After the ending notes of my last post, I got a lot of (generally kind and well-meaning) messages asking about my suicidal thoughts and mental health.
For readers who are newish to this blog, almost two years ago I pledged to talk openly about my mental health in my regular writings.
I’m committed to de-stigmatizing mental illness and I believe that one of the best ways to do so is to keep talking about it, often and without shame. While it’s sometimes uncomfortable to put it all out there, I would rather put myself on the line so that someone else will have an easier time of it later.
One of the biggest, and most hurtful, accusations that have come my way because of this are that I only talk about suicide and depression for attention. This is actually problematic in a few ways. The first is that, when I am speaking frankly about my depression and experience with suicidal thoughts I am sharing something very personal and I want to be taken seriously. This isn’t something I throw around carelessly and I’m very aware of what I’m doing when I talk about it. To say that I’m using suicide as bait to get more comments or followers is so insulting and I would hope that anyone who knows me would know better. I’ve written openly about my entire mental health journey from the start of it and have also written about seeking medical and professional health. If there was a time to worry about me, it would be when I stop writing about it completely.
Communicating is healing, and when you make it harder for someone to talk about it when they are willing to talk about it, they will be less likely to talk about it when things are hard. For example, if I told my best friend that I was having suicidal thoughts and her first reaction was “shut up, you just want attention” the next time I would know not to trust her or tell her anything. Don’t shut off communication with the people you care about. If you’re really listening to them, you’ll be able to distinguish between when it’s time to listen and it’s time to act.
The way we react to depression, mental health, suicide etc, goes back deep into our roots as a society and although things are changing there is still a long way to go.
Mental health and suicide are really uncomfortable topics for so many people. For centuries, it’s been associated to negative concepts like asylums and institutions, men in white coats, etc. Seeing a psychiatrist or therapist put you and your family at risk of judgement and ridicule, so people just wouldn’t do it. People have had depression for as long as there have been people, however the solution for the longest time was to suppress it, put on a happy face, and wait it out and hope it goes away or you kill yourself.
As a society, we’ve held on to those negative associations for a long time and it has gotten a lot better but, especially in America, we are not gold yet. It’s 2016 and we’re only just starting to recognize mental illness as a real problem in our health care system. Americans are some of the hardest workers in the developed world and we’re literally working ourselves to death. The stress of the workplace without mental health resources is linked to heart problems and depression. More than half of Americans never use all of their paid vacation time, and most of the people who do never leave their homes during their days off. People are afraid to ask for time off because they don’t want to lose money or be fired and replaced by someone who won’t ask for time off.
So between the negative stigma of asking for help for mental health and living in an environment that stretches workers too thin, Americans are kind of stuck in the shitter when it comes to mental self care. The good news is that things are changing: younger businesses emphasis self care in the workplace, older businesses are beginning to adapt as people demand better mental health resources.
The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to take time to take care of yourself and when you’re doing okay, try to do good for others. Take your vacation time, do things for you, keep toxic people out of your life.
Again, thanks for reading. Right now, I’m not in a good place to help anyone else with their issues but I would be happy to refer anyone to the same sources that are helping me. For those who asked or are curious- I do have a therapist. I haven’t been afford to see her in the past few months while I’ve been underemployed and jobless, but I’m hoping that will change soon with the new job I have coming up next week.
Also I am taking the GRE next Saturday, so good wishes and resources always welcome because I feel very stupid.