10 Mighty Mental Health Stories That Stuck With Me in 2016
I read your stories every day. Picking only 10 from this year is a nearly impossible task considering the thousands of stories we’ve published as our mental health section has grown. While I leave the office every day with all your stories in my heart, I did want to share a list of a few that have stuck with me as we say goodbye to 2016 and start the new year ahead.
Here are your “editor’s choice” picks for 2016:
I cry a lot – but rarely at work.
This story broke me.
I had to leave the office to cry. When I tried to casually discuss the headline with a few coworkers I cried. Later that night when I recounted the story to my boyfriend I cried. I cried because it’s a beautifully written story by a man who lost his husband to suicide, but also because it was a harsh reminder that no one working in “mental heath advocacy” wants to face: sometimes it isn’t enough. Marlin’s husband – who died by suicide after battling depression – wasn’t held back by stigma. He was in treatment. He was open about his condition. But, it wasn’t enough.
What could be an existential crisis for those who promote anti-stigma is really a humbling truth: While suicide is preventable, depression is an illness, and people die from illnesses. Even illnesses we know way more about than depression take lives. In the end, this piece is simply about a man who lost his loving husband, and shows how much more research and work needs to be done for us to really understand and treat depression. This is heartbreaking, but Marlin tells the story beautifully — and it’s a story that needed to be told.
From the first sentence of this powerful story (“I’m suicidal. And no, it’s not what you think.”) Taylor explored an idea that had never before been fully fleshed out on the site — that you can have suicidal thoughts but not want to die. Most comments on this piece were from people who had the same experience, but never quite had the right words to describe it. By taking the shame out of suicidal thoughts, by saying you don’t have to be in immediate danger to talk about them or to acknowledge them, it will hopefully encourage people to get help before passive suicidal thoughts turn into more.
My favorite comment: “Thank you for posting this. I thought no one else understood my feelings towards suicide. It’s so hard to explain to people that every single day, even if things are going good, I’m suicidal. I’ve been that way since I was 12…. I don’t know anything different. So, thanks for writing this article.”
In a year that was at times dark and confusing, this story was a light we needed. When Deborah received news that her father died by suicide while she was shopping at Whole Foods, a group of strangers made a devastating moment a little brighter with their incredible kindness. This story is an amazing reminder that people do want to help each other, and even when we’re at our most vulnerable, we’re really never alone. The piece quickly went viral and was featured on Today, Cosmopolitan, Business Insider and more. Its message clearly resonated with many. (This story also made me cry.)
Some stories have the power to take you directly into the mind of the writer, and that’s what this story did for me. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder I’m continuing to learn about, and I remember leaving this piece with a deeper understanding of what a person with BPD goes through on a daily basis. Although those who don’t have it will never really understand, the more we know, the more compassion we can have. A generally misunderstood illness like borderline personality disorder needed this piece because it explains its symptoms in a humanizing way. It’s a powerful read, if you haven’t checked it out.
When I think of this piece, I imagine someone finding it through a Google search, just as Sami finds information about her disorder when she works up the courage to search for, “I’m scared I will abuse children.”
Not only does this piece bring attention to an often under-acknowledged type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, “Pure O,” it’s also a story about breaking through shame to let others know they aren’t alone. It can be isolating to think you’re the only one having certain intrusive thoughts, and it’s a powerful thing to realize there are others like you, there’s nothing wrong with you and that your intrusive thoughts don’t define who you are.
It’s not every day Robin Williams casually appears in a story. But Robin wasn’t an ordinary person, and this story is more proof of how his kindness knew no bounds. It was a simple gesture with a powerful impact, and by sharing this story Kate continues a little bit of Robin’s legacy.
You can find more from Kate at Mamalawmadingdong.
This story is on my list not only because it’s well-written and inspiring — but because it’s story a that explores how culture affects our experience with mental illness. Katherine tells her mental health story through the lens of an Asian-American, and explains how that shaped her relationship with her parents as she dealt with depression and self-harm. While in some ways our experiences with mental illnesses and mental health issues are universal, it’s important to acknowledge that where we come from, and even where our families come from, can influence how we think about our own mental health, and how acceptable it is to reach out to help. Thanks for shining light on your experience, Katherine.
Every year it seems we have to remind people why they shouldn’t dress like a scary “mentally ill” person for Halloween. What I loved about this piece is that August, who has schizoaffective disorder, doesn’t just explain why you shouldn’t dress like an “insane asylum skitzo” for Halloween (as if we needed more of an explanation), but gets into what it really means to be her, the “skitzo.” She stretches the issue beyond “I’m offended” and uses it as an opportunity to educate people about what living with her disorder is like for her. August takes you into her world, and once you’re there, it’s harder to dismiss her reaction to the misrepresentation as “over-sensitive.” More people need to understand this.
This story made me realize how bad I am at self-care, and I think many others felt the same. The fact that self-care doesn’t have to be enjoyable goes against what we think we know about “taking a mental health day” — which we assume means doing only frivolous things that bring us joy. But no, self-care can be hard work, and people who manage health conditions know this more than anyone. You don’t always want to go to your therapy session. You don’t always want to take your medication. You don’t always want to exercise or avoid that food you know makes you anxious. But that’s part of it, and Mawiyah explains it all in her blunt, funny and important piece.
Now it’s time for me to make that dentist appointment…
As someone who completely falls apart at night (this is when I do all my crying, guys), I found myself nodding along to Robert’s piece about what happens to his brain at night and appreciated his insight into how he copes. His last few sentences carry a message I think applies to all of us in The Mighty community, and I hope we all can carry it into the New Year:
“Fight to stay healthy. Fight to stay whole. Fight to stay. I’ll keep fighting if you will.”
Thank you for sharing your stories with us. I can’t wait to read more of them next year.