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The invisible wound

Posted by Simon Parke, 05 December 2017, 5.51am

Jo is back at work now after nine months off for depression.

It has almost destroyed his marriage, and suicidal thoughts have been persistent.

Jo never thought he’d get back to his job; it seemed like another life.

But with support from both his bosses and therapy, he has got back to it. He’s just completed his first day.

Now there’s a new problem, however: ‘What do I say to everyone else?’

‘If it was a broken ankle,’ he says, ‘that would be fine. I’d have a plaster cast to show them! Everyone would get it. But when it’s an illness you can’t see – well, people aren’t so understanding.’

There’s a lot of talk about mental health these days, which is a step forward.

But perhaps the biggest issue in attitudes towards it, remains its invisibility.

We don’t see difficulties arising in ourselves, they can be invisible to us.

‘It’s just life, isn’t it? I’m not ill or anything.’

But crucially, when we crack inside, no one else sees it either. There’s no plaster cast or bandage to sign post the damage and the struggle to our work colleagues, relatives and friends.

The inner torment is hidden; and the wound, invisible.

So when Jo goes back to work feeling fragile and taking one day at a time, he has a problem, because everyone says:

‘But you look fine, Jo!’

Sometimes a smile is not what it seems…

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