Before taking stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to perform her summer hit “Cool for the Summer,” Demi Lovato’s mic picked up the star repeating some words of encouragement — words that could benefit us all.
“I am enough,” she repeated to herself. “I am enough.”
In an interview this past May, Lovato told Refinery29 that personal mantras are her favorite tool for getting through the day with a mental illness. “I don’t think I could choose just one favorite one,” she told Refinery29. “I have so many favorite mantras and quotes that I put them in a book.”
Although positive self-talk can’t magically “cure” a mental illness, knowing you are enough is a good way to start feeling better.
Erin Jones, 36, from Nashville, Tennessee, posted a selfie on Facebook, but not just any selfie. This was an empowering declaration to the world that it’s OK to get help when you need it.
“So this also happened yesterday,” Jones wrote on her Facebook page, called Mutha Lovin’ Autism. “I have tried living this life without prescription help. It seems to have me on top of the world one minute and rocking in the corner the next. There is no consistency. I’m done with that. Anxiety and antidepressant medication to the rescue. Sometimes, folks, we just need help.”
Jones is a former hair stylist who took a break from the trade for the last six years to homeschool and care for her four children with special needs, she told The Mighty in a Facebook message. She’s on the autism spectrum and also lives with ADD, SPD, celiac disease, hypothyroidism and hyperparathyroidism as well as anxiety and depression.
Fourteen years ago, Jones tried taking Zoloft after experiencing severe postpartum depression. It made her symptoms worse, and afterwards she was afraid to take medication for her mental health issues again.
Then, a friend of hers took her own life this past year after living with depression and addiction. Jones found herself locked in a tailspin of her own anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
“I thought I was strong enough to handle my anxiety and depression on my own until I had to dig deeper and admit that I needed help,” Jones told The Mighty. “That required more strength than any day I battled it on my own. It’s scary to admit we aren’t all right, especially when everyone depends on us to be.”
It was when Jones found herself begging her child to let her get him help for his anxiety that she realized she was setting the wrong example, that it was OK to hide from your mental health issue.
“I couldn’t help him until I was willing to help myself,” Jones told The Mighty. “There is no good mothering taking place while crying in the bathroom floor. He needs me well. I need me well. There is no shame in being sick. Not in our bodies. Not in our minds. There is help. We just have to ask for it.”
So Jones decided to try medication again. She found a new doctor who she believes is better able to prescribe something that will help her. On her way to fill those prescriptions, she took the selfie.
“Something had to be done,” Jones told The Mighty in a Facebook message. “I have always been open about my life, because being honest and vulnerable shows others that they aren’t alone. My hope is that they see me saying I need help and they do the same.”
Jones and The Mighty have teamed up to create the hashtag #MedicatedAndMighty to destigmatize taking medication for mental health issues. Join the movement by posting a prescription or medication selfie and using the hashtag.
“Dear mom and dad,” Bekah Miles’ Facebook post begins. “Please don’t kill me over this permanent choice. I want you to hear me out.”
Her “permanent choice” is a tattoo on her thigh, but the 20-year-old’s decision had nothing to do with rebelling against her parents. Instead, she’s using it to start a conversation about mental health. From an observer, her tattoo reads, “I’m fine.” From Miles’ perspective, it says, “Save me.”
“To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all,” the post reads. “It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves.”
When she posted a picture of her tattoo on Facebook with a heartfelt explanation, it went viral. Currently, it has over 280,000 shares.
In a follow-up post, Miles said she never expected the picture to go beyond her friends and family, and encouraged others to continue spreading the message.
“Please, please, please don’t stop the conversation,” she said. “It needs to keep going.”
Read the original, viral post below:
(Dear mom and dad, please don’t kill me over this permanent choice. I want you to hear me out.)
Today, I am coming out with something that only few of you know. I am ready to have a conversation about my mental illness.
Last year, I was diagnosed with depression. And in all honesty, I believe it was a problem for quite a while before that, but I think it just got worse to the point of hardly functioning.
So today, I got this tattoo. I feel that my leg was the best place for the meaning behind it. When everyone else sees it, they see “I’m fine,” but from my viewpoint, it reads “save me.” To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all. It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves.
To me, depression is the days that I feel sad for no reason.
Depression is the mornings that I don’t feel capable of getting out of bed.
Depression is the sleeping too much, or sleeping too little.
Depression is the homework that I never completed, simply because I didn’t feel like I was capable.
Depression is the break downs I have over absolutely nothing.
Depression is the eating too much, or eating too little.
Depression is the nights I begin to cry because I feel so overwhelmed, even though everything is going right.
Depression is the 50 pounds I carry in my chest at all times.
Depression is the need to constantly be distracted (being on social media, playing video games, watching movies or shows, or working all the time) because I can’t trust myself with my thoughts for longer than 3 minutes.
Depression is the friendships that have suffered because of my inability to function.
Depression is the hurtful thoughts and actions I have towards myself.
Depression is the tears I have because I don’t know why I feel so worthless, when I know I should feel happy.
This is one of the most difficult things to open up about because it’s extremely hard for me to feel vulnerable…but this needs to be talked about. Mental illness is serious, but so shamed in our society. We care so much for our physical health, but hardly a thing about our mental state. And that is seriously messed up. Mental illness is not a choice and will likely hit everyone at some point in their life. If it’s such a huge issue, why aren’t we having this conversation about it?
That’s why I got this tattoo; they are great conversation starters. This forces me to talk about my own struggle, and why the awareness of it is important. You’d be surprised by how many people YOU know that struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. I may only be one person, but one can save another…and that’s all I could really ask for.
Maybe this is part of why I am so interested in psychology. I want to help people who feel the way I have—and still do—because it’s hell. And I don’t wish that upon anyone.
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
**Also, THANK YOU to the ones who have helped me in this battle. I would not be where I am without you.**
Living with a mental illness — especially a misunderstood one — can make relationships a little tough. But sometimes, the opposite is true: When a person with a mental illness finds a partner he or she can be vulnerable around, it can make for a stronger bond. Like any relationship, there are ups and there are downs.
To highlight this, we asked our Mighty readers living with mental illness what message they would send to their significant other.
If you’re unsure of how to help your loved one with a mental illness, or if sometimes you just don’t know what to say, these might help:
1. “Needing alone time and a quiet zone isn’t rejection — it’s recharging.” — Michelle Skigen
2. “Thank you for coming to appointments with me, for learning about my illness, my meds and what it would take for me to climb back up out of the abyss… Together, we can slay the beast.” — Patti Petz Gray
3. “I just need to know if I have a bad day — if I yell and scream and cry — you will still love me at the end of it.” — Bekah Paskett
4. “Sometimes I just want you to listen to me. No matter how irrational I sound.” — Jessica Bowers
If you have a child with trauma issues, I’m sure your well-meaning friends and family members have asked you at least a million times: “What’s the big deal? All kids do that!”
They’re not wrong.
Sure, lots of kids do lie, talk a lot, play too rough, fight with their siblings and talk back. Kids have illogical reasoning and get angry when their parents don’t understand. Yes, all kids do things that make us mad, that scare us, that irritate us. Some kids engage in these behaviors daily just because they’re kids. But kids with trauma behaviors don’t engage in “normal negative behavior” because their trauma responses take “normal negative behaviors” into scary movie territory.
In the first video of Heather Forbes’s online parenting course, she says something I want you to memorize, repeat and utilize when people give you that look. You know the look. The one that says, “Your kids are fine!” Oh, I hate that look.
Forbes says something along the lines of: My child’s behaviors are not the concern, but rather the intensity, the frequency and the duration of the behaviors.
I’ll use my youngest’s tantrums to illustrate what I’m talking about here.
Now, I don’t want to dismiss the feelings of parents whose children engage in “normal” fit-throwing behavior, because fits are annoying and exasperating. They test the limits of even the most saintly, with-it parent. I know even “normal” tantrums can be absolutely horrible. But kids with traumatic pasts engage in completely different tantrum behavior. Unless they’ve healed through therapeutic interventions, children who have experienced trauma do not engage in “normal” fit-throwing behavior. The tantrums of my children who have been traumatized do not last for five minutes. They don’t happen “a few times a week.” They aren’t merely expressions of frustration, anger, sadness or exhaustion. They’re unpredictable and are not easy to avoid with small modifications in routine or expectations. They aren’t easily managed by utilizing traditional techniques such as ignoring the behavior or putting the kids in time-out.
No. Trauma-tantrums are something else entirely. My little one once had a meltdown that lasted for five days. That is, of course, an extreme example and thankfully has not happened since, but my youngest’s meltdowns used to be constant and all-consuming. Before we started him at his behavioral therapy program, his meltdowns occurred daily and lasted for at least two hours, but more often lasted four hours. Every day.
And they were — and still are — violent. My husband and I have barricaded ourselves in the room with him, keeping him away from his sisters and the cat. He has gouged holes into the walls of his room by throwing things. Countless toys have fallen victim, and I’ve been physically hurt on a small number of occasions.
The craziest thing about his fits, though, is that no matter what we do to avoid or calm his fits of absolutely terrifying anger and sadness and anxiety, nothing really works. Nothing. We’ve tried several methods of dealing with his meltdowns and have even gone so far as to commit the ultimate parenting faux pas and given him what we thought he wanted. But even acquiescing just intensifiedhis rage.
If you’re parenting a child with trauma-related behavior issues, you know the truth in what I’m about to say:
The behaviors that consume so much of our lives are not normal. I want readers who support a friend or family member who parents a child who has experienced trauma to know that we trauma-mamas-and-papas understand you have the best intentions in mind when you say things like, “Oh, that’s normal,” or, “Yeah, my kid does that, too!” or “When my kid does that, I do this and it works every time.” However, those words, earnestly said in an attempt to assist a distressed loved one are more likely to frustrate the very person you want to help.
That’s not an attempt to discourage you from offering up tips to parents like me and my husband. Some traditional parenting advice does work well with our children and sometimes we are open to suggestions. However, if you have never raised a child with trauma issues and want to sympathize, empathize and advise a trauma parent, you should ask them the following question before you respond: “Do you want my advice, or do you just want me to listen?”
Because some days, when I call my mom or my friends ranting that my son threw a car seat at me while I was driving or how my middle child manipulated a reward system I thought was working, I don’t want advice, especially if I’m calling shortly after the upsetting event took place. I just want to talk about it, get it out and hear, “Wow, that sucks! What did you do?”
Other days, usually after I’ve calmed down of course, I’m completely open to the advice of others because I know my fellow parents know their stuff, whether or not they are raising neuro-typical children, physically disabled children or children with mental issues.
So, bottom line: Kids with trauma issues may seem like perfectly normal kiddos with no issues. They may even be completely angelic in your presence if you don’t interact with them frequently. You might question the sanity of parents who seem hostile or angry when they talk about or interact with their kids. However, please recognize the validity of their parents’ concerns, because while the specific behavior may be “normal,” the intensity, frequency and duration of that behavior is not. Please keep this in mind if you want to help or advise a trauma parent.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.
When people say, “It’s all your head!” to a person with a mental illness, they’re most likely not pointingout where the illness originates from. Instead that phrase implies — and reinforces the misconception — that a person with a mental illness is somehow being dramatic and would feel better if only they could stop thinking about it. The phrase suggests that because the origin of a mental illness is not seemingly physical, it’s somehow less legitimate.
So for those who can’t understand why a person can’t just turn off anxiety or why petting a puppy can’t pull someone out of depression, here’s what our Mighty readers have to say. Because while there are things you can do to better manage mental illness, dismissing it entirely isn’t one of them.
Here are 18 responses to, “It’s all in your head”:
1. “So simple but useful: ‘If someone had a broken leg, you wouldn’t ask them to run, would you?’” — Amy S Paegel
2. “It is in my head. It’s a mental illness, but that doesn’t make it not real.” — Abby Stansel
3. “You can’t see a major panic disorder or depression with the naked eye. You can’t see asthma either — until the right conditions leave you gasping for breath.” — Cassandra Coogan
4. “It is all in my head! I’m wired differently, and I have an illness, an illness that requires me to be medicated and see a professional once a week. I take that seriously!” — Melissa Cote
5. “You can’t tell just by looking at someone what they are dealing with inside.” —Danielle Rupp
9. “With all the information out there, with so many people affected, you not taking this seriously says more about you than me.” — Nicole Ricketts
10. “Not all illnesses are fixed with a bandage.” — Beth Winters
11. “My seizure disorder is all in my head, too. But nobody tells me not to treat that. Neither do we recommend ignoring my son’s autism, which is all in his head. Many people have illnesses. The fact that you can’t see them doesn’t make it any less real or any less significant.” —Angela Bond
12. “Yes, it’s in my head. That’s where my brain is.” —Georgina Lee
13. “It’s not only in my head; there are debilitating physical symptoms.” — Erica Enos
14. “Some days I control it and other days it controls me. I don’t expect you to understand, but I’m open to discussing it with you as long as you ask without judgment.” —Katie DeMore
15. “Of course it is [in my head]. Where else would my depression be? In my toenails?” —Bob McKay
16. Don’t dismiss my disease as less simply because you cannot see the injuries. Some of my deepest scars don’t show, but are a part of my everyday existence.” — Frances Bene Fann
17. “No one asks to be sick — heart disease, diabetes or mental illness. It’s just something that happens.” —Peggy Cannalley