Clever Responses for When People Say Mental Illness is 'All in Your Head'

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People respond with what they say when people tell them their mental illness is “all in their head.”

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5 Ways Contributing to The Mighty Has Already Done Me Good

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OK, readers and followers alike, you gotta listen to me here.

When my therapist recommended I start blogging and sharing my perspective on things, I did not like the idea. My pain is personal, and in the real world it can be dangerous. But this therapist has yet to steer me wrong. So I signed up to contribute to The Mighty, to be a Mighty Voice about my issues and my world and how I am surviving in it. Somewhere around 2,500 people, between the two articles that have been published at the time I am writing this, have read and responded to my work. Around the same number have shared it. A few hundred have commented in various locations on them. A handful have thanked me for writing what I did. This is amazing. So, I have decided to list the ways that contributing to this site has done me some good already.

1. I feel useful.

Many have commented, when sharing my “10 Secrets” entry, that I gave them the feeling of not being alone or that they can seriously relate. Others, in relation to my “Christmas for the Major Depressive” post have asked if they’re doing the right things. I am seeing my writing inspire family and friend conversations about how to help the people with depression. This is helping me personally in a lot of ways. I feel a renewed sense of usefulness, that I really have something good to offer the world. Thank you, readers, for that.

2. My confidence has grown.

I got out of bed this morning, and I had real energy and a great mood. I brewed myself a pot of the coffee I saved just for the Christmas holiday and was able to really play with my daughter. I have major depression disorder, so I am sure this will be a rare and special day, but I feel so much more confident in what I am doing with my life – because you guys told me I did something good for you.

3. My family has noticed I am happier.

I live with my ex-husband. We have chosen to work together to be unified parents to our child. It’s a difficult situation and it is often very turbulent. But since you all started sharing my writing and telling me that you relate to me, I’ve had enough of a mood boost that everyone is noticing. From “Mandey, you wore color today!” to “Did you really just bake six dozen cookies?” This, is awesome. I would likely not have gotten the boost I am on right now if I had not started sharing my story on The Mighty.

4. I am inspired again.

My first entry “5 Gifts You Can Buy (And 3 You Can’t) For Someone With Major Depressive Disorder” was kind of just writing to a prompt I was given. I followed the suggestion and thought of things I am hoping to get this year. The response to that inspired me to keep writing. I submitted three posts in one night, and yesterday The Mighty published my entry, “10 Secrets I’ve Never Told About My Depression,” and yet again an outpour of relation and gratitude was shared. I currently have four stories being reviewed. Not all will be published (The Mighty is a very active site and is not always able to publish every story submitted). Heck, maybe none of them will be. But, I am going to keep writing what is going on in my world, and what does make the cut – I pray – will do you as much good as writing it is doing for me.

5. I genuinely feel empowered in my daily life.

I have this beat going in my head: “if I can influence 2,000 people online with my writing, I can do this,” and I am putting my little amounts of real energy into play with new things. I am baking, going to social settings, opening up dialogue with my loved ones about my illnesses and getting real responses. I feel totally empowered to pursue the relationships that have kind of withered through the course of my depression.

In summation:

I want to thank all of you who “loved,” “liked,” commented and shared what I’ve already published. The outpouring of support has been so wonderful for me, and I am so grateful I could offer you the feeling of not being alone. I love you all so much already, and I really look forward to engaging with you and helping to answer your questions.

To those of you who are struggling with mental illnesses of your own – try this! Write it out, hit submit, and wait for an email. If you take the time to write clearly, and concisely, and honestly, I believe you may find yourself in my position — one of renewed confidence and deep gratitude for an opportunity of a lifetime.

It is already a pleasure, and I look forward to writing here for a long time to come.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Tinatin1

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What I've Learned About Failure in Graduate School With Mental Illness

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One of my favorite professors has a unique requirement as part of his grading scheme that I’ve adapted to my life. Over the course of the semester, students present to the class a mistake they made and demonstrate what they learned from it. On the syllabus it’s called a productive failure. This one act is worth 5 percent of their grade, which seems small but can make the difference between passing and failing.

I was lucky enough to be a teaching assistant for this professor last semester. This meant I was able to see dozens of students share their productive failures. More than that, I was able to see what learning could look like in a classroom where failure was such a welcome part of the learning process. As the end of the class drew nearer, I began to wonder what it would look like if I could learn to see the productive side of failure in my own life

I’ve dealt with mental illness most of my life. One piece of that looks like my brain telling me I’m a failure quite frequently. It is highly skilled in taking one bad grade and snowballing it until I believe I’ll never reach any of my educational goals. Trying to fight this inner monologue for most of the semester took its toll. I spent the last few months considering not even returning in the spring. Then, I decided I should get my Master’s and not continue to get a Ph.D. But all those decisions are beside the point. Whether I master out or keep going, I want to make the most of this opportunity of being in graduate school. And I think to do so means learning more than mathematics. Specifically, I want to train my mind to see how perceived failures could actually lead to productivity.

So far I’ve learned two things as I’ve tried to change how I feel about failure. First of all, it’s extremely freaking difficult. Secondly, you can’t do it alone. I’ve spent most of my life listening to my brain tell me I’m hopeless, so it’s not something that will change in a day. Slowly though, I’m starting to have moments where I’m  able to resist its persistent pessimism. Resisting looks like a number of things. Often it’s changing the way I say things. Instead of “I can’t do this” or “I don’t understand,” I try to make a conscious effort to say, “I can’t do this, yet.” and “I don’t understand this, yet.” That one three-letter word really does make a difference.

As for doing it alone, I’ve reluctantly acknowledged my need for community. I don’t really want everyone to know I see myself as a huge failure because what if they agree? Maybe everyone else also thinks I’m a big screw up. But then people tell me how they’ve been encouraged after hearing how I’ve survived hardship. They show me how I’ve grown and changed through seasons of hopelessness. They help me find the productive in each failure I present to them. Vulnerability has power in this way. I’ve experienced so much more than just freedom when I’ve opened up about how I’ve struggled but found support and people to lean on when I feel caught in my brain’s traps.

As I wrap things up, I can’t tell you whether or not I decided to quit after next semester, after I get my Master’s, or keep going to attempt a Ph.D. I can tell you I’m going to fight harder to not let depression, self-hatred, and anxiety be what stops me. Because sometimes I see having mental illness my biggest failure of all. Unfortunately, I’m not immune to the terrible effects of the stigma surrounding it. Instead of allowing myself some grace as someone who struggles with lack of motivation or an inability to concentrate, I label myself as lazy and a procrastinator. The truth often is my depression or anxiety is demanding a fight that day. Graduate school is tough, and having a mental illness makes it a whole lot tougher.

If you also get trapped in the mindset of failure, whether it’s part of a mental illness or not, I want you to know you’re not alone. And I want you to know things don’t always have to be this way. The last few weeks of the semester I saw my students embrace how messy math could be. They didn’t stop when they were wrong but learned from it and persevered. I’m hoping the same can happen in my life and in yours. Life will always be messy, and we will probably keep failing, but we can survive it. We will survive it better and stronger than before.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by shironosov

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Shout Out to the Ones Who Never Leave While I Face Mental Illness

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Shout out to all the important people in my life. The ones who never left my side when it got rough. Who encouraged me to keep pushing through. The ones who most importantly loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself. I’m forever grateful. I love you all.

I pushed you away. There were many times where I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t so nice. I didn’t know how to handle my frustrations so I took them out on you. Instead of giving an attitude back, you realized I was struggling with myself and that it had nothing to do with you. Many times I felt like a bother, but you would never let me push you away. More than once I’ve told you to leave me alone, but you called and texted me a thousand times until I answered. Thank you for never letting me push you away.

I thought my mind was giving up on me. I can’t count how many times I thought I was “going crazy.” I was scared, but I never admitted it. I didn’t realize then, but you knew. I felt like my body was giving up on me. I didn’t see the point of trying anymore. You reminded me over and over that I wasn’t “crazy.” I was only struggling and I would be happy again. My body was not giving up on me. It was fighting for my better days. Thank you for reminding me that my mind wasn’t giving up on me.

I didn’t feel worthy. There were many times when I didn’t see the accomplishment of small things. I wanted to be this flawless person, but that wasn’t possible. You told me that small steps were better than none — that I was doing extremely well for what I was going through. Thank you for telling me how much I was worth.

I didn’t feel enough. Not good enough. I felt like everyone was better than me. I didn’t feel smart enough. I didn’t feel pretty enough. I didn’t feel talented. Every day you told me I was enough. You never let me talk badly about myself. When I would talk about not being smart enough, you would tell me about all the important things I taught you. When I didn’t feel pretty enough, you would send me pictures of likes and comments on my social media page. If I dared say I wasn’t talented, you would get so mad at me and list everything I’ve accomplished, which I didn’t feel was much, but you wouldn’t let me believe it. Thank you for making me feel enough.

I wanted to give up. “I give up,” was something I said many times a day. You knew I didn’t want to really give up. I just wanted it to get easier. Thank you for pushing me. Thank you for never letting me give up.

I cried. I hate showing emotions — especially when I’m sad. You knew this about me, so when I cried you knew how hurt I was. Thank you for the many times you called back when I hung up on you, for running after me when I ran to the bathroom. You whipped every tear away and made me laugh so hard that I would cry again. Thank you for crying with me and buying me chocolate.

You made me laugh. There were days when I felt like I would never be happy again. Wow was I completely wrong. You made me laugh until it hurt, until tears were streaming down my face. Thank you for making me feel happy again.

Thank you for being my family, my friend, my support system. It is because of you that I never give up. I know if I fall, you will catch me. You know I would do all of the same things for you. I love you all.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Jacob Ammentorp Lund

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Carrie Fisher's Urn Is One Last Nod to the Mental Health Community

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Carrie Fisher, who passed away on Dec. 27 after suffering a heart attack, has left one last mark on the mental health community. Buzzfeed reported the “Star Wars” star’s urn is a giant Prozac pill — a nod to her notorious sense of humor and fierce mental health activism.

Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, told reporters, “Carrie’s favorite possession was a giant Prozac pill that she bought many years ago. A big pill. She loved it, and it was in her house, and Billie and I felt it was where she’d want to be.”

Fisher was best known for her role as Princess Leia but is known in the mental health community as an outspoken activist who lived openly with bipolar disorder. Her public statements and books helped normalize talking about mental illness and taking medication for it.

On the urn choice, her brother continued: “We couldn’t find anything appropriate. Carrie would like that. It was her favorite thing, and so that’s how you do it. And so they’re together, and they will be together here and in heaven, and we’re OK with that.”

Thanks for continuing to teach us not to be ashamed, Carrie.

Image via Buzzfeed 

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I'm Not 'Crazy' for Talking About My Feelings

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“Why didn’t it work out between the two of you?”

“Because…she was crazy.”

I have lost count of the times I have heard guys describes girls as “crazy.” I have seen joking memes that say things like, “All girls are psychotic. You just need to find the one you can put up with.”

To me, it’s not funny, and the word “crazy” should never be used as a joke or as a derogatory term against someone. I wouldn’t be surprised if guys I’ve dated have called me “crazy” behind my back.

With my last ex-boyfriend, I’m sure when talking about me to his friends, the word “crazy” was thrown around. After all, he would call me crazy to my face. If I was having a panic attack or crying, then he would tell me to, “Stop acting crazy.” Because you know, saying this would make me feel so much better.

Why is the word “crazy” thrown around so freely? Why is showing your emotions considered “crazy”? It’s because it’s become a norm in our society to act like we don’t have emotions. We’re encouraged to act like we don’t care.

Don’t let people see you cry. Don’t act like you care about someone or have feelings for someone. Have casual sex but don’t be upset when they don’t call you. Wait a certain amount of time to respond to a text message. Don’t ever say, “I miss you,” or “I’m excited to see you.” Talk about movies, the weather, your favorite food or what you did last weekend. Don’t ever talk about emotions or what you’re thinking you know because that’s considered, “crazy.”

I once had a guy tell me it made him uncomfortable because I say what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling.

“People just don’t do that,” he told me.

If not being a robot makes me “crazy” and if choosing not to hide who I really am is “crazy,” then, yes, I’ll be “crazy.” I’m proud of it. Please, don’t let anyone make you feel like there is something wrong with being who you are or feeling the way you feel because it’s not. Having a tough exterior and acting like you have no feelings and calling people “crazy” because they’re “emotional” or “sensitive,” doesn’t make you strong or tough. It, in fact, makes you the opposite.

I think, the people who are the strongest are the ones who are not afraid to be themselves in a world that tells you to be someone else. The strongest people are the ones who ask for help when they need it. The bravest people are the ones who say, “I love you,” or “I care about you.” They’re the ones who are passionate. They talk about things that matter, and yes, they even let people see them cry.

People may not like you. You may make them uncomfortable. They may call you “crazy,” but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock

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