Tag Archives: mental health

A bit of a problem

I have talked a lot about my mental health on this blog, and on the internet in general. Usually, I talk about things that feel really important, the worst times, stigma, whether it’s even comfortable calling the way my brain works an illness. This post is harder because it doesn’t feel so immediate and huge. I don’t know how to write about the periods when I know I’m not doing well, but only vaguely. It seems too small to write about.

I’m still eating. I don’t cry. I shower and get dressed. But there are the little symptoms, the ones that aren’t so bad until you put them all together and realise you’ve built a nice little box to hide in. Oh, and also you forgot to add hinges so if you change your mind about hiding you’re going to have to find an axe or a lighter or something and smash and burn your way out of it.

I never want to wake up. Not in the dramatic way that implies death without actually trying to die. More in a “I could be awake and write things and practice cello and live my life, or I could just sleep more and that would be easier.” I’m not even tired most of the time when I sleep, I’d just rather not have anything to do with the world.

I don’t really want to talk to people. Holding conversations has been the worst lately, even with people I really like. When my phone buzzes that someone has messaged me on Facebook, I look but don’t click through because I don’t want the read receipt to come up. If Facebook doesn’t tell the person I’ve read their message, I have plausible deniability if I wait a day or a week or a month to get back to people.

I have been out of onions for a week because going to the shop is hard. I have never been out of onions for this long. It’s terrible.

The only people I see in person right now are the people I am actively dating, because they will suggest things and because I really like cuddles. Responding to messages is easier when there is the possibility of cuddles. I’m sorry to all of the people who I’ve been more sporadic with. I still love you, even though there aren’t cuddles.

I haven’t been doing any of my creative work, or preparations for coursework in this coming semester. And this is really the point of this blog post, to tell you that I haven’t been posting anything or updating my band page or whatever because I am not doing well. It’s not an emergency, but if someone could post me a match, that’d be great, thanks.

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I make people uncomfortable

A year ago, I needed a new hoodie. It took me a few months of searching on the internet before I found the right one. If you don’t want to go through the link for whatever reason, it is a black zip-up hoodie with a blue ghost on the left front, and the words “It is difficult to be alive” on the back, with the same blue ghost underneath. It is merch from the webcomic Pictures for Sad Children, and oh boy did I identify with it. I still do. It is one of my favourite articles of clothing and I love it.

I’ve realised that people get super-uncomfortable when I wear it.

I cannot tell you how many strangers and acquaintances have asked to see my hoodie and followed up that request with “That’s wrong. It’s not difficult to be alive.”

It might be wrong for them, but there are countless people, myself included, who do find it very difficult to be alive. We are told day after day after day that we’re wrong, that we shouldn’t be struggling. When we openly express this, people don’t try to help us find being alive less difficult, they tell us that this is easy. Again and again, we receive the message that there’s something wrong with us and that if we say anything, everyone will know.

My secret wish is that someone will see me in my hoodie and feel validated. I want to send the message “This feeling is so common that someone even made a hoodie saying it and someone else bought it.”

My second secret wish is that the world didn’t require me to have that other secret wish.


I’m not “just sick.”

So I have a problem with one of the tactics I’ve seen used to fight stigma for mental illness, especially mental illnesses that are commonly associated with suicide. That tactic is the one I refer to as “things aren’t hopeless, you’re sick.” I had trouble putting my problem with this into words for the longest time, and I felt like I was a terrible person because I know that it’s important to see mental health problems in the same way we see physical health problems. That’s a fundamental part of destroying stigma. I’ve finally been able to break down my problems with this argument into two sections.

First, I think that this problem commonly manifests by comparing mental illness to the wrong types of physical illness. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard “If you broke your leg, you’d go to a doctor. Why should treatment for mental illness be any different?” I’m not arguing the whole going to the doctor point, but breaking your leg is something that gets fixed and then you’re done with it. Your leg is usually fine afterwards, and that’s not the case with mental illness. It seems like a small nitpick, but people with mental illness regularly get shamed for both being on medication (and for not being on medication, but that’s a whole different post) and still needing to manage their mental health for longer than others deem is necessary. (“What, you’re still depressed? You really need to just get over it.”) I’m a lot more okay with the comparisons to diabetes in terms of access to medication, since diabetes is also a condition that different people manage in different ways.

Despite being okay with the diabetes comparison, I would prefer it if there was a stronger push towards portraying mental illness as being in the same crowd as physical disabilities.* I mean, they’re already covered under disability arrangements, but I know from reading comment threads online that I’m not the only person who has felt unable to get that day-to-day help because “having a mental illness isn’t disabled enough.” And really, while mental illness is similar to diabetes in that it can be managed in different ways and is ongoing, it is more similar to physical disabilities, which are also managed in different ways, are ongoing, are often ignored, and lead to accessibility issues (all of which are different depending on the person and their disability).

The second problem I have with this argument is that I most often see it used to talk to people with mental illness (I’ve gotten it myself more times than I can count), and that is all kinds of dismissive. I’m talking about things like “things aren’t hopeless, you’re just sick,” and “your brain chemistry is out of whack.” When you tell someone that their feelings are wrong, you’re, well, wrong.

Tangent: Some people find it useful to have other people give them reality checks (i.e. Captain Awkward has just recently had an open thread for people with anxiety where several people say they find it helps for people to remind them that the grocery store is not a scary place), but don’t just guess. Ask the person what is helpful for them. In the previous example, if you used the same tactic on me, you might think “Oh, Ariana is having trouble getting to the library, so I’ll just remind her that it’s not scary.” That doesn’t work for me. What works for me is to tell other people I can put it off until tomorrow, then surprise my brain by instantly doing the thing I was scared off. You wouldn’t know that unless you asked.

Back on-topic: I especially hear the “you’re just sick” lines when people talk about feeling hopeless or suicidal, and I can not think of a ruder thing to say to such an admission. While these feelings are common in people who have mental illness, they are not exclusive to mental illness, and, more importantly, why does having a mental illness make those feelings less legitimate? If someone who was grieving over a dead loved one said that sometimes they wished they wouldn’t wake up in the morning, would you respond with “oh, you’re just sick/grieving?” I suspect you’d be more likely to say that it was a really hard thing to go through, and, depending on how close you were to the person, maybe suggest a therapist or a support group. And really, it’s not a bad thing to suggest forms of help to a suicidal person, I’m all for that. The difference between these two scenarios is that in one the feelings are considered legitimate, and in the other, the feelings are dismissed. This is really dangerous, because dismissing the legitimacy of a person’s feelings makes it impossible to actually help them. If I can’t trust you to take what I say seriously, how can I trust you to listen when I tell you that I’m having serious side-effects from my medication, or to respect my decision to not be on medication at all? Why should I even bother telling you I’m suicidal in the first place?

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* I know that there is a lot of stigma surrounding people with physical disabilities as well, but this isn’t the post for that. I do think that people with physical disability and people with mental illness are natural allies considering that there are similar issues at play, especially considering the difficulties shared by people with invisible physical disabilities and people with mental illness.


On the discussion I’ve seen around the CT shooting – A Rant

Look, I agree that there needs to be better mental health care and less stigma around getting treatment, but please everyone stop being dicks when talking about this? Don’t complain about HIPAA as an obstacle, it lets people like me keep their right to privacy and not be given forced treatment, which is traumatic as hell. It’s not my family’s responsibility to get me, an adult, treatment. If I did get to a point where I was so unwell that it was decided I needed treatment whether I wanted it or not, HIPAA would not stop that.

Also, I have seen people blame the shooter’s mother for owning a gun when she had a mentally ill kid, and also for not getting him treatment. What the actual fuck? Having children, disabled or not, is not a reason to take away people’s rights. On top of that, he was an adult. She was not responsible for him. This is victim-blaming. Stop it.

I am also sick of people saying “it’s all about mental health treatment, shut up about gun control.” Of course this is fucking about gun control. What? You think we can’t focus on two problems at once? Mentally ill people need to be able to receive treatment AND guns should be hard to access because as we’ve seen, treatment for mental health doesn’t always work. Yes, there are other weapons. Guns kill faster. Yes, guns will be sold illegally. They still won’t be as easy to access. More planning will be necessary, and that takes time. And if you even think about saying “I need my gun to protect me from all of these shooters,” fuck you. You’re making the situation more dangerous for everyone around you.

I’m done. I have been clobbered with posts on my Facebook talking about how my rights should be taken away because my brain isn’t “perfect” and neurotypical, all because you can’t stand to lose your fucking guns.

UPDATE: I wasn’t in a state to articulate this when I wrote this post, but talking about mental health at all in relation to this shooting is problematic. This post says it better than I ever could.

UPDATE AGAIN: Here is another great post on the subject.


I don’t have monsters in my head

Sorry for this being a day late. This post has been difficult to write, and has the distinction of being the only post on here that I did not write in one sitting. Aside from writing it, the decision whether to post this was a hard one, as I know it will make people I know worry about me. Please don’t. I’ve been managing so far, and there’s no reason to believe that I won’t continue to be okay.

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I have had a list of diagnoses for the past six years of my life. Obviously that length of time is nothing to a lot of people, but for me, at twenty, it encompasses most of what I remember about my life. Actually, I have large gaps in my memory, so I don’t even remember most of that. If you ask me about the past two years, I’ll probably remember it, but before that there are just snippets. Most of those make me hope nothing ever comes back. I also don’t remember much of February through May, so if I started talking to you beyond pleasantries and became friends with you then, if I tell you the same stories or forget things about you, I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure I was paying attention when it came up the first time.

One thing I do remember from before six years ago is sitting on the floor of the living room with a new issue of Time looking at the cover story about children with bipolar disorder and wondering what it was like to have it. Now it seems like everyone wants me not just to idly imagine, but strive for, life without it. I mean, they don’t say it that way because that would be stupid. You don’t “cure” bipolar disorder.

I’ve said before that I’m not on medication by choice. It works for me. Bipolar disorder generally manifests in cycles and I’ve been pretty aware of when I need to pay closer attention to my moods. This year was different. My least functional time occurred in the spring, as usual, but the intensity of everything was turned up to eleven. As far as anyone can tell so far, it’s probably stress exacerbating it. I started talking to doctors about a month and a half ago. In one appointment, I was asked “Why didn’t you talk to anyone in November, when you first became aware of problems?” I didn’t really answer the question, but it’s because the good reasons to have never outweighed the bad. Ever.

I remember as a teenager being under constant surveillance, ultimately not having a say in my treatment, and most of all, people’s comments. A lot of people didn’t even try to hide that they thought I had no future, that I was a burden on my parents, but the most egregious was from a therapist I was seeing when I was 18. I wasn’t having real problems, just trying to figure out what I was doing with myself over a gap year. I’d seen her before, so she knew my history. She thought I was doing great until I came in having decided to go back to uni. There was an instant switch and she told me I was just going to end up on disability anyways so I shouldn’t take out the loans or go anywhere far away from my parents. I always tell the story about her in outraged tones, but honestly it’s hard to feel shocked by it. It’s more of what I’ve been hearing since I was fourteen, just stated more bluntly. It’s the microaggressions, the constant reminders that my brain is different, that there is something “wrong” with me. I know most of you don’t consciously think of me as being broken or different or any of those things, but when you make comments about how my brain is “interesting,” that I’m just sick, that bipolar disorder or any other of those diagnoses I have is just an affliction, well, it hurts.

Because they’re not these monsters in my brain. They’re part of who I am. Try and separate me from them, and unless you’re related to me, you probably wouldn’t know me. If I had no anxiety, I might be better at social situations, and I might have grown up with more friends I’d originally met in person. If I hadn’t been hospitalised I might have stayed more in touch with the ones I did meet in person, and I probably wouldn’t have gone to uni when I was sixteen. The music I compose would be different, or maybe I wouldn’t compose, because the albums that inspired me meant so much because the feelings that connected me to them would be different. Because of everything that happened as a teenager, I have felt a constant need to leave the country, get as far away from where I grew up as possible. And I did. I feel better outside America. How can these diagnoses not be who I am if they have visibly affected the last six years of my life to the point where I live in a different country?

But still, whenever I bring up a problem remotely related to my mental health, whenever I feel suicidal, or like self-harming, if I tell anyone, the first response is always “See a doctor,” or “take this pill.” When I consider telling anyone anything, I am risking losing the trust and support of everyone around me. People tend to either pull away or get too close when mental health issues come up. I stop being someone who can take care of myself and become someone fragile, someone who needs to be watched.

This doesn’t have to be the response. A few months ago, I came off of a manic episode during which I had cut. I went and knocked on the door of someone I didn’t know all that well. We’d been friendly all that year, but we never specifically hung out together. He was just the closest person I knew who I felt sort of comfortable going to. So I pretty much came into his room crying, and he didn’t suggest I should be medicated or anything. We went for a walk. We bought some frozen pizza for later. That was all he needed to do in the situation to make me think “this is someone awesome who I should make an effort to stay friends with.” Really, I don’t need advice if I bring this stuff up. I don’t need you to tell me things about bipolar disorder or feeling suicidal. Trust me, I know it already. Just be around.

Really, I won’t break.