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I Was a Mental Health Intern at The Mighty, and Here's What Happened

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Core beliefs are something I’ve spoken a lot about in my time in therapy. Over time, I’ve come to believe many of the fortunate things that happen to me are either a mistake, a fluke or that I was just given said opportunity/item/gift/chance because someone felt bad for me. When I got word The Mighty wanted to hire me as an editorial intern this summer, all of those options came to mind.

They just want to give me a position because I’m a contributor. They think I’m a terrible writer and are actually only taking me so I can stop writing such shitty articles for them. They emailed the wrong person, and now they can’t take it back and oh well. They’re taking me because they feel bad for me.

Then the eating disorder thoughts.

They feel bad because your recovery is a sad mess of a life. They’re trying to make use of your joke of an illness, you were never sick. Not sick enough. Stop lying to them.

I could go on. I tell myself all kinds of things.

I then tried to challenge my thoughts.

I would say I know a lot about mental health. I’d like to think I know something about writing. I haven’t taken an English class since a frustrating freshman year college class, and I’m embarrassingly going to admit I’ve forgotten whether the punctuation mark goes inside or outside the quotation mark (read: the answer is in).

Even as I came up with these counter thoughts, or even just thoughts to distract, the negative thoughts always outweighed them. The negatives always stuck to me more, and I always seemed to quickly forget the counter thoughts.


Fast forward a few weeks. I’m in the office (this was before I remembered where the punctuation mark goes), and I’m nervous. Thoughts are flying. I’m doing my best. I’m coping with a recent change in my personal life, and it’s got me vulnerable. Real vulnerable. I turn in my first edit, and there’s notes. I have trouble making and admitting mistakes, and someone else has just called them out to see. I’m definitely going to be fired.

They mention an intern project on the second day, and I’ve already created “Musicians and Mental Health” in my head and get a little too passionate a little too quickly. It’s to compensate for my mistakes.

Over the next few weeks, I take a few cry breaks in the bathroom. Yeah. I’m not so stuck in my head after a few weeks of editing pieces. My heart aches, and it starts to feel pointless to edit, “I am not ok” to “I am not OK” because the point is, there is someone out there who is struggling a lot and I am sitting here editing their pain on my laptop. Something doesn’t feel right.

I start to get to know the people in the office more. The topic of my favorite group of boys, the Jonas Brothers comes up. I catch on to peoples’ personalities and likes and find I relate to most everyone in the office in some way.

The office is pretty quiet, and it makes me a bit anxious. My head tells me they’re just waiting for me to say something unintelligent. Or completely entertaining. Nothing in between. I just start talking. Sometimes I laugh randomly. I put in headphones and dance a little dance in my seat because everyone is living for Kesha’s music revival.

I go to lunch. Most of the time I go out because I need to see some sun and other scenery. Sometimes friends meet up with me. Sometimes I wander in stores. Sometimes I talk to people. I drink iced coffee. I walk back. I work. I publish. I interview. I make connections with the people I work with and we bond over silly and not-so-silly thoughts that run through our heads. We have inside jokes, and we share quotes from stories we are editing that range from heart-wrenching to helpless to hopeful. One day, I put a quote I feel perfectly describes eating disorder recovery in the group chat. I wonder, “What’s the point of me copying and pasting all these quotes?”

And then I remember. I think back to the quotes I read when I was hopeless and struggling to sit alone. Words I wanted to believe but couldn’t.

“Calorie counting is not the catalyst to happiness.”

“This is a reminder that this is not permanent.”

“I am not defined by the number of people who have asked about my GPA or the number of times I felt trapped by the answer.”

“You matter.”

I wanted someone to tell me why I was going through this, why the Universe had chosen me to have some strange set of events occur that would lead me to eating disorders. How I was going to get out of it. If I was going to get out of it. Endless questions and thoughts I couldn’t make sense of that therapists told me they understood, but I wasn’t so sure they did. I think back to my struggle and wonder what in the world got me through, and the answer is words.

I write these words so simply and easily, but there was a time not so long ago where I couldn’t. I couldn’t say I was going out for lunch or making meaningful connections or drinking coffee how I like it (with cream). I had no sense of humor. Walking was a means of compensation, not transportation. But now, I can. And I think back to what it was, and it was the conversation, the therapy, the writing, the songs, the words.

And that is why I love The Mighty. The words on this website are saving lives, telling stories, holding peoples’ hands and hearts in moments of darkness and celebration and everything in between. I think back to when I thought I was only hired so they could give me an English lesson. And then I remember, it’s because I know struggle and strength and hopeless and tired and hopeful and wonder and I believe in the power connection and words that have in our healing. And these people get it. The Mighty gets it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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 “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Editor’s note: We did not force Danielle to write this piece, but we did make her use correct punctuation. We’ll miss having her in the office and learning new Jonas Brothers facts each day.

Originally published: August 10, 2017
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