I know I chatter on far too much… but if you only knew how many things I want to say but don’t.
Anne Shirley – Anne of Green Gables
If you are of my vintage and Canadian the chances are that you didn’t make it through childhood without reading Anne of Green Gables and its sequels more than once. The novels about Anne Shirley, the little red-headed orphan girl with lots of spunk who lived on Prince Edward Island.
When the television series came out, I watched it with a tear in my eye. Seeing Anne come to life on screen was like getting re-acquainted with my long lost BFF.
The author of Anne of Green Gables was Lucy Maude Montgomery. LMM’s grandaughter recently caused a stir when she wrote a piece for the Globe & Mail newspaper that said she believed that LMM may have committed suicide.
She has concluded this from a reading of her diaries. LMM’s husband was what we would call bi-polar these days. He was also a minister. The marriage was “lifeless”. She stayed with him and performed her “wife of a minister” duties as required. She was a passionate woman who apparently led a life of quiet desperation.
On Thursday morning, in the same paper, there was an editorial about the revelation.
The editorial, headed, Mental Illness, Behind Green Gables, said this:
Something very deep in our culture insists on hiding personal pain. In part that’s owing to a natural protective instinct to shield one family’s suffering from neighbourhood gossip. But the protection is in some ways illusory. Pain too private to talk about becomes stigmatized, which adds to the suffering. And pain that cannot be shared may also not be treated. Hence, [the grandaughter] wondered if her grandmother would have been more apt to seek out treatment for her depression if the stigma around metal illness had not been so strong.
Of course these words made me think about adoption and the silence under which many people suffer.
I would even go so far as to say that mental illness is more recognized and understood than the grief many women feel after the experience of adoption. Adoptees too keep silent because so few people understand the longing in their hearts to know from whence they have come. To want to know is perceived as showing lack of gratitude to the parents who raised them.
The paper got it right – Pain that cannot be shared may also not be treated.
Many people on the two sides of the adoption triangle that hold up the third feel they are not welcome to speak of that pain to the people who need to hear about it. Sometimes, they dare not speak of it even to each other.
I think, in many ways, the stigma attached to talking about the adoption truth is greater than the one the that discourages people from revealing a mental illness.
I think of all those mothers who are too afraid to meet the children who seek them out and all those children who dare not admit that there is a longing there, hidden away at the bottom of their hearts.