How I Learned Not to Romanticize Mental Illness

Let me set the scene: approximately one in the morning, awake typing at the computer, eyes sliding shut, surrounded by anime posters and photos of my friends taped to the wall, trapped in forums and social media sites. At fifteen, I was your average blunt-bangs-wearing, journal-writing, hanging-out-in-a-graveyard teenage queer girl stereotype.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I romanticized mental illness and mental health issues. I longed for an emotionally tortured soul who might be able to accompany me into the late hours of the night, kept awake by insomnia, angry at the world for its discrimination. I ached for someone who I could save – or the other way around – from the trials and traumas that life hands us. With low self-esteem and a deep sense of loss after my mother’s death, I was a mess of Post-Traumatic Martyr Syndrome (that’s not real – it’s my name for how survivors of loss feel the constant need to sacrifice themselves for ‘the greater good’ because they lived and the other person did not) and striped arm warmers courtesy of the mid-2000s.

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Dear Hope is Expanding Again, Meet Alaina!

I’m incredibly excited to say that we are bringing another person onto the Dear Hope team, Alaina Leary. Alaina attended the same college as Danny and I, and is now studying for her master’s degree in Publishing at Emerson College in Boston. She lives with her girlfriend and their two cats, and often writes about the experience of being a queer women and in a same-sex relationship.


Alaina is a rape survivor, and originally wrote a post for Dear Hope about that experience. It’s important to her to use writing not only as a tool for her own healing, but as a way to show others that they aren’t alone. She believes that giving a voice to these issues can also raise awareness about rape culture and consent, and she is a strong advocate for teaching informed, enthusiastic consent to the masses.

As an editor for several online and print publications, Alaina wants to contribute to Dear Hope by assisting with submissions, editing, and social media management. She assists with social media activity for several other magazines, including a literary magazine focused on mental health topics. She believes that the internet is a great platform where everyone can be heard and form a community. She will also be contributing articles, features and profiles, service pieces, personal essays, and creative writing.

I’ve had the privilege of working with her on multiple projects, and she most recently did an interview about me, the website, and my photography project for Germ Magazine (Seriously, check it out, her writing is incredible). I can’t wait to see how her networking skills and undeniable writing talents strengthen our community.

So give Alaina a warm welcome and be on the lookout for new posts signed AL.

You are loved.



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