering for me. I’ll go into more detail, but the one thing I would say is: I was diagnosed with depression over 12 years ago, and have probably had it a lot longer. This means that I’ve probably had depression for the whole of the time a lot of you have known me. Some of you may have known, or realised there was something going on – I’ve never been that reticent about talking about it – some of you may have had no idea.

Disclaimer: the following is specific to me and my needs, it’s not necessarily going to be the same for other people with mental illness. 

From my point of view this means treat me the same as you always have. Believe me I’ll let you know if I need anything different.

I’ll go into detail a bit about some areas.

I’ve kind of touched on one of these in a previous blog – my scratching myself. I will at times have cuts/scratches on my arms – it’s one of those things. If you notice you can ask what happened, I may reply in a joking fashion – a throwaway line about getting into a fight with a bush/door/myself – but that’s just my way. Being asked by friends, by people who care doesn’t put me on edge, it doesn’t offend me and it doesn’t embarrass me. The reason I tend to give a throwaway answer is that I don’t want to come across as attention seeking. The whole scratching thing is a stress thing and nothing else. If people notice and ask that’s fine, but I make light of it as anything else (in my mind) seems melodramatic.

Triggering topics – is there anything I should avoid talking about? Not really no, not related to my depression anyway (normal rules of sensible conversation reply). Normally I’m happy to talk about my depression, anxieties etc. if there’s a reason I’m not, I’ll let you know when it comes up. I’m in the lucky position where I have it under control – yes I still have ups and downs, but most of the time they’re less extreme than they used to be. If talking about this stuff with me is helpful in some way – I’m happy to do it. I guess for me it’s kind of like the ‘bullshit’ rule I use in most RPGs I run. Yes I’ll have a lines and veils conversation up front, but the option is always there to interrupt and say – I’m not happy/comfortable with where this is going can we change it? So in normal conversation there’s very little off the table to begin with, but I’ll call it out if we hit something I’m not prepared to talk about – at the time. It may be something I’ll happily talk about another time.

Social anxieties/Panic attacks. I’m prone to both of these – as is H as well. I do find certain situations more challenging than others – particularly when I’m not expecting them. For example I went to the shop on Sunday morning to get a few bits and pieces. It was just gone ten and I was expecting it to be quiet. It wasn’t. This started to trigger a panic attack – which I actually got a hold on and prevented from becoming fully blown. If I’d expected the shop to be busy I would have been prepared and fine, but I didn’t expect it so an attack was triggered. 

In social situations I don’t mind loud places, I don’t mind new people, I don’t mind lots of people – but put them all together and I struggle, especially if I wasn’t expecting some/all of them. So at most gaming conventions I’m fine – I know some people well, more to say hello to, and I know what to expect environment-wise and am ready for it all. Even a new con is generally okay as they tend to be similar. So what to do with me in these situations? Where possible warn me (I sometimes wish I’d thought of saying this to friends years ago, but hey that’s life). If I know what to expect, I’m more prepared and cope better. I may still have a panic/anxiety issue, but it’s a lot less likely. If you think I might not be okay ask me, or ask H if that’s easier – we’ll be honest. Allow me to do what I need to do. This hasn’t happened in quite a while, but in the past people have overcrowded me checking I’m ok, asking what they can do etc. To be fair I don’t think anyone I still spend time with has ever done this, but you can probably see where this can be problematic as well. Sometimes what I need is space – so if that’s what I ask for please give it to me. H is very good at spotting when what I need is space, so will also be in a position to let you know what’s happening.

I think what I’m trying to say is I’m still the same person I always was – you just know a bit more about what’s going on in my mind. I don’t write these blogs to change how you treat me – I write them because they’re useful to me (they’ve helped me process some things I hadn’t thought about before), I write them because I think being open about mental health issues is very important. I also write them because there’s a possibility they may help others – though for me this is a good side effect not the aim.

I hope that makes some sort of sense. Thanks for reading and stay safe all.

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Author: wraithben

I'm Ben, early 40's and work as a Real Time Analyst in a call centre in the South West of England. In my spare time amongst other things I like to game - computer games, board games and most of all RPG's and Theatre Style LARPS. I also suffer from Chronic Depression.

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