honest mental illness pictures

21 Honest Pictures People With Mental Illness Want to Post on Facebook, but Don't

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have a history of self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Facebook — and social media in general — is an amazing tool that can make the world a little bit smaller, and make keeping in touch a little bit easier. But when you live with a mental illness, sometimes it can feel like there’s no room for you to share how you are really doing when all you see in your newsfeed are the best snapshots of people’s lives.

For people who feel the pressure to always look “OK” online, this one’s for you.

We wanted to know what people with mental illness want to post on Facebook, but feel like they can’t, so we asked our mental health community to share one photo they wish they could post about their mental illness. It’s important to remember mental illness looks different for each person who experiences it. While some can hide what’s going on behind a smile and perfectly rehearsed act, others may not have the ability to do so all the time. Whatever way your mental illness manifests, you deserve to talk about it.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “The photo on the left is me with a full face of makeup. The right, me during a depressive episode triggered by loneliness and separation. After the episode subsided, after I pulled myself together again, I decided to try to cheer myself up by making myself at least ‘look’ better. I have posted the picture on the left, but never the one on the right. I don’t want others to think I am seeking attention. Nor do I want others to see how ‘weak’ I can be. How literally just being by myself can trigger an all out war inside of me. I am embarrassed and ashamed that as a grown woman I am still incapable of being alone.” — Kristen S.

Kristen S.

2. “This is my regimen. I really am trying hard to take my meds and be what is expected. I just want to feel better. I did not choose this life, it chose me, for whatever reason.” — Shelly H.

medication

3.  “Because. Because I still feel. Because I called a friend yesterday to know if he was still here. Because no one called me to see if I was OK for months. Because there are times I still don’t want to live. Because I want other men to know that feeling this way is OK, and getting help is OK. Because I’m not afraid to cry. Because, we’re human.” — Dexter N.

Dexter N.

4. “That cross on my wrist is not a tattoo. That’s a coping mechanism. It’s only Sharpie and I know it’s weird, but it has gotten me through so many rough days. I can hardly explain why because I don’t fully understand it myself. I have anxiety and sometimes all I can do to keep myself from breaking is write. And write and write and write until I feel like I don’t have feelings anymore. I don’t want anymore to know how much I’m struggling though. I don’t want anyone to be afraid for me or afraid of me. So I hide it. I hide my writing and my cross and I don’t let anyone know how much I’m hurting.” — Annie O.

hand over journal

5. “This is me in the throes of a bipolar mixed affective state. The first photo is of me right before my morning gym session. I felt completely invincible at that point. I felt I didn’t have a single worry in the world. The second photo is of me 15 minutes after returning home from work that night. I was in absolute agony. I was afraid of myself. I was suicidal. I just needed the pain to stop. Luckily, I had a few close friends who were keeping an eye on me because they knew I wasn’t far from doing something drastic. It is exhausting to have your mind and body shift from ‘motivational speaker and doer’ to feeling so worthless.” — Amy T.

amy

6. This is when I got rid of all my blades, I’m proud of it, but feel like people who don’t know about my cutting will ask questions I’m not ready to answer.” — Rachel D.

my past does not define my future

7. “My wife and I ran a 8.92 mile race on the 4th of July. My fear in sharing photos like this is that people will assume because we look happy and healthy — that I couldn’t possibly still be depressed. Especially in Christian circles, people wrongly assume depression is either demonic or temporary, and that some magic Jesus pill can magically ‘fix’ us. I could have just as easily shared a picture of me, playing with my kids or standing behind the pulpit during a Sunday church service or any number of ‘normal’ things. My fear in showing these is that people forget I still have a mental illness. But I can never forget. Because, behind the smiling face, there’s a guy with a brain that’s wired just a little bit different.” — Steve A.

Steve A.

8. “I am currently living with BPD [borderline personality disorder], and as an artist, sometimes photography is the only outlet that can truly soothe me. I will take self-portraits displaying my current emotions or feelings, but sometimes they are too emotional to post. I feel I may be judged or labeled as ‘attention seeking’ as they are generally not very happy portraits.” — Katherine V.

woman flowers on face

9. I took this picture just after a long episode of anxiety and crying, to show myself I survived and I can smile. I am hesitant towards sharing this on Facebook because I don’t think anyone would understand the sense of it, and many would get concerned.” — Pallavi T.

woman smiling

10. This is me and Abbath Sweater buddy. This picture was taken Christmas Eve night of this year, the night my parents decided to disown me. I made this plushie to distract myself from the plunging feelings of depression. I could hear them talking about me in the other room, as they always did. This plushie is still my companion to this day… He’s been with me through the whole journey of estrangement. This was the day my mental health started seriously plunging into what it is now… Anxiety, episodes of fear of abandonment acting up, depressive spells… He is modeled after my favorite musician who has been an important part of my struggle.” — Eddie E.

Eddie E.

11. “I don’t upload most of my drawings when my mood is low to social media because people don’t understand my mental illnesses. Some people on my friends list would give me the sympathy that makes me feel as though I’m wrong and need to be fixed. Some people would think it’s as easy as a cold, that I go to the doctors and boom I’m fixed and then some people would give me the typical ‘stay strong’ quote, when in fact it’s OK not to be strong sometimes. I only want to upload the drawings to put people in a different mindset so they can be more aware of their words, actions and start to understand all I need is support and not for people to only take an interest when something dramatic happens to/in my mental health. Because mental health isn’t a one [time] thing for some people.” — Jodie A.

drawing depression

12. I shared this selfie on social media and a lot of my friends liked it or complimented me, but honestly this was one of worst days for my anxiety and depression. I felt so empty and cold but they didn’t know.” — Rene S.

Renee S.

13. “[This] is a self portrait I took and it’s a reenactment of the first time I sat home alone, at Christmas, trying to decide whether or not I’d live or die. It wasn’t a sudden epiphany, crystal clear mind, message from God or any kind of mental strength. Ultimately, it was a chance message from a dear friend who saved my life. Amy, who is working to overcome her own depression, reached out because she felt like something was amiss. If not for her gut feeling, it’s likely I wouldn’t be here today. Everything I accomplish, every life I touch and every difference I make is because she chose to reach through the darkness. I literally owe my life to her.” — Shawn H.

man looking down

14. “I have severe PTSD, GAD [generalized anxiety disorder], bipolar, BPD and haven’t slept in my bed for over two years after sexual assault for fear of someone breaking in my house. I sleep in the recliner out in the living room. So I can guard the door — safety, fear issues. I may average two to three hours of sleep a night. I don’t open the blinds day or night.” — Angie R.

Angie R.

15. Very few people have ever seen the extent of my pain and suffering living in the darkness of PTSD and depression. A paramedic who saw too much for too long reliving every horrific detail day and night. I don’t post these photos normally because of stigma and to shield my family as they have [struggled] enough. What I have mastered is putting on a happy face because one thing I haven’t lost is my desire to help others.” — Michael G.

michael G.

16. I have bipolar disorder. I took this while I was in the ‘dark place’ which is the depressive side. I felt so alone and was so tired from trying to act normal at work and trying to block out the suicidal thoughts. I was crying myself to sleep. Facebook is a place of facades where you try to make your life appear better than it is, so you definitely don’t post pictures like this out of fear of stigma or judgment. I usually try to take a selfie when I am manic or depressed and I wish I could post them on Facebook to show people what mental illness really looks like.” — Lieryn B.

Lieryn B.

17. “This sculpture [is] in DC. For me it represents the confusion in my mind every day living with bipolar and PTSD. My mind is moving in every direction and has compartments. I am very complex.” — Bridget S.

sculpture

18. “I want to post this picture on Facebook but I can’t because it was taken in my room at my stay in a psychiatric hospital for self-harm and suicidal ideation. I can’t post this picture because it shows my scars and my hospital bracelet. People are already so judgmental and I don’t want to be looked as they girl who is always in inpatient treatments. I just wished people would look me in the eyes and not [at] my scars.” — Fernanda N.

Fernanda N.

19. “I wouldn’t post this on FB because it shows the scars on my arm, but I love the photo.” — Jen H.

holding hands

20. I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder for 10 years now. I want to share these photos, but at the same time, I don’t… I feel it would be very uncomfortable for my friends.” — Mark C.

Mark C.

21. “This picture captures one of the lowest moments of my life. Suicidal thoughts I couldn’t control, the most painful depression I never knew existed and of course, my old friend anxiety. I’ve made it my mission to spread mental health awareness and to be a voice to those who need it… On a happier note, I’ve changed medications and am doing much better. My boyfriend never gave up on me, he waited, waited for me to return to myself. And I did. I’ve never felt such compassion and love.” — Whitney F.

Whitney F.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

21 Honest Pictures People With Mental Illness Want to Post on Facebook, but Don't
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5 Quotes That Help Me When Negative Thoughts Consume Me

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Sometimes we allow our negative thoughts to consume us and they becomes the loudest voices in the room. We are so tough on ourselves and convince ourselves that we are unworthy and don’t actually deserve happiness. We allow ourselves to think we are less of a person because we have a mental illness and no one could truly love us.

On the days I feel like this, I give myself a little reminder that I am enough by reading some motivational quotes. Here are five of my favorites:

1.  “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.” — Sierra Boggess

2. “Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, its not for them.” — Joubert Botha

3. “Remember you were given this life because you’re strong enough to live it.” — Ain Eineziz

 

4. “You’re not you’re illness, you have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is the battle.” — Julian Seifter 

5. “Don’t wait until you have reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.” — Unknown

On the days you are struggling, remind yourself you are worth more than you think and you are stronger than you feel. Sometimes, a simple quote can give us just a glimmer of hope for better days to come.

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Thinkstock photo via ipopba

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We Need to Talk About How Gender Stigma Affects Mental Health

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I believe gender stigmas already have a large impact on everyday life. Women are labeled “overly emotional” and “sensitive,” while men are ridiculed for showing their feelings, often being called “unmanly.” Each sex is forced in a mold that society thinks they belong in, a mold of what is “normal.” I believe these stereotypes can have a huge impact on mental illness that is not often discussed. The gender stigma can lead to unhealthy thinking and even misdiagnosis. When we become aware of the problem, that is how we can fix it.

When women are labeled “overly emotional,” they are being told they don’t have a right to their feelings. They are being told their feelings are invalid and “blown out of proportion.” Because of this they may start to think there is something wrong with the way they feel. That is not the case. Everyone’s emotions are valid, whether they’re big or small. Some people can react poorly to their emotions and may need to get a better handle on their control, but what they feel is valid because they cannot choose how to feel, only how they react.

I believe men are also judged for their emotions — but on a more restrictive scale. While women are (wrongly) expected to be “overly emotional,” men are expected to be “under-emotional.” Men are expected to be stoic, keeping their feelings under wraps and fitting stereotypes like being the “strong, silent type.” This is harmful to men because all people need to feel free to feel emotions and express them in healthy ways. Holding emotions in and not dealing with them is a maladaptive way of coping and usually ends with an outburst that does more harm than good. We need to stop stigmatizing men so they can express their emotions without being ridiculed. Because of the way people often feel forced to express themselves, misdiagnoses can also happen because feelings are not shared completely.

In many mental illnesses, there are clear disparities in the rates of men and women. Unipolar depression is found to be more common in women than in men. On the other side of the spectrum, alcohol dependency is more common in men than in women. These cases might be due to a genetic factor that makes a certain sex more predisposed to a disorder, but there is also a chance that diagnoses aren’t happening because the disorders aren’t as widely known in the gender and people don’t get help for them.

Many men who are taught to bottle up their feelings don’t acknowledge they may be struggling with depression, it’s often thought of as “just going through a rough patch” and is pushed aside — even though it can be severe and life-threatening at times. Because women are known for being more “emotional,” it is more socially acceptable for them to feel these kinds of emotions. There are also similar statistics in cases of personality disorders. Men are three times more likely than women to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Women make up about 75 percent of the borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnoses. I believe this is influenced by the stigma of how the sexes are perceived. Women aren’t typically seen as antisocial — they’re seen as “quiet” or “introverted.”

In the case of BPD, there are a higher number of diagnoses with women for many reasons. Again, because men are told to ignore their feelings more than women I believe they might not always realize there is a problem. Some of the theorized causes of BPD are also more common in women, such as incestuous abuse. Because more women are diagnosed with BPD, many health professionals have a skewed view of the disorder. They expect women to have the disorder more often than men and as a result men are often times undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with another disorder, and are never able to address the underlying cause.

The gender stigma affecting mental illness is keeping men and women from being properly diagnosed. They are not only mistreated simply because of how their gender is perceived to feel, but they are also in danger of going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because of the stereotypes surrounding them. By being more aware of the stigma and addressing it by acknowledging people’s feelings, we can help more people receive the treatment they need.

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Thinkstock photo via alla_snesar.

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A Realist's Approach for Times When 'Loving Your Body' Feels Unattainable

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The mainstream body positivity movement tells us we should embrace every part of our body — our curves, stretch marks, scars and cellulite — the very parts many of us have trouble accepting, not to mention loving. Of course we should have permission to love our bodies. But that permission to love can sometimes feel like a demand to love, and not everyone can always fulfill that demand.

Feeling comfortable in and loving our bodies that deviate from conventional ideals can be a mentally healthful goal, but body positivity can also be exclusionary. For those with gender identity conflicts who experience body dysphoria, those with eating disorders who experience body dysmorphia or those with physical limitations, self-love is not always attainable — and the shame we’re told we shouldn’t feel about the way our bodies look becomes shame for not being able to consistently feel self-love.

There is, however, another option that does not involve maintaining a sustained positive attitude towards one’s body — which I might add, is another form of perfectionism itself. Body neutrality is an idea that recognizes not everyone can love every part of their body all of the time. Our relationships with our bodies are nonlinear and exist on a spectrum. Self-love is a high standard that everyone is deserving of, but may not be able to achieve.

Body neutrality is defined as it’s named: having neutral feelings toward one’s body. It’s a realist approach that suggests we accept our body as existing without engaging in an emotional reaction toward it. Acknowledge that our body performs a function, and give minimal headspace to either positive or negative thoughts about it so that we may move through our day with a focus on other matters. It can be used as a stepping stone toward body positivity, or as an endpoint in and of itself.

Body neutrality does not mean we should dissociate from our body, but rather be indifferent toward it. It does not mean we should neglect our body but rather take care of it so that it may continue to exist. It does not mean denying ourselves love of our body but rather not putting ourselves down when we have difficulty feeling it. Body neutrality can be a viable option for those who are working to make the seemingly insurmountable leap from self-hate to self-love, or anywhere in-between.

Body neutrality can be more realistic and achievable and more accessible and inclusive than body positivity. It also goes a step further than body positivity, which keeps focus on the body. Body neutrality instead questions why we should think about our body at all, and ultimately aims to move away from body-centric thoughts altogether. I believe true liberation from body image lies in a society where we neither dedicate energy toward hating our bodies, nor toward having to constantly reaffirm them. A society where we are completely free from obsession about our bodies — whether they involve positive or negative thoughts.

We are far from a post-body image society, but we can work toward both loving our bodies and not thinking about them so much. We can certainly try to love our bodies when we can, feel neutral about them when we can’t, and know that there is no shame in that.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

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How I Learned to Let Love in After Trauma

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As a young, traumatized and angry teenager, I longed for love but pushed it away at every turn. When I reflect back on the times my parents yelled at me, the long days of being bullied at school and the desperate nights of acting out, I wish deeply I could have found one person who could have given me a great, big, deep, loving hug. I feel if had I found someone to see me and love me as I was, I would have struggled a lot less. I think I may have even felt healed. But that is all in hindsight. As it stood, I did not find that kind of love for a long time.

It took years for me to learn how to let love in. My heart had spikes around it. It was the only way I was able to keep myself safe in a world that had treated me with so much contempt. If someone ever started to try to see past the shield I held up, I ran. Or worse, I hurt them. I ended a lot of relationships and friendships because I was so afraid to be open to love.

How did I finally let love in? Only after there was no other choice. I got honest with myself about who I was and stopped running from my life. I got small. I got grounded in who I was. I gained faith. I started believing, deeply, in a loving, caring and perfect God, who had always been there. I worked with gifted healers who could see past the pain I projected onto the world into my true heart, which was still just as loving and beautiful as the day I was born. I believed in myself. I believed in my capacity to heal. And I believed in my capacity to be loved.

Love was and is the final piece of my healing journey. Love for myself, and love for others. Love that lifts up. Love that mends. The therapy, the daily practice and the support systems were all vital, but they were like the walls of the room. The love is the room.

Letting love into my heart was not my first instinct, or even my second, third or fourth. It was my last resort. In the end, love, the thing I was most afraid of, is what truly healed and continues to heal me.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

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5 Ways Caregivers Can Help Someone Traveling Through the Darkness of Mental Illness

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Anxiety and panic disorders can be difficult to deal with. Your stomach might become so tight that you can’t take a deep breath and there might be a low level hum inside you that distracts you from all the things you’re supposed to accomplish. You could feel like you vaguely have the flu almost every day. It’s difficult if you’re the person dealing with these symptoms, but it is equally difficult to stand by and watch someone you love struggle.

Here is a list, based on my experience, for the loved ones and caregivers trying to help those who are traveling through the darkness of mental illness.

1. Help them friend find the right doctor.

The help I received ranged from the absurd to the sublime. I had an easy, comfortable relationship with a therapist I had seen for years. My decline into panic left him as perplexed as I was, and I found it difficult to find someone else to help me. One doctor told me, “Just be grateful you don’t have cancer.” Another doctor took out a blonde haired doll and said, “Pretend this is you as a child. What would you like your younger self to hear?”

Both techniques have merit and may have been helpful for some, but these approaches were completely unsuitable for me. Yes, it was intimidating to start over with a new therapist. I came up with all sorts of excuses: I didn’t want to tell the whole story of my decline over and over, I didn’t want to travel too far from home, I’m comfortable with my first therapist and he helped me in the past. Because it will almost always take no more than 20 minutes to recount your journey with mental illness. And I don’t care how far from home the right doctor is, they will treat you, find a solution and your appointments will become fewer and fewer as you get better and better. And just because a beloved physician has helped you in the past, doesn’t mean they should be expected to treat every disorder. If your mental health changes, find a specialist to treat that particular illness. This is where having an army of caregivers is helpful because they can make the appointments and can make sure you keep them.

2. Make them comfortable, but not too comfortable. 

At my worst, I was incapable of leaving the house to go grocery shopping. Getting downstairs to do the laundry was an insurmountable task. Helping your friend with household chores and maintenance could be helpful.

Conversely, some of the most growth and healing I experienced was when I was left on my own. For instance, I became accustomed to having my husband drive me to the hospital for therapy three days a week. The day that he gently explained that he had an important meeting at work and he couldn’t take me was the day I got back behind the wheel of a car. It was dreadfully uncomfortable. My heart raced as I gripped the wheel and an invisible dark force wanted me to turn around, go home and retreat back to the safety of my bed. But I didn’t give in to the darkness. I knew the hospital was helping me and I simply had to get there. The pride I felt when I made it there and back home on my own gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. Slowly, I regained the ability to go out by myself. If you stick to what’s easy and comfortable, you’ll never grow. This applies to fitness, education and recovery from mental illness.

3. Text and email are better than phone calls.

I can’t tell you the number of times I hit the “decline” button on my phone when it rang. This is an example of the polarity of mental illness: I wanted to be left alone, but I didn’t want to feel alone. Friends: don’t take this personally. While I wasn’t up for a conversation, I loved hearing the text message ding, I loved reading that you were thinking of me and I wanted to hear all the things happening in your life.

4. Suggest activities with minimal interaction.

The thought of sitting and conversing over coffee exhausted me. Any face to face time made me feel like I had to seem OK, even though I wasn’t. I felt pressure to talk and smile even though my insides were shaking and my head was heavy with worry. A movie, on the other hand, is the perfect excuse to get out of the house and involves little or no mental exertion. Being in a dark theater next to someone who cares for me, swept away in a story for 90 minutes, was just the break my overwrought brain needed.

5. Re-label.

I firmly believe that children live up to the labels we use to describe them, and adults are no different. It was easy and comfortable to live up to the description on my medical chart: “suffers from severe panic and generalized anxiety disorder.” As accurate as the word “suffers” is, that’s not how I wanted to be defined. Time for a re-label.

While I’d love to see a description of me like: “hard-ass motherfucker, physically and emotionally robust,” I’ll settle for something along the lines of: “tires easily but is responsible, dependable and kind.” Pick a few words that describe your friend and remind them that that’s who they are. They will live up to your label.

Battling any illness is exhausting, and caring for those who are struggling can take a real toll on the caregiver. Don’t take anything personally and be as good to yourself as you are to the person you love.

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Thinkstock photo via Maria Teijeiro 

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