I am not normally a fan of publicly putting people on blast, but I feel it’s warranted in this case. I am not going to use any names so as not to further embarrass this person’s child (who already reached out and apologized on behalf of her mother– which, while not necessary, was appreciated) but I am going to talk about what happened.
So, sometime in the middle of the night last night, I was sent the following horrifically ignorant message from the mother of someone I went to middle school with.
“I feel compelled to tell you that I and many others are not a fan of your recent shtick about your mental problems and suicide issues. No one comes on Facebook to hear such negativity, see pictures of people who cut themselves, or fawn over attention-seeking behvior [sic] related to suicide and being infirmed. It is nothing to be proud of and certainly nothing to broadcast to the entire world. I am sure your parents and family are mortified. I know you come from a verhy [sic] good family. Please save them, and yourself when you grow up and realize what a mistake you are making, the embarrassment and stop. You will thank me later when you are able to realize what you are doing.”
In case you’re not up to speed on the backstory here, I have suffered from severe depression for about the last seven years– so, basically, since I graduated from high school– and on top of that, I have post-traumatic stress disorder and an anxiety disorder. It has made me a horrible friend, spouse, and human being at times. I had to drop out of college because of it, gained over 100 pounds in just a few years, and ultimately found myself in a downward spiral that would end up with me wanting to end my own life.
In December of last year (2017), beginning on the 11th of that month, I was hospitalized. I was housed on pod 4 of the psychiatric unit of Spartanburg Regional’s emergency room. I slept in room 89.
After the psych hold in the ER, I was referred to outpatient, which essentially means living at home but with a regimen of therapy, medication, and adherence to a rigorous “home plan” written up to keep me on the path toward getting healthier. Should I need to be hospitalized again (which is not out of the question) I will likely end up in inpatient after the initial psych hold, which could last weeks or months, rather than just days.
I am on the path to recovery, but it is not a quick or easy path, nor is it necessarily linear. Four months and counting after my hospitalization, I still feel like I am swimming upstream. My recovery is still a full-time job that takes all the heart, energy, strength, and courage I have every single day. I am engaged in a daily fight for my life.
And, yes, it is something I talk about, both publicly and privately.
And no, I am not going to stop.
Which brings me to this message I woke up to this morning:
I feel compelled to tell you that I and many others are not a fan of your recent shtick about your mental problems and suicide issues. No one comes on Facebook to hear such negativity…
You call it “negativity”. I call it “reality.” If by “shtick” you mean frank, honest description of my daily reality, then, sure.
I don’t especially care what you and your “many others”/imaginary friends are or aren’t a fan of. Mental illness and suicidality are a real problem that need to be discussed.
Personally, I (and my many imaginary friends) don’t care about your pictures of your girls’ nights, your brunches, or your tacky outfits from the clearance rack at Chico’s, which is obviously what you think people are on Facebook to see.
…see pictures of people who cut themselves…
So, here’s the deal: I’ve been cutting myself since I was about ten years old. Both of my arms, one of my thighs, most of my torso, and both of my calves and ankles are covered in scars.
They’re not paper cuts, either; they’re the kind you can see from the International Space Station.
I understand that’s not something a lot of people are used to seeing, but there’s not much I can do about it, either.
They’re a part of my body.
Most pictures of me, unless they’re only of my face or I happen to be wearing a burqa, are going to have visible scars in them. I refuse to dress inappropriately for the situation or the weather just to hide them– if it’s a hundred degrees outside, I’m going to be wearing shorts, scars or no scars. They’re just a part of me.
I am not self-conscious about this, because there would be no point in that– why be upset about something that is a part of my body?
Or, better question: Why should you be upset about part of a body that isn’t even your body?
or fawn over attention-seeking behvior [sic] related to suicide and being infirmed.
Okay, first of all, I wasn’t “infirmed.” I admitted myself voluntarily to the emergency room.
Secondly, my desire to speak out about my mental health and about mental health in general has nothing to do with “attention seeking”.
I have the three cutest cats in the world. If I was out for attention, my Facebook would be nothing but pictures of them, and I would be internet famous– because, and I cannot stress this enough, they are the cutest cats literally ever.
On the other hand, when I talk about my mental illness, my experience of hospitalization, and my recovery, what I am out to raise is not attention but awareness. There’s a difference.
It is nothing to be proud of and certainly nothing to broadcast to the entire world.
I agree with you on this point– having a mental illness is nothing to be proud of. Neither is being left-handed, having freckles, or any other fact of your genetics/biology is something to be proud of.
But it’s also nothing to be ashamed of.
And that’s kind of what I’m getting at here by talking about it so openly. The only shame that mental illness carries is the shame people attach to it. People like you.
Furthermore, you know what is something to be proud of?
Surviving mental illness. Which I am doing. Every day.
And not just surviving but healing.
Being a survivor is something to be proud of, and you bet your sweet ass I’m proud of that.
I am sure your parents and family are mortified.
You know, to me, the word “family” has a pretty fluid definition. Anyone whom I might happen to be related to, but who is “mortified” by me fighting to get better and helping others in the process, is not my family in the truest sense.
Those who love and support me and are proud of me, whether or not we share a biological or legal bond, are my family. Now, that’s not to say I don’t have some cousins and other relatives who have been extremely supportive– I do, and I thank them with all my heart– but not everyone whom I consider family is necessarily related to me.
Your own daughter is pretty mortified by you, by the way.
I know you come from a verhy [sic] good family.
What in the world does the fact that I was raised with financial privilege (which I am grateful for, and for the opportunities it has provided me) have to do with whether or not I was born with a chemical imbalance in my brain?
Can someone explain that to me, please?
There is mental illness in all ethnicities, nationalities, social classes, geographic areas, both sexes, all ages… it’s not decided by whether or not someone’s parents are wealthy or part of the social elite in their hometown. It’s literally biology.
Please save them, and yourself when you grow up and realize what a mistake you are making, the embarrassment and stop.
You know what? No.
Because you know what got me to that hospital room? You know what almost caused my “good family” the “embarrassment” of having to bury a child?
The fact that I wasn’t honest.
I wasn’t honest with people about how I was feeling, what was going on, and how bad things were. I shut out pretty much everyone and isolated myself, because that’s what depression does. And that’s how depressed people end up committing suicide.
And I decided, as part of my decision to pursue recovery, that there would be no more pretending I was okay. There would be no more shame and no more hiding. There would be full transparency.
I decided, in short, that I was going to document this journey with full honesty, and share it with the world.
Because if I can make just one person going through this feel less alone than I felt, then thanks be to God.
I got to what almost became the end of my life by refusing to tell the truth. One day, I believe, I will reach wholeness and light, and I believe it will come only through total, radical, fearless truth-telling.
And hopefully, along the way, I will help fight some of the stigmas that people like you are so hell-bent on maintaining around mental illness, too.
You will thank me later when you are able to realize what you are doing.
I do actually want to thank you.
I want to thank you for so articulately pointing out everything that is wrong with how our culture responds to mental illness.
I also want to thank you for the opportunity to write this post, and to articulate some things that I hadn’t previously thought to try and put words to.
Even if it is too late for you to find meaning in what I have said here today, I hope that someone else will.
And I do realize what I’m doing:
I am recovering from a medical crisis that almost took my life.
I hope, along the way, to help others in the same situation know that they are not alone, and to help people who have never been through this to understand a bit about what it’s like.
I am helping, in whatever small way I can, to remove the stigma and shame unfairly attached to mental illness.
I am giving meaning to my experiences by sharing it in the hopes that it will help or inspire even one person.
I am adding my voice to a movement that is slowly, surely changing the world.
What are you doing?