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.