Kurt Morris

@kurt-morris | contributor
Kurt is a mental health advocate, writer, and storyteller. He's written for Stigma Fighters, Vice, and others. He's also a Moth StorySlam winner. You can read more of his writing at kurtmorris.net.
Community Voices

How I make it through my suicidal ideation

I have a strange relationship

with death. I tried to kill myself in 2001 and again in 2011. Since then I haven’t attempted #Suicide

but on a semi-frequent basis I sit with thoughts of what it would be like to

take my own life.

Existence, in its most discouraging

and alienating moments, is a slog. It feels like steel sharpening against the

grinding wheel, except I’m not so sturdy. I’m just skin, muscles, and a heart that pumps blood. In

my lower moments my mind feels what I imagine it would be like to have my flesh

pressed against the grinding wheel as it rotates at hundreds of RPMs. Existence with mental illness can shred and disintegrate any

sensible thoughts and coherency. I break down. I wish for death and start to

think about ways to make that happen.

 

The thoughts that send me to

suicidal ideation include discouragement. I become frustrated that my life is

not where I want it to be. I yearn to be living a different existence where I’m

in line with my goals and dreams. I want happiness. Yet, at times of suicidal

ideation, it feels it will be forever until I have some joy. Feelings of

despair are so thick, I don’t know if happiness can ever break through them.

 

What many people don’t realize

is that #Depression is like chronic physical illness. Those diagnosed with

Crohn’s disease or #Fibromyalgia have flare-ups. And while I don’t deal with

those illnesses, I do have flare-ups with my suicidal ideation. My brain

attacks itself and thinks it logically makes sense to end my life. It’s easier that way, my mind says.

It’s a means to escape the suffering. I dwell on the details—what it

would feel like in those moments before I die and then what it would be like to

feel no pain at all.

 

But I always pull back. It can

take minutes or hours or, with a bad case, a few days. But I recoil from those

untrue thoughts of myself. Because that’s what they are—untrue. I’ve suffered

from depression for approximately 25 years. Yet I have found again and again

that with the passing of time I pull through my discouragement and mental pain.

I remain vigilant for when the experiences occur. I tell myself that those

thoughts are a passing phase and there is a possibility of positive change.

Keeping myself ready to handle suicidal thoughts isn’t easy. But as Charles

Bukowski once wrote, “What matters most is how you walk through the fire.” The

mental burn of ideation is harsh, but I’m making it through the flames. And

that’s what is important.

Community Voices

The most surprising part of speaking out on my mental health

My emergence into the world of #MentalHealth advocacy in 2016 began as a slow crawl. I started by speaking up on social media and through my writing. I felt like a turtle, peeking its head out of its hard shell. I took a tender step here and another one there. I wanted to make sure the path was clear. I didn’t want judgment or persecution for speaking about my experiences.

My intention was to spread the word: “It’s okay to talk about how you feel. There is hope. You can make it through tough times.” That was all I had in mind. I’d share some thoughts, awaken people to an issue, and leave it at that.

In 2017 I came to a point where I knew I wanted to speak out more about my struggles. My initial forays had received some positive feedback. I was ready to go all in, whatever that might look like. I started writing more articles on the subject and spoke about it with friends and acquaintances. I began to identify myself as a mental health advocate. It was weird at first. I didn’t know if I deserved to call myself that. Yet over many months I’ve accepted such a designation—I want to talk about #Depression, #Anxiety, and #Suicide with others.

I’ve had many surprises since being more vocal about my mental health. I’m amazed people have an interest in what I have to say and that they share my articles or videos with others. Yet the biggest surprise is how my discussion of mental health inspires people to come to me with their issues.

Often times it’s people I don’t know very well or haven’t spoken with in ages. They connect with me after reading a post on my Facebook page or blog. This shouldn’t shock me, but it does. I know I’ve come a long way with my mental health, but it still sits oddly to have others ask me for advice.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances tell me deep details about their relationship struggles. They’ve shared their thoughts of suicide, and attempts to talk their partners down from killing themselves. I’ve chatted with people on Facebook messenger. I even spoke with one guy for an hour over my lunch break about what it’s like to date someone who has #BipolarDisorder.

I do my best to share the things I’ve learned in my 15+ years of therapy. My primary message is that I understand what they’re saying and am sorry they’re going through what they are. Don’t be afraid to seek out help, I tell them. Engage in some self-care; there’s nothing wrong with taking a mental health day from work.

What has occurred through others’ sharing is that I’ve found my levels of empathy growing.I’ve always been sensitive to others’ needs, but my struggles with mental health have only caused me to grow even more in that way. Men I viewed as tough and macho find sadness embracing them daily. Women accomplished in their careers find worry racking them. Successful parents face the depths of despair. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at Instagram or Snapchat, but we all hurt.

Your life doesn’t have to be in perfect order to share your experience. I’m certain mine isn’t.Yet through telling others about what I’ve gone through, and trying to spread some hope, I’ve inadvertently found the most rewarding (and surprising) part of my mental health journey. I feel humbled and honored to help others along the way.

Community Voices

Overcoming loneliness saved my life

It was college freshman orientation day and if you’re anything like me you were anxious, scared and looking for anyone with whom you might connect. There I was, my t-shirt promoting some punk band, wallet chain, shaved head, and a backpack with patches for bands and record labels I was liked.

Up until that point, everyone I saw on the campus of my small, private, liberal arts college in Indiana appeared as though they had come out of a fashion catalog: perfectly pressed clothes, sculpted hair, loafers or boat shoes.

It was in the student union I saw him: a kid with spiky pink hair. I was hopeful–here was the guy who would certainly be my new best friend. In the small, suburban Indiana town in which I grew up, I knew spiky pink hair meant punk. Seeing this kid was like finding an oasis in the midst of a field of white lilies. I mean, sure, he was wearing flip-flops whereas most of my friends wore combat boots or Chuck Taylors, but nobody’s perfect.

“Hey!” I said to him. “I like your hair.”

I asked him his name and told him mine. We got to talking about music and I started mentioning different punk bands I listened to. I had an excited look on my face. But what followed was a heartbreaking silence that I can still recall to this day.

“Um, I only listen to Christian punk.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with listening to that genre of punk, but it wasn’t the answer I was looking for. And that was the beginning of me not fitting in during the supposed best years of my life.

Why had I even attended this dumb school amidst cornfields and a 20-minute drive from the nearest fast food restaurant? #Anxiety. Fear. #Depression. I never wanted to go to college in the first place. What I really wanted to do was just not exist. I wanted to sink into the depression that hounded me throughout high school and have it swallow me whole. My poor #MentalHealth complicated my decision. Think about it: would you let a 17-year-old mentally ill kid decide the direction of the next four years of your life?

But my parents pushed education and I wanted to please them. So I applied to one school: the same one my sister attended because at least I’d know her and her friends. And that seemed a lot less stressful than being overwhelmed with tens of thousands of students at one of the state schools.

Over time I made a few friends—through a class or because they dressed slightly weird. But my anxiety and depression quite often exasperated my situation. I would get so nervous about trying to interact with others that I would on occasion throw up in the bathroom. Or I would just say no to everyone and spend all my time in my dorm room.

One day my senior year I sat with one of my few friends by the train tracks that ran through town. We lay in the sun and read for class. She didn’t share my taste in music but by this point, I was desperate enough for connections that I was even willing to accept someone as my friend who loved angry female singer-songwriters.

I told her I imagined throwing myself off the bridge above and in front of an oncoming train. It came up often, actually. She asked me if I had considered going to therapy. I hadn’t. I’m not sure why. I guess it was just part of growing up in rural Indiana.

But I looked into it and started going. It was difficult to change my behavior of negativity and my low self-esteem. In fact, it took many years past college until I felt like I had a handle on things.

But mental illness has this incredible power to allow us to feel as though we’re the only one suffering. To cause us to feel incredibly lonely. It warps our sense of reality.

I know my depression and anxiety weren’t just some aberrations in my life–they’re what I live with. Looking back, I’m glad I took that chance on someone different than me. It’s not to say that she saved my life. But she pointed me in the right direction so that I could learn to save my own.

Kurt Morris

Loneliness Isn't an 'Epidemic' That Needs to Be Solved

The past few years have seen podcasts, magazine articles and books about the problem of loneliness in our society. Now former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, has written a piece for Harvard Business Review about the perils of loneliness, especially as it relates to the workplace. I won’t take up the thrust of Murthy’s argument in the use of the workplace in handling loneliness. However, I do find reason to offer a critique of his notion that loneliness is a problem that needs solved. To the contrary, my experiences with loneliness have solidified my self-reliance. They have also given me strength and caused me to appreciate the relationships I have. While it seemed unbearable at times, I would go through it again as it taught me much about myself. Studies show there are health risks associated with loneliness and I don’t doubt that. I also won’t deny the importance of human connection. Similarly, I don’t deny the problems of loneliness for the elderly and ill. I live in a building with many senior citizens and am concerned for their health and well-being. Last year my neighbor fell and was on the floor of his apartment for over a day. I am thankful he had a connection to a friend with whom he speaks on a regular basis and who noticed he hadn’t heard from my neighbor. Murthy strikes a different tone with loneliness. He states: “…to truly solve loneliness requires the engagement of institutions where people spend the bulk of their time: families, schools, social organizations and the workplace.” But why is loneliness a problem to solve? In labeling loneliness as such, it suggests it’s wrong. Doing so can only create feelings of guilt when individuals seek bonds but don’t find them. I would argue the existentialist view is correct: loneliness is inherent in all our lives from the time we are born until the time we die. Some may see that as sad and depressing, but as Michele Carter wrote, loneliness is “an ineliminable feature of our species.” It’s likely the issue is more in how we see loneliness itself. As one article stated, “…studies have shown that lonely people have incorrect assumptions about themselves and about how other people perceive them.” Coping skills found in cognitive behavioral therapy can help us accept loneliness as part of the human experience. We could also learn to readjust our assumptions about ourselves and others. I write about all of this from a great amount of personal experience. After completing graduate school in 2005 I took a job at a university library for 10 months. This school was home to brilliant professors and undergraduates who came from prestigious backgrounds. Meanwhile, much of the library staff were locals, many without a college education. I found myself unable to identify with either group. I worked afternoons and evenings in the basement, growing despondent with my lack of immediate friendships. There was a protracted suffocation that came with the work. These items weren’t listed on the job description. A darkened basement, relative silence, interactions with people the likes of whom I tried to relate but failed. (Was it me? Was it them? I never found an answer, but did find guilt for thinking if I only did a little better, I could find bonds.) That was me, desperate for connections and friends that were few and far between. The most immediate ones were shallow and meaningless — a few random souls whose names I can no longer remember. At the end of that school year I moved to Seattle. I had friends there and knew its vibe matched the excitement I wanted. I packed all my belongings into my black Toyota Corolla and made a clean break with my miserable loneliness. Yet in hindsight it was in those months I found myself. When one is at their loneliest — and ensconced in depression — all the following experiences are delicious riches. Those 10 months showed me the importance of reaching out to the friends I do have scattered all around the world. That time also revealed to me the strength I have to handle life on my own. I did what I had to survive: took up writing projects, walked a lot, read, did yoga and watched movies. The sadness did not crush me. The loneliness did not make me despair forever. And through that time I began to learn the coping skills I might need should the loneliness come again (and it did). Today I have a fortitude for being alone. I’ve been in a relationship for many years and love my partner. Yet I’m also comfortable with feeling disconnected from friends and family to the point of, at times, being uncomfortable. It was not easy but the tie I forged with myself that year is amongst the most important I will ever know. Thus, loneliness isn’t, as Murthy would suggest, entirely an epidemic that needs solved. Rather it is for many of us a lived experience from which we can learn a great deal about ourselves. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Kurt Morris

Loneliness Isn't an 'Epidemic' That Needs to Be Solved

The past few years have seen podcasts, magazine articles and books about the problem of loneliness in our society. Now former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, has written a piece for Harvard Business Review about the perils of loneliness, especially as it relates to the workplace. I won’t take up the thrust of Murthy’s argument in the use of the workplace in handling loneliness. However, I do find reason to offer a critique of his notion that loneliness is a problem that needs solved. To the contrary, my experiences with loneliness have solidified my self-reliance. They have also given me strength and caused me to appreciate the relationships I have. While it seemed unbearable at times, I would go through it again as it taught me much about myself. Studies show there are health risks associated with loneliness and I don’t doubt that. I also won’t deny the importance of human connection. Similarly, I don’t deny the problems of loneliness for the elderly and ill. I live in a building with many senior citizens and am concerned for their health and well-being. Last year my neighbor fell and was on the floor of his apartment for over a day. I am thankful he had a connection to a friend with whom he speaks on a regular basis and who noticed he hadn’t heard from my neighbor. Murthy strikes a different tone with loneliness. He states: “…to truly solve loneliness requires the engagement of institutions where people spend the bulk of their time: families, schools, social organizations and the workplace.” But why is loneliness a problem to solve? In labeling loneliness as such, it suggests it’s wrong. Doing so can only create feelings of guilt when individuals seek bonds but don’t find them. I would argue the existentialist view is correct: loneliness is inherent in all our lives from the time we are born until the time we die. Some may see that as sad and depressing, but as Michele Carter wrote, loneliness is “an ineliminable feature of our species.” It’s likely the issue is more in how we see loneliness itself. As one article stated, “…studies have shown that lonely people have incorrect assumptions about themselves and about how other people perceive them.” Coping skills found in cognitive behavioral therapy can help us accept loneliness as part of the human experience. We could also learn to readjust our assumptions about ourselves and others. I write about all of this from a great amount of personal experience. After completing graduate school in 2005 I took a job at a university library for 10 months. This school was home to brilliant professors and undergraduates who came from prestigious backgrounds. Meanwhile, much of the library staff were locals, many without a college education. I found myself unable to identify with either group. I worked afternoons and evenings in the basement, growing despondent with my lack of immediate friendships. There was a protracted suffocation that came with the work. These items weren’t listed on the job description. A darkened basement, relative silence, interactions with people the likes of whom I tried to relate but failed. (Was it me? Was it them? I never found an answer, but did find guilt for thinking if I only did a little better, I could find bonds.) That was me, desperate for connections and friends that were few and far between. The most immediate ones were shallow and meaningless — a few random souls whose names I can no longer remember. At the end of that school year I moved to Seattle. I had friends there and knew its vibe matched the excitement I wanted. I packed all my belongings into my black Toyota Corolla and made a clean break with my miserable loneliness. Yet in hindsight it was in those months I found myself. When one is at their loneliest — and ensconced in depression — all the following experiences are delicious riches. Those 10 months showed me the importance of reaching out to the friends I do have scattered all around the world. That time also revealed to me the strength I have to handle life on my own. I did what I had to survive: took up writing projects, walked a lot, read, did yoga and watched movies. The sadness did not crush me. The loneliness did not make me despair forever. And through that time I began to learn the coping skills I might need should the loneliness come again (and it did). Today I have a fortitude for being alone. I’ve been in a relationship for many years and love my partner. Yet I’m also comfortable with feeling disconnected from friends and family to the point of, at times, being uncomfortable. It was not easy but the tie I forged with myself that year is amongst the most important I will ever know. Thus, loneliness isn’t, as Murthy would suggest, entirely an epidemic that needs solved. Rather it is for many of us a lived experience from which we can learn a great deal about ourselves. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Kurt Morris

The Most 'Embarrassing' Part of My Bipolar Disorder

In 2008, I was living in Seattle and trying my hand at online dating. I was also in the midst of bipolar disorder type II. I was taking medications, but they didn’t seem to be working. I found myself often insensitive to others, irritable and depressed. Bipolar disorder also has a bad tendency to cause one to turn inward, away from caring about others, despite our best attempts. I met Abbie* through an online dating website. She was very sweet and cute. We went out for a few months—going out to eat, spending the night at one another’s apartments, and talking about music, movies and life. Yet I began to have doubts. Abbie was much more affectionate toward me than I toward her. She latched on and complimented me to no end about my intelligence, looks, how I was caring and my sense of humor. It got to the point where I began to wonder if she was talking about me or someone else. My self-esteem was not skyrocketing all the time and it was difficult, if not impossible to believe her when she said such things to me. After dating for a few months, my doubts overwhelmed any sense of affection I may have had for her. Additionally, as a fairly organized person, I had grown irritable with the clutter and messiness at her apartment as well as the disarray in her personal life. “So, we need to talk,” I said to her in a serious tone. “Uh, sure. What’s up?” she asked. Her voice acknowledged that my tone had meant business. Her normal upbeat energy was lost. “I’m not really feeling as though this is working out with us. I like you but I’m not at a place where I can be in a relationship. I thought I was, but it took me some time to realize that I’m not. I’ve got too many issues to work through.” She began to tear up. “What kind of issues?” “Ah, you know. I’m depressed a lot and anxious.” “I don’t care. I’m willing to be there for you when you feel that way.” “Yeah, I dunno. I just don’t feel like this is working out.” She was crying now. I began to feel my stomach rise in my gut. I hate to make people cry, especially people I am dating. “Why are you just telling me all this now? You never open up to me!” She was getting angry and I recoiled inside. I didn’t want a confrontation. I wanted a quick tear of the bandage — right off — and have it over. “Uh, I feel like I opened up to you quite a bit. I shared with you some pretty personal things.” I started getting defensive. Any sense of empathy or kindness I had toward her was quickly dissolving. “No, I mean how you’re feeling now. You never tell me what you’re feeling.” “Well, I’m telling you how I feel now,” I said, angrily. “No, you don’t. It’s so frustrating how you keep so much inside. I never know what you’re thinking.” She did have a point. Openness wasn’t always my strongest suit. My therapist and journals got an earful but I was cautious with what I told partners and friends. I suppose I didn’t want to overburden anyone with my life’s complaints. Still, I felt I had been open with Abbie — more than I’d been with anyone in a long time. “I don’t know what to tell you, Abbie. I feel like I was being open.” I was petulant and uncaring by this point. I wanted out. We spoke a few times afterward and got a meal or two together, and then went our own ways. A few months later, I moved across the country but never spoke with her again. Recently, in going through some old emails, I realized how much pain my irritability and frustration with her caused. I reread something I had forgotten: Abbie grew up with abuse and homelessness. It’s possible she didn’t have the best examples of love and relationships. She had experienced a lot of hurt and pain in her childhood. I didn’t do a great job treating her with kindness and empathy. My depression and crabbiness often cause me to be a self-centered, hurtful jerk. I can be insensitive to everything but my own concerns. Abbie didn’t need my few months of acting like I cared, only to have me pull the rug out under her. She needed love and respect and appreciation. I tried to give her some of that but I wasn’t the right person to do so. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten out of the situation without hurting her to some degree. From my perspective, it was inevitable. Hindsight shows me that all she was looking for was love, and I did a poor job communicating with her. I may have kept too much to myself. But I feel pretty bad about how I treated someone who grew up in homeless shelters and at the hands of abusive family members. There could’ve been more sensitivity on my part. My bipolar disorder, though, has a tendency to crush that sensitivity. It causes me to focus on myself and grow cantankerous at things that aren’t exactly how I want them. It’s one of the least flattering parts of my personality — the thing that, when it occurs, embarrasses me the most. * Name has been changed for privacy. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty Images photo via Vasyl Dolmatov

Kurt Morris

Loneliness Isn't an 'Epidemic' That Needs to Be Solved

The past few years have seen podcasts, magazine articles and books about the problem of loneliness in our society. Now former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, has written a piece for Harvard Business Review about the perils of loneliness, especially as it relates to the workplace. I won’t take up the thrust of Murthy’s argument in the use of the workplace in handling loneliness. However, I do find reason to offer a critique of his notion that loneliness is a problem that needs solved. To the contrary, my experiences with loneliness have solidified my self-reliance. They have also given me strength and caused me to appreciate the relationships I have. While it seemed unbearable at times, I would go through it again as it taught me much about myself. Studies show there are health risks associated with loneliness and I don’t doubt that. I also won’t deny the importance of human connection. Similarly, I don’t deny the problems of loneliness for the elderly and ill. I live in a building with many senior citizens and am concerned for their health and well-being. Last year my neighbor fell and was on the floor of his apartment for over a day. I am thankful he had a connection to a friend with whom he speaks on a regular basis and who noticed he hadn’t heard from my neighbor. Murthy strikes a different tone with loneliness. He states: “…to truly solve loneliness requires the engagement of institutions where people spend the bulk of their time: families, schools, social organizations and the workplace.” But why is loneliness a problem to solve? In labeling loneliness as such, it suggests it’s wrong. Doing so can only create feelings of guilt when individuals seek bonds but don’t find them. I would argue the existentialist view is correct: loneliness is inherent in all our lives from the time we are born until the time we die. Some may see that as sad and depressing, but as Michele Carter wrote, loneliness is “an ineliminable feature of our species.” It’s likely the issue is more in how we see loneliness itself. As one article stated, “…studies have shown that lonely people have incorrect assumptions about themselves and about how other people perceive them.” Coping skills found in cognitive behavioral therapy can help us accept loneliness as part of the human experience. We could also learn to readjust our assumptions about ourselves and others. I write about all of this from a great amount of personal experience. After completing graduate school in 2005 I took a job at a university library for 10 months. This school was home to brilliant professors and undergraduates who came from prestigious backgrounds. Meanwhile, much of the library staff were locals, many without a college education. I found myself unable to identify with either group. I worked afternoons and evenings in the basement, growing despondent with my lack of immediate friendships. There was a protracted suffocation that came with the work. These items weren’t listed on the job description. A darkened basement, relative silence, interactions with people the likes of whom I tried to relate but failed. (Was it me? Was it them? I never found an answer, but did find guilt for thinking if I only did a little better, I could find bonds.) That was me, desperate for connections and friends that were few and far between. The most immediate ones were shallow and meaningless — a few random souls whose names I can no longer remember. At the end of that school year I moved to Seattle. I had friends there and knew its vibe matched the excitement I wanted. I packed all my belongings into my black Toyota Corolla and made a clean break with my miserable loneliness. Yet in hindsight it was in those months I found myself. When one is at their loneliest — and ensconced in depression — all the following experiences are delicious riches. Those 10 months showed me the importance of reaching out to the friends I do have scattered all around the world. That time also revealed to me the strength I have to handle life on my own. I did what I had to survive: took up writing projects, walked a lot, read, did yoga and watched movies. The sadness did not crush me. The loneliness did not make me despair forever. And through that time I began to learn the coping skills I might need should the loneliness come again (and it did). Today I have a fortitude for being alone. I’ve been in a relationship for many years and love my partner. Yet I’m also comfortable with feeling disconnected from friends and family to the point of, at times, being uncomfortable. It was not easy but the tie I forged with myself that year is amongst the most important I will ever know. Thus, loneliness isn’t, as Murthy would suggest, entirely an epidemic that needs solved. Rather it is for many of us a lived experience from which we can learn a great deal about ourselves. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Kurt Morris

Loneliness Isn't an 'Epidemic' That Needs to Be Solved

The past few years have seen podcasts, magazine articles and books about the problem of loneliness in our society. Now former Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, has written a piece for Harvard Business Review about the perils of loneliness, especially as it relates to the workplace. I won’t take up the thrust of Murthy’s argument in the use of the workplace in handling loneliness. However, I do find reason to offer a critique of his notion that loneliness is a problem that needs solved. To the contrary, my experiences with loneliness have solidified my self-reliance. They have also given me strength and caused me to appreciate the relationships I have. While it seemed unbearable at times, I would go through it again as it taught me much about myself. Studies show there are health risks associated with loneliness and I don’t doubt that. I also won’t deny the importance of human connection. Similarly, I don’t deny the problems of loneliness for the elderly and ill. I live in a building with many senior citizens and am concerned for their health and well-being. Last year my neighbor fell and was on the floor of his apartment for over a day. I am thankful he had a connection to a friend with whom he speaks on a regular basis and who noticed he hadn’t heard from my neighbor. Murthy strikes a different tone with loneliness. He states: “…to truly solve loneliness requires the engagement of institutions where people spend the bulk of their time: families, schools, social organizations and the workplace.” But why is loneliness a problem to solve? In labeling loneliness as such, it suggests it’s wrong. Doing so can only create feelings of guilt when individuals seek bonds but don’t find them. I would argue the existentialist view is correct: loneliness is inherent in all our lives from the time we are born until the time we die. Some may see that as sad and depressing, but as Michele Carter wrote, loneliness is “an ineliminable feature of our species.” It’s likely the issue is more in how we see loneliness itself. As one article stated, “…studies have shown that lonely people have incorrect assumptions about themselves and about how other people perceive them.” Coping skills found in cognitive behavioral therapy can help us accept loneliness as part of the human experience. We could also learn to readjust our assumptions about ourselves and others. I write about all of this from a great amount of personal experience. After completing graduate school in 2005 I took a job at a university library for 10 months. This school was home to brilliant professors and undergraduates who came from prestigious backgrounds. Meanwhile, much of the library staff were locals, many without a college education. I found myself unable to identify with either group. I worked afternoons and evenings in the basement, growing despondent with my lack of immediate friendships. There was a protracted suffocation that came with the work. These items weren’t listed on the job description. A darkened basement, relative silence, interactions with people the likes of whom I tried to relate but failed. (Was it me? Was it them? I never found an answer, but did find guilt for thinking if I only did a little better, I could find bonds.) That was me, desperate for connections and friends that were few and far between. The most immediate ones were shallow and meaningless — a few random souls whose names I can no longer remember. At the end of that school year I moved to Seattle. I had friends there and knew its vibe matched the excitement I wanted. I packed all my belongings into my black Toyota Corolla and made a clean break with my miserable loneliness. Yet in hindsight it was in those months I found myself. When one is at their loneliest — and ensconced in depression — all the following experiences are delicious riches. Those 10 months showed me the importance of reaching out to the friends I do have scattered all around the world. That time also revealed to me the strength I have to handle life on my own. I did what I had to survive: took up writing projects, walked a lot, read, did yoga and watched movies. The sadness did not crush me. The loneliness did not make me despair forever. And through that time I began to learn the coping skills I might need should the loneliness come again (and it did). Today I have a fortitude for being alone. I’ve been in a relationship for many years and love my partner. Yet I’m also comfortable with feeling disconnected from friends and family to the point of, at times, being uncomfortable. It was not easy but the tie I forged with myself that year is amongst the most important I will ever know. Thus, loneliness isn’t, as Murthy would suggest, entirely an epidemic that needs solved. Rather it is for many of us a lived experience from which we can learn a great deal about ourselves. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Kurt Morris

The Most 'Embarrassing' Part of My Bipolar Disorder

In 2008, I was living in Seattle and trying my hand at online dating. I was also in the midst of bipolar disorder type II. I was taking medications, but they didn’t seem to be working. I found myself often insensitive to others, irritable and depressed. Bipolar disorder also has a bad tendency to cause one to turn inward, away from caring about others, despite our best attempts. I met Abbie* through an online dating website. She was very sweet and cute. We went out for a few months—going out to eat, spending the night at one another’s apartments, and talking about music, movies and life. Yet I began to have doubts. Abbie was much more affectionate toward me than I toward her. She latched on and complimented me to no end about my intelligence, looks, how I was caring and my sense of humor. It got to the point where I began to wonder if she was talking about me or someone else. My self-esteem was not skyrocketing all the time and it was difficult, if not impossible to believe her when she said such things to me. After dating for a few months, my doubts overwhelmed any sense of affection I may have had for her. Additionally, as a fairly organized person, I had grown irritable with the clutter and messiness at her apartment as well as the disarray in her personal life. “So, we need to talk,” I said to her in a serious tone. “Uh, sure. What’s up?” she asked. Her voice acknowledged that my tone had meant business. Her normal upbeat energy was lost. “I’m not really feeling as though this is working out with us. I like you but I’m not at a place where I can be in a relationship. I thought I was, but it took me some time to realize that I’m not. I’ve got too many issues to work through.” She began to tear up. “What kind of issues?” “Ah, you know. I’m depressed a lot and anxious.” “I don’t care. I’m willing to be there for you when you feel that way.” “Yeah, I dunno. I just don’t feel like this is working out.” She was crying now. I began to feel my stomach rise in my gut. I hate to make people cry, especially people I am dating. “Why are you just telling me all this now? You never open up to me!” She was getting angry and I recoiled inside. I didn’t want a confrontation. I wanted a quick tear of the bandage — right off — and have it over. “Uh, I feel like I opened up to you quite a bit. I shared with you some pretty personal things.” I started getting defensive. Any sense of empathy or kindness I had toward her was quickly dissolving. “No, I mean how you’re feeling now. You never tell me what you’re feeling.” “Well, I’m telling you how I feel now,” I said, angrily. “No, you don’t. It’s so frustrating how you keep so much inside. I never know what you’re thinking.” She did have a point. Openness wasn’t always my strongest suit. My therapist and journals got an earful but I was cautious with what I told partners and friends. I suppose I didn’t want to overburden anyone with my life’s complaints. Still, I felt I had been open with Abbie — more than I’d been with anyone in a long time. “I don’t know what to tell you, Abbie. I feel like I was being open.” I was petulant and uncaring by this point. I wanted out. We spoke a few times afterward and got a meal or two together, and then went our own ways. A few months later, I moved across the country but never spoke with her again. Recently, in going through some old emails, I realized how much pain my irritability and frustration with her caused. I reread something I had forgotten: Abbie grew up with abuse and homelessness. It’s possible she didn’t have the best examples of love and relationships. She had experienced a lot of hurt and pain in her childhood. I didn’t do a great job treating her with kindness and empathy. My depression and crabbiness often cause me to be a self-centered, hurtful jerk. I can be insensitive to everything but my own concerns. Abbie didn’t need my few months of acting like I cared, only to have me pull the rug out under her. She needed love and respect and appreciation. I tried to give her some of that but I wasn’t the right person to do so. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten out of the situation without hurting her to some degree. From my perspective, it was inevitable. Hindsight shows me that all she was looking for was love, and I did a poor job communicating with her. I may have kept too much to myself. But I feel pretty bad about how I treated someone who grew up in homeless shelters and at the hands of abusive family members. There could’ve been more sensitivity on my part. My bipolar disorder, though, has a tendency to crush that sensitivity. It causes me to focus on myself and grow cantankerous at things that aren’t exactly how I want them. It’s one of the least flattering parts of my personality — the thing that, when it occurs, embarrasses me the most. * Name has been changed for privacy. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty Images photo via Vasyl Dolmatov

Kurt Morris

When Mental Illness Makes It Hard to Protest Against Injustice

It’s been months since I felt the literal suicidal despair of the acknowledgment of a Donald Trump presidency. I didn’t know how to express how I was feeling, so I wrote a zine called “Donald Trump (almost) ate my brain.” I tried to get my thoughts down in a coherent form and express them to others with the hope they would relate. I’m a recovering anxiety -prone individual. Through imaginary conversations, I’ve learned how to tamp down the feelings of despair to a reasonable place. “Everything will be OK. You’ll survive. It’s unlikely there will be concentration camps for straight, white, male liberals.” It may seem I’m joking, but unfortunately, I’m neurotic. In the time since the election of Trump, I’ve found myself stricken with my recurring depression (a frequent visitor for 25 years). I don’t find it surprising that I’d feel depressed about the current situation in the United States. My dejection and suicidal ideation have taught me to be empathetic. I hate to see human beings in pain or struggling — especially those who aren’t like me. Besides, I have people of color and women in my life — two of the many groups with whom Trump and his followers have issues. I’d love to see myself on the streets fighting with Antifa against neo-Nazis. I’d love to be at every protest — I’ve attended a few. Living in a liberal state with Democratic Reps and Senators, I don’t know what else I can do. Sometimes I’m more conservative than my congressperson. He sends out weekly email updates, I read them and nod my head in agreement, but other times think, “Woah, man. Calm down!” He’s pissed but in a controlled, professional manner. I’ve become lethargic. I read articles and comments on social media about how everyone should be out on the streets and fighting against racial oppression. According to some Twitter users the time in which we now live is no different than the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. A post on Twitter stated something to the degree of: “You’d stand up back then, right? Why not do so now? You’re responsible for racism and what white supremacists are doing if you don’t take a stand against it.” I felt guilty upon reading that. I don’t want to be complicit in racism. I want to stand up and protest. But what do I do when I contemplate death and wishing I didn’t have to exist because of the constant assault on my mental health by my depression? Some mornings it’s tough for me to get out of bed. Most days being at work leaves me with too much time to think about how miserable I am. How do I fight against oppression in the midst of this? It’s quite possible that the entire system of government in the United States is bigger than any one of us. We can try to get our voices out there. Yet what does it mean to sound off on social media or protest or call my representative whose feelings and beliefs mirror my own? All this is speaking into a void. If you’re not feeling up for radical activism, or your current environment doesn’t invite it, but you want to take part in fighting against injustice, there are options. One is to reach for your wallet and chip in some money to a worthwhile cause. Another possibility is volunteering for a non-profit. I write for a depression awareness group and that makes me feel as though I’m doing something worthwhile. Donating money, volunteering — these are the things I do when there are waves of despair crashing in on me due to our current political situation. If nothing else, it’s enough to spread a kind word. When I read the news I want to scream, “ Why can’t we all be nice to each other? ” and then I realize that’s all I can do: show kindness and empathy while spreading that message in conversations and my writing. That includes being kind to myself: I need to take care of me and know it’s OK to not feel guilty for doing so. It’s been a year since the election. It’s been a time of hate and hurt, despair and depression. Some may think I’m being a “sensitive snowflake.” But I want people to treat others how they would like to be treated. If nothing else, I’d love to get someone to ask him or herself, “How will my actions affect others?” I was able to find some ways to help with my mood. I made some goals back in April — I needed something to distract my mind from feelings of helplessness. I’m doing my best to follow through with them: write more, submit that writing for publication, do more public speaking and share my story with others. If anything good has come from this, it’s that I’ve become more focused on spreading a message of compassion and empathy. There’s value in helping people through their depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. If people are so low they can’t even function, there’s not much hope of changing things for the better. And right now we could all stand to have some hope and change. 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. 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 reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo by Michael Ramey on Unsplash