Alyse Ruriani

@arur | contributor
illustrator & designer, art therapist-in-training, person with lived experience.
Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

Why Jillian Michaels' Fatphobic Comments About Lizzo Are Harmful

In an interview on Wednesday, Jillian Michaels interrupted the interviewer — who was trying to explain how it is awesome to see diverse body sizes in the media such as Lizzo — to ask why we are celebrating Lizzo’s body, saying that we should be celebrating her music and that she doesn’t care about Lizzo’s body. Michaels went on to say, “‘Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes.” .@JillianMichaels on Lizzo: "Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren't we celebrating her music? 'Cause it isn't gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes." pic.twitter.com/FkKBd8J87b— AM2DM by BuzzFeed News (@AM2DM) January 8, 2020 Michaels has made career off of screaming at fat people, so it doesn’t surprise me that she would say what she did about Lizzo. For those who don’t know, Michaels is a personal trainer who became famous on the show “The Biggest Loser” — a show that has garnered countless controversies for its fatphobic premise and unhealthy treatment of contestants. Michaels was a trainer on the show where she could be seen getting in the faces of the fat contestants and yelling at them to keep exercising beyond their ability, sometimes until they threw up or even collapsed and then ridiculed them for it. This background is important, because it goes to show what Michaels thinks about fat people: We are unhealthy, lazy and, according to her response to all the backlash, that we don’t love ourselves or our bodies enough because, if we did, then we would “take care” of our bodies. But this type of thinking and behavior is not only incorrect, it’s harmful. So let’s dive into it: 1. Health cannot be determined by someone’s size because it’s not black and white. It is impossible to look at someone and determine whether they are healthy or not because health is complicated. Millions of people have chronic health conditions and disabilities that will never allow them to have this idealized, often unattainable, version of health. And those trying to chase after it may end up causing harm to themselves and their relationships to food and their bodies. Studies suggest that the majority of dieters will regain their lost weight in one to five years and 35% of normal dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% develop an eating disorder. More people die from complications of anorexia than any other mental illness, but sure, let’s ask for Lizzo’s bloodwork.— Michal is Mandalorthodox (@inkasrain) January 8, 2020 Losing weight does not magically make someone healthier because thousands of things affect our health, and health itself looks different to everyone. Our body weight is influenced by many factors, such as our age, gender, environment, life experiences, medications, health conditions, stress levels, sleep patterns, weight stigma and so much more. And to simplify health down to body size is harmful and unhelpful to people’s actual health and well-being, especially those in marginalized bodies. If we really cared about fat people’s health, we would get serious about ending weight stigma and fatphobia, because weight-related discrimination significantly and negatively affects health — and can even increase mortality risk. 2. Diverse representation in media is important and should be celebrated. On average, Americans spend over 11 hours per day using media, so it’s important that we pay attention to what it contains and how it affects us. Bodies come in all different sizes for different reasons and our media should reflect that fact. Think of the types of body sizes you see in TV and movies. If there is a fat character, they are often not the protagonist. They usually are deprecating, trying to lose weight or are there to be the “ugly fat friend” or the punchline. So when we do see fat people who aren’t doing any of those things or are even actively challenging those tropes by celebrating their bodies, non-fat people get uncomfortable. Lizzo herself spoke about how the lack of body diversity in the media took a psychological toll on her and made her feel like there is something wrong with her. Lizzo’s fame is a big step in diverse representation because Lizzo holds three marginalized identities: being black, being fat and being a woman. Yet, in the interview, Michaels tried to separate Lizzo’s body from her music, saying that she and her kid enjoy listening to Lizzo’s music, but in the same breath asking why her body matters. Lizzo’s body matters because her music itself is a celebration of being fat, being black and being a woman. You cannot consume the music Lizzo creates while simultaneously going against everything her music stands for. Do let us know when you can twerk and play the flute at the same time, Jillian. Until then, shut your mouth. https://t.co/jvvYlNK5Fu— Imani Gandy ☄️???????? (@AngryBlackLady) January 8, 2020 3. Body acceptance is important. The idealization of thinness in our society and culture is a major environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders. Countless studies show how prevalent it is for even children to be preoccupied with weight and appearance, experiencing low self-esteem and engaging in fad diets. That is not healthy. All the weight and appearance obsession keeps us from doing what is really important: living a full life, whatever that means to you, in the body you have right now. Too many people don’t do the things they want to do in life because of their size. Body acceptance is hard, but doable. You do not have to spend the rest of your life trying to fit into someone else’s idea of how you should be. You are enough as you are, right here and right now, regardless of your health or your size. Health is not a prerequisite for body acceptance or body love, either. Because even if, like Michaels flippantly stated, you have or develop diabetes, you still are a human being who is worthy of love, kindness and celebration. We celebrate @Lizzo’s body because she inhabits it with love & teaches us to do the same. She holds concerts that involve hours of singing, dancing & athleticism in a body that society has long profited off hating & stereotyping. Every body deserves compassion & celebration. ???? https://t.co/aKvSaIw89F— Sharanya (@haridassharanya) January 8, 2020 Lizzo empowers countless people every day to love and accept themselves through her music, her story and her body. She is the role model we need in this fatphobic world. And I’ll always celebrate that.

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

Why Jillian Michaels' Fatphobic Comments About Lizzo Are Harmful

In an interview on Wednesday, Jillian Michaels interrupted the interviewer — who was trying to explain how it is awesome to see diverse body sizes in the media such as Lizzo — to ask why we are celebrating Lizzo’s body, saying that we should be celebrating her music and that she doesn’t care about Lizzo’s body. Michaels went on to say, “‘Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes.” .@JillianMichaels on Lizzo: "Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren't we celebrating her music? 'Cause it isn't gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes." pic.twitter.com/FkKBd8J87b— AM2DM by BuzzFeed News (@AM2DM) January 8, 2020 Michaels has made career off of screaming at fat people, so it doesn’t surprise me that she would say what she did about Lizzo. For those who don’t know, Michaels is a personal trainer who became famous on the show “The Biggest Loser” — a show that has garnered countless controversies for its fatphobic premise and unhealthy treatment of contestants. Michaels was a trainer on the show where she could be seen getting in the faces of the fat contestants and yelling at them to keep exercising beyond their ability, sometimes until they threw up or even collapsed and then ridiculed them for it. This background is important, because it goes to show what Michaels thinks about fat people: We are unhealthy, lazy and, according to her response to all the backlash, that we don’t love ourselves or our bodies enough because, if we did, then we would “take care” of our bodies. But this type of thinking and behavior is not only incorrect, it’s harmful. So let’s dive into it: 1. Health cannot be determined by someone’s size because it’s not black and white. It is impossible to look at someone and determine whether they are healthy or not because health is complicated. Millions of people have chronic health conditions and disabilities that will never allow them to have this idealized, often unattainable, version of health. And those trying to chase after it may end up causing harm to themselves and their relationships to food and their bodies. Studies suggest that the majority of dieters will regain their lost weight in one to five years and 35% of normal dieters progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% develop an eating disorder. More people die from complications of anorexia than any other mental illness, but sure, let’s ask for Lizzo’s bloodwork.— Michal is Mandalorthodox (@inkasrain) January 8, 2020 Losing weight does not magically make someone healthier because thousands of things affect our health, and health itself looks different to everyone. Our body weight is influenced by many factors, such as our age, gender, environment, life experiences, medications, health conditions, stress levels, sleep patterns, weight stigma and so much more. And to simplify health down to body size is harmful and unhelpful to people’s actual health and well-being, especially those in marginalized bodies. If we really cared about fat people’s health, we would get serious about ending weight stigma and fatphobia, because weight-related discrimination significantly and negatively affects health — and can even increase mortality risk. 2. Diverse representation in media is important and should be celebrated. On average, Americans spend over 11 hours per day using media, so it’s important that we pay attention to what it contains and how it affects us. Bodies come in all different sizes for different reasons and our media should reflect that fact. Think of the types of body sizes you see in TV and movies. If there is a fat character, they are often not the protagonist. They usually are deprecating, trying to lose weight or are there to be the “ugly fat friend” or the punchline. So when we do see fat people who aren’t doing any of those things or are even actively challenging those tropes by celebrating their bodies, non-fat people get uncomfortable. Lizzo herself spoke about how the lack of body diversity in the media took a psychological toll on her and made her feel like there is something wrong with her. Lizzo’s fame is a big step in diverse representation because Lizzo holds three marginalized identities: being black, being fat and being a woman. Yet, in the interview, Michaels tried to separate Lizzo’s body from her music, saying that she and her kid enjoy listening to Lizzo’s music, but in the same breath asking why her body matters. Lizzo’s body matters because her music itself is a celebration of being fat, being black and being a woman. You cannot consume the music Lizzo creates while simultaneously going against everything her music stands for. Do let us know when you can twerk and play the flute at the same time, Jillian. Until then, shut your mouth. https://t.co/jvvYlNK5Fu— Imani Gandy ☄️???????? (@AngryBlackLady) January 8, 2020 3. Body acceptance is important. The idealization of thinness in our society and culture is a major environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders. Countless studies show how prevalent it is for even children to be preoccupied with weight and appearance, experiencing low self-esteem and engaging in fad diets. That is not healthy. All the weight and appearance obsession keeps us from doing what is really important: living a full life, whatever that means to you, in the body you have right now. Too many people don’t do the things they want to do in life because of their size. Body acceptance is hard, but doable. You do not have to spend the rest of your life trying to fit into someone else’s idea of how you should be. You are enough as you are, right here and right now, regardless of your health or your size. Health is not a prerequisite for body acceptance or body love, either. Because even if, like Michaels flippantly stated, you have or develop diabetes, you still are a human being who is worthy of love, kindness and celebration. We celebrate @Lizzo’s body because she inhabits it with love & teaches us to do the same. She holds concerts that involve hours of singing, dancing & athleticism in a body that society has long profited off hating & stereotyping. Every body deserves compassion & celebration. ???? https://t.co/aKvSaIw89F— Sharanya (@haridassharanya) January 8, 2020 Lizzo empowers countless people every day to love and accept themselves through her music, her story and her body. She is the role model we need in this fatphobic world. And I’ll always celebrate that.

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

TLC's New Show 'Hot & Heavy' Met With Backlash

Fatphobia and weight stigma are everywhere we turn, yet not everyone sees it or even believes it’s real. Well, let me and most other fat people tell you: It is real. So when I saw the trailer for TLC’s new show, “Hot and Heavy,” I was unfortunately not surprised, but I was angry. The show follows three fat women who are dating or married to men who aren’t fat… and that’s it. That’s the whole show. According to People, the show will “explore the trials and tribulations that come with being in a mixed-weight relationship.” For these couples, love knows no size. See the highs and lows of their mixed-weight relationships on the series premiere of #HotandHeavy Tuesday, January 7 at 10/9c. pic.twitter.com/QAFh8AILj7— TLC Network (@TLC) December 10, 2019 Luckily this time, I was not alone in my outrage. Since the trailer dropped, there has been backlash pointing out how problematic it is. If you’ve seen the trailer or plan on watching the show, here are some things to remember: 1. It is not newsworthy for a fat person to be in a relationship, no matter what their partner looks like. The fact that there is an entire show about the premise of fat people being in relationships with — gasp — thin people is extremely fatphobic. Fat people are in relationships with all different types of people. Additionally, the fact that all the couples are fat women dating straight size men speaks to the heteronormativity and sexism that exists in our culture. The main focus is on the women’s appearance and what the men are attracted to — the women aren’t asked to defend or explain their tastes or preferences. If you are a fat person reading this, please know that while fatphobia is something we do face, you are lovable. It is not a surprising miracle for someone to find you attractive — and it doesn’t have to be someone who fetishizes fatness. There are a couple of comments in the trailer that make me wonder if the men are doing that. For example, one of the women says, “You just want me to stay fat,” and one of the men says, “I wouldn’t mind if she were bigger,” when speaking about their partners. This is concerning because that places a focus on your partner’s weight in a way that comes off as trying to control something that can’t fully be controlled. Which brings me to my next point: 2. Our bodies and weights naturally change and fluctuate. The idea of a “mixed-weight” relationship has issues on various levels, but one that sticks out to me is it acts like weight is a stagnant thing. You could begin dating someone at one size, and 10 years later their size may be different. And not only is that OK, but it’s natural. Our bodies change and grow and shrink due to a number of factors. For example, in the mental health and disability community, weight gain can be common due to medications, symptoms or behaviors. Maybe the size you are now is not the size you were when you met your partner. Maybe your body is in the process of changing right now and you’re worried about what your partner or others will think. Those feelings are totally normal in the diet culture we live in. You can hear the women in the show talk about how they were bullied and told they couldn’t be loved. But the truth is that your weight should not be the thing that makes or breaks a relationship — because it’s not what does or does not make you a good partner. 3. The framing of the show is harmful. According to the trailer, the show does not seem to be a story about how pervasive fatphobia and weight stigma are. Instead, the focus is on how the men “defend the honor of their respective women to their skeptical friends, family and the public.” You shouldn’t have to “defend” your choice of a partner, especially when it comes to something related to appearance or identity. And if anyone is saying fatphobic things to you about your partner, you should educate them on fatphobia and weight stigma, not “defend” your partner. Your partner doesn’t need you to prove they are worthy, they need you to step up and tell people why fatphobia is harmful. That is what matters in the long run — and that’s what the problem is at its core.

Community Voices

What skills, resources, and tools help you get through?

When I’m feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, I utilize resources, skills, and tools that I know work for me. I use #DBT & my safety plan & writing down reasons to stay & art & worksheets & #MentalHealth workbooks & sleeping & writing & crying & my therapist & knowing my local ER that is best equipped for mental health crises & my support people & my emotional support cat & breathing & whatever feels right in the moment.

What works for you #IfYouFeelHopeless ?

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Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

Why We Need to Talk About Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Every month, I bleed (usually). My birth control pill sometimes stops that, but not always. And even the months when my period doesn’t come, the menstrual cycle still happens. Most people don’t like their periods, I mean, who wants to be actively bleeding for several days of the month, walking around like nothing is happening? Pretty much no one. But for me, the worst part isn’t the period. It’s before. For one to two weeks before my period, I struggle immensely. I’m not just talking about the way most people with periods have cramps and bloating (which also suck); I’m talking about premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). For a while, I didn’t realize how connected my bouts of emotional distress were to my menstrual cycle. Because I was dealing with major depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD), among other occurring illnesses, there were not many breaks in between. However, as I recovered, I realized I was having “depressive episodes” at least once a month. I wasn’t sure why this was happening, considering the huge strides I had made with all my treatment (I am even in remission from BPD). I started realizing that once my period came, the “episodes” would start to go away. And then they came back — followed by my period. I started tracking these symptoms alongside my period (or the date I would be getting my period if it weren’t for the birth control) and realized the correlation between my depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety spiking around the 14 days before menstruation. There was a partial moment of relief — it finally made sense! Not only that, but I thought that knowing it would end once I menstruated would make it easier to tolerate. Knowing that the pain will end did not make it much easier or make the end come any faster. It reminded me that, sure, it will end, but then it will come right back in two weeks. Sometimes it is excruciating. This morning, I woke up nauseous and ended up vomiting, dripping in sweat, heart racing and laying in a bath for three hours waiting for it to stop. I didn’t know it at the time, but I realized later that day with the help of a friend that I had a panic attack. I feel depressed. It feels like a major depressive disorder episode, but crammed all into one or two weeks. I have suicidal thoughts. Last month, I had such bad suicidal thoughts I started wondering if I would be able to stay safe. The depression and anxiety that comes with this illness feels increasingly isolated because it’s not something talked about often. I talk about major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder often, but PMDD? PMDD isn’t spoken about often enough because it deals with another layer of ambiguity and stigma related to knowledge about menstruation. PMDD is complicated. It is not well researched compared to other mental health disorders, and I think it is still highly stigmatized thanks to the old, sexist, (and trans-erasing) notions that when a woman is “acting crazy” it’s because she is “PMSing,” or that a woman acting emotional is a reason to assume it’s “her time of the month.” These ideas are harmful. They also make it harder for serious disorders, such as PMDD, to be recognized and treated. That is why I was so grateful to find the Gia Allemand Foundation. The organization was created after Gia Allemand died by suicide. She had PMDD. The Gia Allemand Foundation is the source of almost all the information I could find on PMDD. As a mental health advocate, I always felt confident in my ability to know where to go, what to do and who to see if I needed mental health help. But with PMDD, I was at a loss. And I still am. Since PMDD is both a psychological problem and related to hormones and the reproductive system, it lies in a strange area between psychiatry/psychology and gynecology/reproductive endocrinology. The unfortunate part is that there are many OB/GYNs and psychiatrists who don’t know much about PMDD, but those two types of professionals are who you are supposed to see to get help for it. The treatment is also very much trial and error, which can leave you feeling helpless and lost while trying to get relief. I am still looking to get the right treatment for my PMDD. Today, I don’t feel so hopeful. I feel as though it is just something I have to deal with. And that is why I decided to write this today, because it took me way too long to even see people talking about it — to know that it is something I struggle with. And I now know that I don’t want that to be the case for every single other person out there wondering why this happens to them or someone they love. You are not alone. 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 o r text “HOME” to 741-741 . Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

Why I Celebrate Two Birthdays as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

Everyone has a birthday. A day that you celebrate being born into this world. A day where your life started. As a suicide attempt survivor, I consider myself to have two birthdays. One is the day my mother brought me into this world and the other is the day I survived trying to leave it. Five years ago on June 12th, I attempted suicide. The following days, I laid in the ICU on an IV drip that was reversing the damage I had done to my body. When my body was well enough, I went on to start my journey into recovery. I spent a month in inpatient care for stabilization of my suicidal thoughts, self-harm and depression, and then boarded a flight to go hundreds of miles away for treatment at a residential treatment center for women. It was there I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for the first time, learned of my own eating disorder, dove into art therapy and worked through the depression, anxiety and emerging borderline personality disorder (BPD) I had been struggling with for years. All of this is why I celebrate the day I attempted suicide. It may seem strange — to celebrate that day — but it’s so much more than that. It is a celebration of a second chance, of a day I woke up again, of the start of everything that has led me to how far I am in my recovery today. I was given another chance at life at a time when I thought my life was not worth living. It was by the Universe or God or whatever you believe in, along with accessibility to healthcare, compassionate nurses and medical intervention, that I was able to live through it. And from there, I got needed treatment and was able to learn how to manage these illnesses to live in recovery. I am alive, and that is something to celebrate. I use this second birthday as a time to recognize where I was, where I could have been, where I am now and where I am going. I use it to remind myself that even though I still struggle with depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts, and that even though I tried to end my life at 17 years old, I am strong and capable and worthy. I am breathing and I am fighting every day to stay in recovery. I think that’s worth celebrating. Happy 5th second chance birthday to me, and happy second chance birthday to all the suicide attempt survivors out there, as well as anyone with that turning point that propelled their life into recovery. 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 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via moodboard.

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

'Thirteen Reasons Why' Is Problematic for Suicide Awareness Advocacy

The mini series version of Jay Asher’s book, “ Thirteen Reasons Why ,” has come out on Netflix (“13 Reasons Why”). It has been long anticipated, as the best selling young adult novel has been a favorite among many since 2007. However, the story has never sat quite right with me. For background, I am someone living with mental illness and am a suicide attempt survivor. Today, I am a mental health advocate and future clinician. I read “Thirteen Reasons Why” when I was around 14 years old, in the beginning of my worsening depression and suicidal thoughts. I didn’t really like it then or now. I recognize this story is one that resonates with some or has provided comfort or solace. I know many people watching the show really enjoy it and are encouraging others to watch and read it as well. While I don’t want to discourage others from finding things that help them, I do want to shed light on the issues it contains. 1. It simplifies suicide and perpetuates the idea suicide has someone to blame. We are all affected by what we do and what happens to us. And sometimes, what happens to us is unfair, hurtful or even severely traumatizing. I am not saying these things don’t matter, because they do. When faced with the things addressed in “13 Reasons Why” such as bullying, rumors and sexual assault, it absolutely affect our mental health. But to perpetuate the idea there is a straight, linear path to why a suicide happened by pointing fingers at peers, parents or another individual, is harmful. Suicide is a complex issue and it cannot be defined by placing the onus on someone else. Sometimes, suicide has no reason other than intense depression or another mental illness such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. It is upsetting to see a suicide portrayed as the suicidal person wanting others to feel guilty, rather than focusing on the person’s emotions and thoughts. 2. It adds fuel to the fire of suicide myths, like “suicide is selfish.” People who believe harmful myths about suicide can look to this movie and story to “prove” their point. The fact that Hannah, the girl who dies by suicide in the story, sends pre-recorded tapes detailing the reasons (both events and people’s actions) that led to her suicide is uncomfortable. And it should be. The moral of the story is we need to recognize how we treat people affects them in ways we don’t even know. That is true. But what is most uncomfortable is Hannah’s suicide is seen as a way to expose what people have done to her. It makes it seem as though she is a hero for calling out the harmful things that have been done to her. And while it is brave to confront bullying and stand up after an assault, it is harmful to be done posthumously, implying suicide was the only way to make her voice heard. 3. It devalues both suicide and bullying experiences. We see over and over again the stories about bullying that lead to suicide, but how accurate is this? And what message does it send? Experiencing bullying is traumatic and each individual copes in their own way. As mental health advocate and speaker Aliçia Raimundo says, “Your bullying experience is valid even if you were never suicidal and your feelings of suicide are valid even if you were never bullied.” Bullying does not directly cause suicide. And many recent youth suicides have been met with advocating for anti-bullying campaigns, which reduces and simplifies suicide. It also continues the idea that the normal outcome for bullying is suicide — which is simply not true. This isn’t to say bullying does not affect mental health or does not have an influence on someone becoming suicidal. It is saying that bullying is a risk factor, but a risk factor is not a cause . 4. It disregards the guidelines on safe and responsible reporting on suicide . We know Hannah dies by suicide. It is the premise of the story and revealed at the beginning, as the rest of the show depends on it. The show could have been effective and impactful without the graphic, detailed portrayal of Hannah’s suicide, which is a direct violation of research conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other suicide prevention organizations, when they found “risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.” 5. It doesn’t address mental illness in adolescence. Not all who die by suicide have mental illness, but a mental disorder and/or substance abuse is found in 90% of suicide deaths . And when it comes to adolescents, one in five have (or will have) a serious mental illness . With those statistics in mind, it’s no wonder suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 10 to 14 and the second among those 15 to 34 years old . Clearly, these are important issues and ones that need to be addressed. “13 Reasons Why” is one of the first and most popular mainstream media portrayals of suicide in adolescence and it doesn’t talk about mental illness at all. It is missing a crucial opportunity to discuss an issue affecting the lives of so many children and teenagers. 6. There is no example of successful help-seeking. A theme throughout the story is silence. None of the teenagers talk to their parents, faculty, staff or anyone but each other about their feelings. As Hannah was contemplating suicide and preparing the tapes, she gave “one try” to ask for help. Having Hannah go to the counselor and him failing to grasp her mental state and fail to help her, is sending a message that help is unattainable. That there is such a thing as “too late” to be helped. After her suicide, her peers also don’t receive help. Several characters have an extremely hard time coping with the tapes, but when parents ask, the students deny it. I understand teenagers can be brooding and moody, we get that. What would be helpful to teenagers today is to show how to ask for help, how treatment and counseling is available — not that everyone just accepts “I’m fine” at face value and that’s the end of the conversation. I wish even one character had someone intervene to shine some light, to be an image of hope, that could help the narrative from being one of desperation and silence to one that encourages conversation and help-seeking. There needs to be an example of what to do, not just what not to do. When we present a failing system without the avenue for change, it does not help to prevent the very thing the show is about. This is not to say the show and book are all bad. They get some things right, too. In particular, tackling rape culture and slut shaming was dealt with accurately. The scenes dealing with the assaults can be triggering, but it is not shown in the same graphic nature as Hannah’s suicide. The story acts as a warning and that moral of treating people well and being aware of how our words and actions affect others is a good one, I just think it gets muddled and lost at times. It’s stories like these that remind me of the work that needs to be done in the media to involve advocates, clinicians and people with lived experience to make sure we are presenting stories that need to be told in the most responsible and effective ways possible, along with representation of how to get help. 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 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page.

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

Woman Creates Creative DBT Self-Help Workbook

Throughout my illness and recovery, I have always been drawn to self-help books. Even when I was in treatment, I was often working through a self-help workbook in between sessions. It was my way really committing myself to recovery — I was doing the work on my own as well as with my therapist. I remember going to the bookstore and grabbing all the books I was interested in from the self-help and psychology sections and sitting on the ground going through them. Despite the many workbooks I’ve used, I didn’t find any that really clicked with what I was searching for. As I got further in my recovery, I strayed from the heavy, clinical workbooks to the genre of guided and interactive journals. These were often more creative, based in self-expression and fun to work through. However, I realized that while I loved the voice and approach of these journals, I missed having the clinical and researched aspect. I wanted the journal to be based in something that would help me, not just something that was purely fun or aesthetic. Finally I decided that since there wasn’t one that filled this gap between clinical and creative, I would make one myself. I proposed “What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing ” as my degree project and applied (and was accepted) to be an Active Minds Emerging Scholar to make it a reality. “What Now?” is a workbook/journal featuring creative prompts to help users process and express emotions in a visual, cheeky way. It’s organized into sections by core emotion. The prompts in the journal draw influence from several existing therapeutic approaches and theories, but mainly from art therapy and the skills and philosophy of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a treatment model that centers around mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. At its core, DBT is rooted in validation and in the synthesis of acceptance and change, and that theme runs throughout the journal. While the book isn’t a substitute for treatment, it can be an aid in managing the difficult emotions that may come with a mental health condition. The goal of this journal is to help people — especially young adults — improve emotional regulation, build resilience and increase (and destigmatize) help-seeking. I hope this book will provide an alternative way of journaling and a more creative approach to a workbook. I want people to be able to work through what life throws at them in a beneficial way, and I believe this will be an invaluable tool for managing mental health. Learn more about “What Now?” and get your copy by backing it on Kickstarter We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Alyse Ruriani

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
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When Mental Health Advocates Struggle, Too

I’m supposed to have my sh*t together. As an outspoken mental health advocate, president of my campus mental health student organization, and facilitator of a peer support group, I’m supposed to be “OK.” But what happens when I’m not? In these various roles, I’m always telling people their health is their priority, to ask for the help they need, and not to be ashamed of their struggle. Yet, as I sit here in the midst of a stubborn depressive episode, I can’t help but feel guilty. Having responsibilities and expectations — especially ones intrinsically related to my recovery — can make any symptom flare-up or episode feel like a failure. It’s a double-edged sword, as these roles are often what keep me strong in my recovery — but they can also make me hesitate to ask for help or reveal how badly I’m struggling. I feel there is a special kind of stigma attached to people who are open about their mental illness recovery or work in the field. There can be an expectation that we have to be constantly good at recovery — we can struggle, but we can’t fall; we can have a hard time, but we can’t have a crisis. It may be the fact that we have all this knowledge about treatment and coping, so shouldn’t we be able to make it through on our own? But this idea that we need to have our sh*t together goes against the very nature of what we’re trying to do — show that mental illness is real, that it’s hard, and that it’s something many people have to live with, including ourselves. I’m realizing I subconsciously sugarcoat my struggles. I am always fairly open on social media whenever I’m struggling, because that is at the core of my advocacy, but I noticed I am not always truthful about the extent of it. I feel as though I cannot have any suicidal thoughts, because it will discredit all the work I do or affect my future in the mental health field. I fear the connections I’ve made with clinicians, school administration and mental health organizations will be damaged because I may no longer be seen as someone “on the other side,” but as someone actively unstable. The depressive episode I’m currently in has been one of my hardest in a while, but I’ve been afraid to tell the truth about the depth of it because I am expected to be well — to be a “Functioning Person who is Good at Recovery.” Most days, I am pretty good at this recovery thing. I’ve lived to see the sunrise after many dark nights. I’ve shared my story to help others and continue to use it to fuel the work I do. But I have to remember I am still allowed to struggle — I’m even allowed to feel hopeless. My illness doesn’t just go away because I’m an advocate. It’s still there, and it’s OK that I’m having a difficult time right now. It’s OK for me, someone who is often the helper, to get help. Right now, my sh*t is not together, and you know what? That’s OK. Image via Thinkstock. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Follow this journey on Alyse Ruriani‘s blog.

Alyse Ruriani
Alyse Ruriani @arur
contributor

'Law & Order: SVU': Survivor's Guilt for Suicide Attempt Survivor

Last night, I was watching “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” a series I’ve known and loved for probably half my life. It is an emotional show dealing with tough topics, so it’s not unusual for a scene or a quote to strike me. However, this time was different. Usually, the words that stick with me are pertaining to assault or trauma, which is what the show is centered around. This time, the quote shook me where I wasn’t expecting it — touching an emotion deep within me in regards to being a suicide attempt survivor. In the scene, Sergeant Olivia Benson is meeting with her therapist as she grieves the death of a friend and coworker. The colleague died on the job, and Olivia was there. She felt guilty over the fact that it could have — or should have — been her, and not her coworker who was killed. As she’s tearing up, her therapist says: “You’ve got to mourn this loss, but you cannot judge yourself for feeling relieved that you’re alive.” I lost my breath for a moment as my mind raced back to 17-year-old me waking up in the ICU, waiting to hear back about the extent of damage my own hand had done to my own body. I had tried to make myself stop breathing, to take myself off this Earth, because I was convinced I was a burden and that life just was not for me. But I woke up. At the time, everyone was asking me if I was happy I was still alive. I remember giving a half-assed shrug and smile — I didn’t know what to think. Less than 24 hours ago I had intended to die, and now I’m supposed to feel happy I didn’t? A part of me was grateful, but I was mostly just confused. I did not have time to process it yet. The biggest thing racing through my mind as my attempt was being reversed and I was deemed medically stable was, “Why?” Why me? Why did I survive? If 105 people die by suicide in the U.S. every day, how come I was not one of them? I was overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of all the people who didn’t get to wake up alive. I felt guilty I was saved in time — that others were not as fortunate to have made it, but I was. What made me so special that God or Fate or whoever spared me? Today, I am grateful I lived, but every time I hear of another suicide, that pang of guilt comes flooding back. “You’ve got to mourn this loss, but you cannot judge yourself for feeling relieved that you’re alive.” I am allowed to be happy I am alive. I am allowed to feel grateful for the fact I was not one of the 105 that day. I am also allowed to mourn all the ones who didn’t get that second chance. But I should not feel guilt over things out of my control — of the suicides that were not prevented in time. Now, instead of feeling guilty, I take action. The fact I’m still here has solidified my passion for advocacy and healing. I feel as though I can’t let my lived experience “go to waste.” I use my voice and my life in honor of those who don’t have theirs anymore — those who didn’t get a chance to see things get better. I am alive, and I will always remember I’m lucky to say that. Follow this journey on Alyse Ruriani‘s blog. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. Lead photo source: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit