My name is Mark Smed. I work with information technology and have had a long successful career. People generally like me, and say I’m hard working and funny. I’m too loud sometimes and I’m emotional often. I love to do creative writing, art, hiking, fishing and some camping. Once I ran for council in my home town. One of the great passions in my life is to sit and have a coffee with a friend. It’s a simple pleasure, but I don’t need huge risk and thrills to be happy.
If I trust you, you get to learn more about me. In 2002, I came to see that drugs were affecting my relationships with other people, particularly my family. I’ve been clean since then, and regularly participate in 12 step recovery. It saved my life. Getting clean was the first step in learning to deal with many issues. There have been many steps since then, and not always graceful. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Hydrogenitus Suprativa. It’s a disease I’ve had since I was about 14. People who suffer from the disease are prone to abscesses or boils as they are called. It’s an orphan disease, with no treatment or research being done. I’m somewhat scarred physically but the biggest scars are emotional, and not easily seen. I didn’t talk about that much until 5 or 6 years ago.
The last thing people usually learn about me is my issues with mental health. I struggle with social anxiety and PTSD. I’m not sure if I like the labels but it does help when you are exploring treatment options. I find I have a very complex set of social rules, beyond what any reasonable person can expect to live with. I often feel excluded or shunned and anything that enforces my beliefs helps me feel safe but causes me tremendous loneliness. In some cases, I am shunned, but I guess that’s the burden of being awkward socially. I don’t trust easily. I’m not sure if it’s unresolved issues from childhood or the constant abuse I find myself dealing with in living with this skin disease.
I love being a part of something and give freely of my time. A lifetime of pain and ongoing issues evaporate when I have a chance to participate. I often show up, and leave as soon as the work is done. I wanted to share my story for that reason. I want people to understand that people who struggle with addictions and mental illness aren’t ticking bombs. We see terrible stories of people in the grips of mental illness. They unfold in public, and we shake our heads, and increase our resolve to protect those we love. Protection should be reserved for evil, not illness. Illness needs to be treated. Treatment starts with communication. If I can’t safely tell you how I feel, how will I survive?
Submitted by Mark Smed, Summerland BC