Black and white photo of Kesha from her music video

Kesha’s First Song in 4 Years Is an Anthem for Those Fighting Depression

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Kesha is back after a lengthy legal battle with “Praying,” her first song in four years. In a post written by the singer for Lenny, Kesha shared how depression, anxiety and a “relentless” eating disorder inspired her latest song.

“‘Praying’ was written about that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow,” Kesha wrote on Thursday.

“There were so many days, months even, when I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Kesha said, describing her depression symptoms. “I spent all day wanting to go to sleep, and then when I did fall asleep, I had horrible night terrors where I would physically cry and scream through the dark. I was never at peace, night or day.”

The singer also described how she came to realize she needed help:

I know that I was never abandoned by my fans, my animals, or my family, but when you are depressed — really, truly depressed — you feel like you have nothing. Even having my kitties sleeping next to me in my darkest of hours couldn’t bring me light. It is in these moments when even the most cynical among us are forced to turn to something other than ourselves — we turn to prayer, or something like it. You look past your shame, past your desire to hide, and admit you need help.

Kesha has long been open about her experience living with mental illness. In May, the pop star shared an essay with Teen Vogue about how social media has affected her mental health.

“It became a vicious cycle,” she wrote of reading hurtful comments posted online. “When I compared myself to others, I would read more mean comments, which only fed my anxiety and depression.”

“I hope this song reaches people who are in the midst of struggles,” the singer shared in a message to fans. “To let them know that no matter how bad it seems now, you can get through it.”

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How Ditching Perfectionism Improved My Mental Health

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I recently went back home to visit family and see some friends I have not seen in several months. I am fortunate to come from a family who is extremely loving, supporting and encouraging, so anytime I visit I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. And I always receive the best life advice anytime I see them.

I met with a close friend who is like family to me. We spent hours talking and catching up, sharing what we are currently going through in life. I talked about how I am finally at a place where I am happy and at peace with my life and the way I am living, but I also discussed my perfectionism and how debilitating it can be at times. It was then that my friend mentioned something I never considered: maybe my perfectionism is an extension of the way I view my personal flaws — that I need to fix everything about myself instead of accepting myself as I am and being happy with who I have become, flaws and all.

This comment was like super glue on my fingers. It was there, and it was impossible not to acknowledge. I realized for the past five years, I have been practically begging people to tell me my flaws so I can fix them and “perfect” myself for them. I will even ask my husband what he thinks I need to work on to become a “better version” of myself. I never took into consideration that maybe my perfectionism was driving this “need,” and maybe it was not as healthy or noble as I had once believed.

I thought there was something noble about continually refining myself — fixing things about myself I, or others, may not like. But essentially what I was doing was merely pleasing my perfectionism and fueling my people pleasing tendencies. If I am happy with myself and living life in a healthy way with a healthy outlook, why should my flaws continue to hold so much value? Is there more nobility in acknowledging my flaws instead of ruminating and embarking on a grand quest to change? Can I simply accept myself and live life?

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in seeking help for mental illness or utilizing therapy whenever we are struggling or need help navigating a difficult time, but if we have worked through those issues and consistently use healthy coping strategies, then is there a point when self-refinement becomes an unhealthy obsession that fuels underlying perfectionism? Because I had hit that point. 

My self-refinement was no longer about becoming healthier for myself, but became about asking others what they saw that I didn’t so I could fix something that may or may not be there. Doing that opens the door for potentially losing myself and no longer being my authentic self. No one knows you as well as you know yourself. Other people see only the parts of you that you reveal to them. They only have one piece of the entire picture, but you have access to the entire scene.

Throughout the treatment of my eating disorders, depression and anxiety, all of my therapists told me their goal was to get me to a point where I am healthy and able to function on my own without their help. They said that their door would always be open, but they wanted me to become confident in myself. How empowering is that? Knowing I had support walking alongside me to help me grow and be the healthy person I wanted to be meant everything to me during my recovery. I know my therapists would be celebrating who I have become and how I live my life today.

Sometimes, I have this urge to go back to therapy because I want to navigate it “perfectly,” even though I know I am capable of navigating my way through it. This has caused me to delay confrontations I need to have because I am scared of doing it wrong. Or, I keep thinking a therapist will have some insight I don’t already have and they can point something out I need to work on within myself.

I realize that my perfectionism and eating disorders programmed my mind to constantly evaluate myself, my body and my conversations, and pinpoint every single flaw or mistake. This does not happen all of the time anymore, but it still sneaks up on me. Even during my eating disorder recovery, my therapist explained how my perfectionism was commonplace — they called this the “star patient.”  At first, I was elated to hear this. I did all my homework from sessions, I did not engage in eating disorder behaviors and I made every goal we had set. My therapist pointed out how this was sometimes unhealthy because my perfectionism and eating disorder were tied into this way of thinking. I wasn’t allowing myself any room for mistakes and it was clear I needed to address my inability to allow myself to be human.

This brings us to today. My conversation with my family friend was exactly what I needed to hear. It caused me to stop and think about how far I have come in my recovery, how healthy I am today and how much I love the person I have become. I no longer feel like a slave to my disorders and I am becoming more and more OK with myself when I make a mistake. Instead, I learn from my mistakes, take notes for the future, make amends if needed and continue to move forward. I recognize that I am not perfect, and that is perfectly OK.

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Thinkstock photo via ARTEM VARNITSIN

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The Questions I Want to Ask Donald Trump as a Mental Illness Warrior

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Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

Dear Donald Trump,

No, I’m not “crazy.” No, I’m not “insane.” Yes, I am a human being with hopes and dreams.

I have seen countless questions thrown at you over countless meaningless subjects. I have seen the media critique you, praise you, love you and hate you. I have seen you address immigration, travel bans, taxes and gun control. I have seen you get ticked at Hillary Clinton, the media and most people in general. What I want to know is, when are you going to help people with mental illnesses? When will you help with a topic that gets no media representation? Will you help abolish the stigma that surrounds mental health disorders?

As president of this country, “The home of the brave,” will you speak for the brave people fighting invisible battles, who are condemned for having a disease that affects their head instead of the rest of their body? People who are not “crazy” or “dangerous,” but who are warriors fighting battles people seldom research? As leader of the free world, will you help free people from the stigma that surrounds mental illness? As someone who claims to represent the American people, will you represent the mental health warriors? Or will we have to struggle in silence for another four years?

Sincerely,

One of many mental health warriors

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Photo via Wikicommons.

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3 Important Lessons From the Michelle Carter Trial

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Last month, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after instigating the suicide of close friend, Conrad Roy, via text communication. As the verdict was read, legal progressives celebrated the evolution of technology’s role and responsibility in our criminal justice system. And to be fair, this case was a huge step forward towards the future prosecution and elimination of cyberbullying. But as I watched the judicial proceedings unfold through my own eyes as a mental health advocate, I could not help but feel that this trial lay bare the sobering reality that prejudices and misconceptions still mischaracterize those with mental illness.

As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for many years, I recognize that there is extra care I need to take on a daily basis to maintain my mental stability, happiness, and productivity. I have sought counseling for many years, and have taken medication when necessary. I exercise and meditate nearly every day to quell my anxiety. I am no different than the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness in this country. We are hardworking, caring, functioning members of our communities. We continue to give back and contribute every day. And in most cases, you would be unlikely to differentiate us from anyone else. We sit at the desks of your classrooms, walk the halls of your offices, and serve as leaders in your community. But we recognize that we are responsible for our own actions and accountable to others. We do not ask for pity, special treatment, or to be viewed differently than anyone else. While there are exceptions in cases of severe psychiatric illness, these instances are extremely few and far between.

When individuals like Michelle Carter associate vindictive and disturbing conduct with mental illness, it reinforces stigmatizing associations between psychiatric illness and violence. Carter’s attempt to alleviate her own pain and misery by bullying Conrad Roy, a depressed and vulnerable individual, led to this tragic and fatal consequence. Carter’s defense team blamed antidepressant medications for her actions, attempting to remove any responsibility for her behavior. This dangerous and erroneous premise can discourage those afflicted with mental illness from seeking potentially life-saving help. When congressmen blame money laundering on mania, rapists blame violence on porn addiction, and musicians blame assault on anxiety, the entire mental health community pays the price for the perpetuation of these groundless fallacies.

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There are three important lessons to learn from this trial:

First, there is no association between violence and mental illness. According to the National Institutes of Health, “the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.” Conrad Roy’s tragic death serves as a tragic example of this.

Second, trust mental health professionals in regard to your recovery. When battling mental illness, having the support of friends and family is essential. However, it is not a substitute for counseling by trained professionals, who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. This trial was a devastating example of what happens when two individuals rely significantly on one-another in regard to recovery. Carter was not qualified to give Roy advice on depression or suicidal ideation, despite having dealt with similar issues herself. Patients and doctors work together towards recovery. Clinicians make treatment decisions based on risk-benefit assessments. Despite the unconvincing and self-serving testimony of Dr. Breggin, SSRI medications have proven to be safe, effective, and in many cases, life-saving. If your mental health provider suggests pharmacological treatment for anxiety and depression, do not let this testimony discourage you from seeking help.

Finally, encouraging a person to take their life is wrong. Giving a friend space to talk about suicidal thoughts can be life-saving. Throughout Carter and Roy’s relationship, the two often discussed dealing with depression and suicidal ideation. To be as clear as possible, Carter was not convicted of involuntary manslaughter because she provided a platform for Roy to vocalize his pain and desires. She was convicted for actively encouraging him to take his own life.

Suicidal ideation is a hallmark of major depression. Yet, it remains one of the most difficult subjects for those who experience it to talk about with friends, family and even mental health professionals. People with depression commonly believe they are the only ones having such disturbing imagery in their minds. And worse, they fear that talking about suicidal ideation will land them in a hospital, get them kicked out of school or labeled as “crazy.” They fear talking about such thoughts to a friend could trigger someone to also experience those thoughts.

According to Crisis Text Line, asking a person whether they are feeling suicidal will not trigger them into becoming suicidal. Rather, giving a struggling individual the space to talk about these thoughts can provide tremendous relief and can instill trust. Nobody can overcome depression in isolation; these conversations are imperative for progress towards true recovery.

At the end of the day, this trial was a tragedy resulting in the destruction of two vulnerable, young lives. It reflects the changing nature of today’s communication, where cruelty is more common online than in-person. However, I believe we must celebrate the implications from this ruling. Dr. Breggin’s misleading testimony was ultimately ineffective. Michelle was forced to take responsibility for what happened. Mental illness and antidepressants could not simply be scapegoated. We must continue to discuss mental health stigma outside of stories like these. We need to continue to show that recovery is not just possible, but probable. We need to continue to grow into a community that is actually willing to listen when people need help the most. We need to be better than what happened to Conrad Roy.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via BCFC

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Why Sophia Bush Is My Mental Health Activist Crush

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I. Love. Sophia. Bush. I wish she was my older sister or mom or something, I love her. She is gorgeous, her voice is so soothing, she’s an amazing actress and an incredible activist. Like many others, I was first introduced to her during the hit series, “One Tree Hill” when she played Brooke Davis. Throughout the first few seasons, Brooke Davis was definitely portrayed as a typical high school “party girl” who slept with a bunch of guys, was head cheerleader and drank too much. But when the seasons switched over to after the gang had graduated, her character had probably the most radical transformation out of them all.

We are introduced to Brooke’s “new” self as we see her as the CEO of her own wildly successful clothing line, “Clothes Over Bros.” As she’s walking through her office, she notices a picture of a model as a draft for her magazine and immediately says, “Absolutely not. There is no way she gets on the cover of my magazine unless she gains 10 pounds, minimum. She looks unhealthy.” Her employees say they were just brainstorming and she replies, “Brainstorm better. Anorexia is a disease, not a fashion statement.”

This isn’t the first time Sophia Bush has spoken up about eating disorders and mental illness. She has written for To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and spoken at several of their events, she was furious several years ago when Urban Outfitters came out with a t-shirt that said “Eat Less” and her Twitter is full of activism as she inspires people to believe they are enough just the way they are.

In the show, Brooke Davis’s compassion is also portrayed so beautifully. We see this through how she serves as a foster mom to Sam, protecting and loving her in every situation. We see her strength and her bravery after she was physically assaulted, and how she learned to deal and cope with it. We see how amazing of a friend she is to everyone she meets, even those who leave. She loves fully and deeply and it is beautiful to watch.

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As someone who struggles with mental illness personally, it is so encouraging to know there are celebrities out there who see and acknowledge it is such a pressing problem right now and speak up about it. There’s a few quotes I’ll leave you all with some quotes from Sophia Bush that never fail to bring me a little bit of comfort.

“What I know is that depression is a foe you cannot turn your back on. What I know is that you are not alone. It’s hard to admit that you are falling apart, especially when everyone thinks you “have it all together.” But please. Be as courageous about your big, bad fears as you are about your passions in those moments of greatness. Tell someone you are breaking. You’ll discover that they are broken too, so they can probably help you pick up some of your pieces and lighten your load. Please. Think about how wounded even strangers feel at the loss of this man’s light. SOMEONE out there feels that way about YOU. I promise. It’s okay to be broken. To be scared. To need help. It’s okay. It’s profoundly human. It happens to the best of us. It’s okay. You matter to people you aren’t even aware of. It’s okay.” “I think the sexiest thing on anybody is intelligence. I respect somebody who has a brain and wants to use it more than a pretty face and status.” — Sophia Bush

“Life is too short, and I’m Italian. I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.” — Sophia Bush

“I think the greatest thing that we can do is take care of each other.” — Sophia Bush

“I’ve always wanted to speak up for people who don’t have a voice. I’ve always wanted to protect people who couldn’t protect themselves. It’s my nature. It’s my instinct.” — Sophia Bush

“Know that someone out there believes in you and loves you.  And if you haven’t met that person yet, you will. You are valuable. Special. And you matter. The things that make you different make you unique. And unique is beautiful.” — Sophia Bush 

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Photo via “One Tree Hill” Facebook page.

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What We Missed in Our Reaction to Trump's Recent Ableist Tweets

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The media is abuzz analyzing one of Donald Trump’s latest scandals: two tweets aimed at Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

In the first tweet, Trump discussed his relationship with the television program Morning Joe. In the second tweet, Trump recalled a falsified incident when Ms. Brzezinski tried to attend a Mar-a-Lago event while recovering from a facelift.

Trump began his tweetstorm by calling Mr. Scarborough “psycho” and Ms. Brzezinski “crazy” and “low-IQ,” provoking outrage from some commentators.

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“Psycho” is a derogatory shorthand for a person experiencing psychosis, which is comprised of hallucinations and delusions. “Crazy” is an insulting way to refer to people living with mental illness. “Low-IQ” means a person scored below the average on an IQ test. According to National Alliance of Mental Illness, over 2o percent of the population fits into at least one of Trump’s categories. These are people who proudly live good lives. I could say we’re doctors and teachers, community leaders and community servants, but we don’t need to be defined by our successes. We need only be defined by the fact that we are people, too. Being one of us is not an insult.

Trump’s use of our identity as an insult is reprehensible. A few commentator’s responses have been equally saddening.

SE Cupp, a writer for CNN, called Trump’s statements “disappointing, embarrassing, even revolting.”

It is disappointing that these commentators accepted that portion of Trump’s tweets as insults. They could have capitalized on a teachable moment. While it is cruel to use “low-IQ” as derogatory, it is cruel only because it demeans people with low-IQ by suggesting they are worthy of insult. Possessing a low-IQ does not make someone worthy of insult. A few journalists missed this critical distinction. They decried Trump for accusing Mika of the indignity of having a low-IQ. By doing so, they perpetuate the negative misconception that having a low-IQ is an insult.

Instead of using the teachable moment, several members of the media stooped to Trump’s level. SE Cupp wrote that the President’s statements indicate that he needs “therapy or a good cry.” Seth Meyers, the host of “Late Night,” speculated that when Donald Trump stated he “said no” he meant he said no to his “f***ing meds.” Both Ms. Cupp and Mr. Meyers have turned critical components of many recovery plans into punchlines. Choosing to begin medication or therapy is one of the most impactful decisions a person can make. Doing so is challenging, and requires intense vulnerability. Treating this as a joke perpetuates the negative societal impression, which limits the number of people who seek support. Mr. Meyers further taps into society’s idea of somebody going “off their meds.” He extends the false belief that the prosocial behavior of people with mental health issues is dependent on medication regimens, and not on multi-pronged recovery plans that require intense personal commitment.

Joe and Mika wrote a response to Trump’s comments in the Washington Post, stating that he is not “mentally equipped” to watch “Morning Joe.” This seemingly innocuous statement plays into the disturbing implication that ability-based discrimination is reasonable. It implies that people living with mental health issues should be deprived of certain books, movies or games because they might negatively affect us and we might become a danger to society. Much like the statement by Mr. Meyers, it suggests that people living with mental health challenges lack the agency to make our own choices and must depend on others to decide our lives for us.

At the very core of these articles is the unspoken premise that Donald Trump has a mental health condition, and should be mocked for it. The media presents the idea that if somebody acts in a way that is negative or strange (as Trump certainly has), they must be living with a mental illness. For the last half century, the APA has had a policy — the Goldwater Rule — that mental health professionals do not speculate about the behavioral health of public personalities. We can all emulate them. Let’s discuss the problematic actions of Donald Trump, but let’s do so in a way that does not drag people living with mental illness down with him.

If you absolutely need to relate mental illness to current events, many Americans living with mental health conditions are about to lose their Medicaid if the Senate has its way. Call your Senators, and call Mitch McConnell.

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

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