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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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#dearmentalhealthprofessionals, Sincerely, Someone Struggling With Mental Illness

#dearmentalhealthprofessionals, Sincerely, Someone Struggling With Mental Illness

| On 04, Sep 2013

A couple days ago, #dearmentalhealthprofessionals was trending on Twitter. As someone that has been dealing with depression on and off for the past six years, I have a lot to say. Not just to mental health professionals, but to friends, family, strangers, and partners.

This isn’t meant to publicly shame anyone, or really shame anyone at all. For that reason, I will not use any identifying information about people. Maybe some of them will read this and know who I’m referring too. Maybe they’ll learn something from it. Maybe things will be different the next time they interact with an individual struggling with mental illness.

The important thing to remember is that the stigma that we all carry around mental health is not an individual problem. It is a deeply ingrained societal problem only exacerbated by our “strong American value” of personal responsibility. It hurts everyone. Denying the existence of very real medical problems hurts everyone. Telling people they can “get over it” or just “be happy” or “normal” hurts everyone.

So, here we are, Twitter style, all the things I want to say about depression to the people and things in my life. However, unlike Twitter style, they’re not all under 140 characters. I’m sorry. My feelings and experiences just don’t fit into neat packages like that. You’ll get over it.

Dear people, wanting to kill yourself isn’t normal. When you tell me it’s normal, it doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me worry about your mental health, too.

Dear suicide hotline, I’m sure you mean well, but you really scare me. I don’t know why. I never make it past the welcome message before hanging up.

Dear person, just because that man with no legs made the best of his life and is now happy doesn’t make me appreciate my life more. It just makes me feel worse for feeling the way I feel. Please stop. You think you’re trying to help, but please stop.

Dear fellow sufferers, your solidarity, even unspoken, is the most wonderful thing.

Dear people, I still don’t know how to ask for help. Even when things get really bad. Can you just ask me once in a while?

Dear everyone, yes race and class and gender and sexuality matter. A lot. They affect my experiences. They affect the way you think about and deal with my illness. They affect what treatment and validation and support I do or do not get from my family and community.

Dear person, I am not just confused or overwhelmed or going through an identity crisis. Oh, but you just said those things because I haven’t been formally diagnosed yet?

Dear therapist, I need you to help me learn how to deal with things, not just talk about my feelings endlessly. Feelings suck. I feel sucky things. I feel no things. Let’s work on it.

Dear person, it took me four years of on and off depression to finally say that word out loud. It took me four years to look at you and whisper “I think I might be depressed.” When, right away, you respond saying “no you’re not,” you shut me out. It took me another several months to gain the courage to speak up again.

Dear Psychiatrist, is it always about the pills with you?

Dear food, thank you.

Dear people, yes it’s been going on for a long time. No it’s not over yet. Why did we stop talking about it!?

Dear medication, I hate you. You were supposed to fix me. You gave me false hope and nausea.

Dear people that told me to write this article, I needed that. This terrifies me, but thank you.

Dear people, why is mental illness only valid when somebody is self-harming or suicidal? Why do things have to escalate before we want to deal with them?

Dear generic medication, thank you for being cheap enough that I could buy you without needing my parents.

Dear everyone, stop being afraid to ask questions. When I tell you I’m depressed or suicidal or thinking about self-harm, that is an invitation. Your questions aren’t intrusive; they tell me that you care enough to ask.

Dear person, thank you for saying “that sucks.” Yes, some things just suck. Tell it like it is.

Dear people, I didn’t sleep all day just because I’m lazy or because I want to. I just don’t know how to get up sometimes.

Dear therapy, stop being expensive and inaccessible.

Dear self, I’m proud of you for writing this.

Dear people, I know you think I’m crying because I’m sad. But sometimes I’m just crying. Sometimes I’m crying because I can’t feel anything.

Dear self, this isn’t forever. I mean, okay, maybe it is, but it doesn’t have to feel like this forever.

Dear therapist, I don’t need you to be there every week at a designated time. I need you when I need you. Can we text?

Dear person, thank you for publicly talking about your mental illness. You’re the reason I told my therapist the truth and took a chance on medication.

Dear self, you’ll make it. Put down that thing that you’re holding. Remember all the people that love you. Go to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day.

Written by Mansi Kathuria
Follow her on twitter or tumblr.

  • Delilah

    Dear person, Great job at describing the nearly indescribable. People get so worried and silent when suicide is brought up. I am still walking through this, the worst episode ever, but I see a light. Words like yours make me smile and want to add to them. Thanks and good luck. I got through the suicide part by remembering that it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

  • Steph

    Yes, to all these things, especially “Dear therapist, I need you to help me learn how to deal with things, not just talk about my feelings endlessly.” I am seeing my third therapist now, and finally have one that I feel like I am learning something with. I spent years with the first two, and feel I have come farther in just a couple months with this one than I did with those two combined. If your therapist is stringing you along, try a new one. I know it’s hard to start the process over, it took me a whole year after deciding I needed a new therapist to finally find one and make the appointment. But the way I feel now, and realistically expect to feel in the near future, is worth it.

  • stugurl

    I relate to this post more than any other post on mental illness I have ever read. Almost every one of those things I have personally said or wanted to say. No matter how many times I say “telling me to just get over it doesn’t help and that’s not how it works” that’s still what I get most of the time. Hopefully this post will help someone understand better, or someone speak up about what they’re going through. Thanks for writing this, it was fabulous.

  • Laura

    Dear people, stop looking guilty when for the first time I answer the question “so how’s life?” with an answer that isn’t chipper. It took me months to convince myself that you wouldn’t hate me for my honesty, and now you look like you didn’t want to hear an answer that isn’t positive. This isn’t about you.

  • Julie

    As a therapist, I hope you are getting good care. If you don’t feel like therapy is working for you, maybe it’s time to look for a therapist who will teach you some real techniques to work through problems. Not every clinic or therapist does that. Also, I wish we could text too, but I might also be worried that it would be too impersonal and too open for misinterpretations.

    • booplisp

      There are a lot of issues with wanting to text a therapist. Boundary issues, confidentiality issues, and concern over developing dual relationships are just a few that spring to mind. With proper boundaries in place I would be more comfortable talking to a client on the phone or Skype when a quick check in would be helpful.

  • burrowedburied

    My therapist is really wonderful and I’ve been really lucky to find her (I’ve been through some bad ones). The absolute worst are people who tell me about people who have it worse. I’m fully aware that other people have problems worse than mine. I’m not stupid; I’m actually more better versed in social issues than most people I know and I care deeply about social injustices.

    If I hear one more time that there’s a child somewhere with cancer who is handling it with a smile, I’m going to lose it. I’m bipolar. I LITERALLY have a psychiatric disorder that makes it almost impossible for me to feel happiness without a lot of work and medication, which is frankly just exhausting.

    Also, being told I have to “accept” it and “live with” it. Uh, what do you think I’m doing? I’m not dead. I voluntarily checked myself into a psychiatric hospital for a week even though it basically leveled my entire life (I had to leave school which is really the only thing I’ve ever loved and worked for, divorce, move back in with my dad, it put me in a ton of debt, etc.) and I had to start from scratch coming out. I put so much work into managing my disorder, picking up the pieces of my formerly destroyed life (things are slowly getting better, but it’s not an easy process), and trying not to be horribly bitter about my circumstances that it’s a really big slap in the face to imply that I’m somehow not doing it right because I’m not in a place I’d presumably be without a psychiatric disorder that I can’t help.

    I know people mean well, and I actually don’t take it personally most of the time. I don’t discuss it with many people, so it’s always someone I’m close to who is genuinely trying to understand better. I just don’t want support in the form of trying to cheer me up as though I’m sad over something silly, even though I know most people can’t conceive of a better way to be supportive.

  • Wolf Fennec

    Dear friends, stop freaking out when I say I’m unhappy. Stop saying I’ll be fine tomorrow, I never have been, and I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. When I say I’m feeling dark, don’t say “why?”, I can’t tell you, cause no reason is real. If you tell me I’m not depressed then take the piss once more I’m going to stab you in the hand with a pencil….Stop telling me to be less aggressive too. Just because I laugh a lot, it doesn’t mean I’m happy, it means I can laugh at the ridiculous levels of pain I feel constantly. If I seem lazy or don’t get work done, it isn’t because I’m not trying. You should see me sitting for three hours in front of a laptop screen, looking at a blank document like it’s my death warrant. And yes, I think about suicide a lot, I don’t tell you because you’d go bat shit crazy. I’m not going to do it though, because I’ve found something else that I want a bit more, so I’ve decided to focus solely on that, even if it’s killing me. Got a problem with that? I should hope you don’t, I’m not a victim. I’m a warrior. It’s my truest talent.

  • person

    Thank you for writing this. This is amazing.

  • minikahuna

    I’ve recently started my own blog about depression for this very reason. I needed a place to talk about it when no one was there to listen, and to resolve my own thoughts. Sometimes it’s about what i’m feeling, sometimes it’s about the things that make me happy and remind me why it’s worth getting up everyday, and sometimes it’s about the things that make me FEEL something – because i need reminding now and then. And someone asked me how i could think about posting about something so personal as depression. How could i let everyone see that? And that’s when i realized that this was the reason that i needed to write about it, because nobody does. And so we all feel alone in our own problems, like nobody else is going through that. And the people who don’t experience it don’t really hear about it, so they figure that maybe it’s just a phase, maybe this is normal, maybe it’s a bad day, maybe they don’t need to ask you if you’re ok, maybe you’re fine. But sometimes we aren’t fine. And sometimes we need someone to ask us how we are. And sometimes we don’t know how to reach out. And we need to not be treated like freaks and the unusuals, the downers, just because we’re honest. We need to talk about this.