Internalization

**Trigger Warning: One of the images depicts blood.**

 

The central idea of my concentration is the expression of the concept of internalization through visual imagery. Under the term internalization, I focused mostly on aspects of life such as mental disorders, personal identity, and trauma. While these can not always be seen outwardly, they are nonetheless pivotally important aspects of life.

I was fascinated with the idea of using abstract elements fused with more realistic ones in order to explore this conceptual theme.

 

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A Lens Into Our World dear hope

Dungeons and Dragons Gave Me My Life Back from Anxiety

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been scared of everything.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ve had it my entire life, but I’ve only recently had a name to call it by. To sum it up, my brain responds to most situations with fear and a lot of it. I’m always expecting disaster, even in the little things. I find myself drawing up game plans for everyday things like buying gas or going for a walk. If I make a telephone call, you can bet there was some form of a panic attack involved, and I’ve lashed out at too many concerned friends and loved ones for “attacking me” when they were just trying to help. My folks will tell you that when I was young I’d run inside to wash my hands whenever I touched my sandbox. I thought I’d get sick otherwise.

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Questions as Daggers, Questions as Saviors

But you seem fine.
You look like you’ve been doing well!
You don’t seem depressed on social media.
Why didn’t you tell me you were feeling bad?

Don’t assume. You know what they say. I’ve gotten so good at hiding how I feel, shoving the emotions down so far I seem to misplace them altogether, that even those closest to me don’t see a thing.

I’m sneaky. I’m clever. I know the right things to say and do and wear. I know how to hide the scars, internal and external, and pretend like they’re not even there (are they even there?)

I’m sneaky. I’m clever. This gets me in trouble.
I’m often in trouble.

I don’t want you to take it personally. Really, I don’t. It’s not you, it’s me (really, it is).

The facade I maintain is one I’ve been perfecting for years, my fears of vulnerability stemming from a long list of disappointments and misplaced trust.

I don’t like to worry anyone,
don’t like to be the center of attention,
don’t like to be the one to drag the party down.

So, if I ask you for help, know that it’s taking every ounce of me to do so,
every last fiber of my being to muster up the courage to let my guard down and stand before you with my heart in a box of doubt, tied together neatly with my greatest insecurities and nightmare-inducing thoughts.

And I’m sorry if I haven’t.
Don’t be offended if I never do.

But you have a great life.
People have it much worse than you do.

I know. Really, I do. Guilt is my middle name. It seeps into my bones and erodes my body from the inside out. What’s left is nothing more than a pile of skin cells and disappointment.

People are starving.
Homeless.
Sick.
Dying (why do I wish I was dying?).

I’m sorry. I am. That’s all I can say (that’s all I know how to say).
I’m sorry I feel this way.

I wish I could change it. I wish I could fix the world’s problems with a swish of a wand, with a big bandaid stuck across its oceans and continents, one that heals the hurt across the globe.

I wish I could do the same for my own mind, for my own heart,
for the hurt I endlessly feel as the days stretch on and the months stretch on and this life stretches on and on
and on
and on
and on.

I wish I could fix my problems as easily as magic or medicine.

Maybe that’s selfish.

Maybe that’s survival.

You can’t love anyone else until you learn to love yourself.

But you see, I don’t think I’ll ever really,
truly,
honestly,
love myself.

I don’t think I know how (do I know how?).

Will I ever really learn, as easily as I learned how to write my name or tie my shoes or ride my bike across the pavement?

Will I get an eviction notice plastered to the door of my heart, a “Do Not Enter” sign stapled to the aorta?

Will it whisper softly,
“Beware,
Beware,
Beware,”
As it beats,
beats,
beats
to keep me alive?

Will I just be lonely forever?

Why are you on so many medications?
Why don’t you try exercising or eating healthier?
What about deep breathing or meditation?

You see, I know all of that, too. I lose track of the pills in my medicine cabinet,
all the dosages and names and bottles,
all of it blurring in my vision as I count the tiny circles and oblong ovals in my palm each morning and afternoon and night.

But, you see, it’s taken two years to figure out just the right combination of ovals to make the dark things less dark, the bad thoughts less bad.

Two years is a long time and sometimes I worry if it was time wasted (I worry that most of my time is wasted).

And sometimes the dark things are just as dark, the bad thoughts just as bad, anyway.

Sometimes my only exercise for the day is running away from my problems. This kind of running allows me to stay under the covers. Most days dragging myself out of bed feels like a marathon.

Panicking makes breathing difficult. Meditation seems unrealistic for my clouded mind.

I appreciate the advice, really, but I can’t emphasize enough how difficult it is to hear all of it day in and day out,
and day in and day out,
and day in and day out,
always constructing some combination of excuses to make them stop talking at me like I am a child.

It’s just not that simple, as much as I wish it was (I wish it was).

It’s not that big of a deal.
Stop overreacting.
You’re being dramatic.

But, you see, it is that big of a deal. Making mountains out of mole hills is my specialty and crying over spilled milk is part of my morning routine.

I know I’m overreacting. Trust me, I do. I know more than anyone that my thoughts are out of control and my actions are beyond what they should be. I know.

I know.

I know.

Dramatic used to have a positive connotation for me. I put my extroverted personality onto the stage rather than in my personal life, but here I am panicking under the showerhead because I’ve got six assignments due at the end of the week and my friend hasn’t replied to my text in two hours and 13 minutes but they’ve already opened my SnapChat and I watched a group of girls walk by me and laugh and I’m positive it was because I didn’t wear makeup that morning because it took me over an hour to convince myself to get out of bed and I ran out of time after pulling my limbs into the shower and I nearly died walking to class because I didn’t look both ways before I crossed the street and I haven’t told anyone that I did it on purpose (I did it on purpose).

That stage is now my life and I am constantly putting on a show where people leave at intermission.

Maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
Maybe I’m overreacting.
Maybe I’m being dramatic.

Maybe I’m me.

Maybe I don’t like any of those things (I don’t).

Are you okay?
How are you doing?
Do you need to talk?

Keep asking. Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Keep asking.

Because I may say,
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“No, I don’t need to, thanks.”
And I just might be lying to you (I am probably lying to you).

But one day I may get the courage to say,
“No, I’m not.”
“Not so good, actually.”
“Yes, I do, please.”

One day I might find the courage to ask for help even though it’s taking every ounce of effort not to run the other way,
not to shove the feelings down like I’ve done so many times before,
not to plaster that signature smile across my face like wallpaper, a sickening slap of paste across my lips that seals the sadness in tight.

So don’t be offended if I lie. It’s not you, it’s me (really, I mean it).

So keep asking. Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Keep asking.
Please keep asking.
Please don’t stop asking.


This piece comes from our community member Sandra Mercer. You can find her other powerful entry in our Coping series here.

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Feel free to leave a comment for Sandra below.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

Want to submit to this site and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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“Active Minds”: What Conversation Are We Changing?

I wrote this article as a piece for “Mad in America,” reflecting on some of the most important experiences in my life the past few years.

In the late seventies and early eighties, the formation of what would become “anti-stigma” campaigns began to take shape as organizations came together with the goal of education and advocacy around mental health struggles. During this time, NAMI was founded by two mothers responding to a lack of service for those struggling with intense emotional experiences, which they defined as “mental illness.” It has been almost forty years since these mothers met in Wisconsin and started an organization that would go on to be an effective instrument of big pharmacy, developing alongside other organizations operating on “awareness” and “anti-stigma” campaigns. Around two years ago, one of these modern organizations, a national nonprofit group called Active Minds, came to play a defining role in my life.

This group tackles the various issues surrounding mental health on college campuses. Active Minds was officially founded in 2003, but its roots began in the year 2000 when Brian Malmon, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, completed suicide. His sister, Alison, recognized that extreme emotional experiences were not being discussed on college campuses; she noted that Brian hid his extreme experiences from everyone around him. Determined to start a conversation on mental health, Alison launched the organization.

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Thirteen years later, Active Minds has 440 chapters across college campuses. These chapters operate on the mission of “spreading awareness on mental illness” through education, advocacy, and referral to treatment. They sponsor events such as Send Silence Packing, a suicide awareness event in which backpacks are placed across campuses (an event that very well may be a sensationalizing medium contributing to suicide contagion). They have a Speaker’s Bureau, comprised of fifteen speakers that all have unique experiences in dealing with various struggles. Other events include Eating Disorders Awareness Week, an Emerging Scholars Program, and a National Conference, as well as myriad resources for all chapters.

For two years, I served as president of the Active Minds chapter at Westfield State University, a quaint and homey campus in Western Massachusetts. I had come into contact with the organization when, after years and years of rock-bottom self-esteem, endless self-deprecation and suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, I was introduced to the concept of ‘mental illness.’ According to this model, my consistent sorrow and non-stop uneasiness were due to ‘chemical imbalances’ in my brain. Initially, my diagnoses were extremely validating, as I no longer felt like I was at fault for my extreme emotions.

For the next few years, I cycled through Celexa, Zoloft, Klonopin, and Abilify. The side effects exposed themselves differently, sometimes manifesting as slight nausea that would keep me from eating, and sometimes being unbearable, such as an instance of akathisia so intense that I had to leave class to endure one of my most frightening panic attacks in a bathroom stall. I settled on a 225 milligram extended release Effexor pill for nearly two years, side effects bearable.

I was inspired to finally make my mark in the world. I switched to a Psychology major with the intention of becoming a therapist. I founded Active Minds at Westfield State and ardently advocated on my campus and in the community. I wanted people to know that they were not alone. I felt great pride in building an organization that, in increasing numbers as time passed, addressed struggle in a way that I was never able to outside of a therapist’s office. So many folks seemed to mirror my solace in this medium. These conversations needed to happen.

We had so many open discussions about the struggles that college can entail. Relationships, both platonic and romantic, begin to transform and often grow complicated as we learn more about ourselves. Academics and athletics call for an often unattainable perfection. There are abundant pressures to consume copious amounts of alcohol. Rape culture allows constant sexualization and sexual assault on campuses, with rape as the most under-reported crime in college populations. Food can be an enemy in a world where body image is so stressed and the ideal look is through such a narrow scope. Roommate situations can get horribly messy. The list goes on and on.

As I inched closer to graduation, my Psychology Practicum required an internship. At Westfield State’s health fair, our Active Minds chapter hosted a table close to the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community. Their table grabbed my attention with a striking image of a beat-up boot with flowers in it. I was told that the WMRLC was a community where folks supported one another through mutuality and genuine relationships, with no clinical staff and no assumption of illness. I was welcomed into the community for my internship; it introduced me to so many folks who had been through the mental health system. I had expected a further affirmation of my beliefs, but I was introduced to an entire world of the system that I had not known.

Active Minds states on its website that “treatment is effective and available,” and since I had found parts of the system that had worked for me, I automatically believed this to be true. The first question on the FAQ section of the Active Minds website refers those who need “immediate help” to the National Suicide Hotline and crisis centers. I never experienced such phone calls during my own times of deep distress, but with my internship (and eventual employment) at WMRLC, I was introduced to the consequences of calling these resources.

Forced hospitalization (Section 12 in MA) is often the traumatic result of calling crisis services, which is so frequently the referral given by friends and family in times of distress. This allows folks to be held indefinitely against their will, and the opportunity to exist in a healing environment diminishes after this. One common result is seclusion, in which those in locked units are forced into isolation which has fairly obvious detrimental effects. Restraint also occurs, frequently leading to injury and sometimes death, much of which is unreported. Injury can come in physical, mechanical, or chemical form, the last stemming from medication that does far more harm than good in the long-term. Hospitals are not trauma-sensitive in so many ways, and evidently can be the cause of widespread and lasting emotional pain.

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After learning what accepting the medical model of struggle as illness entailed, I became extremely skeptical. The more I talked to folks who had experienced these very real circumstances, the more I began to reflect on my time with Active Minds. I looked on the website, searching for more details of the exact mission of the organization and the resources that it provided.

There are zero references to the details of the potential results of calling Crisis, or to the abundant horrors of involuntary commitment. There are zero references to medication, suggesting blind trust in a referral process that often causes great pain and harm. The organization claims to run on a mission of spreading awareness, so where are the references to the dangers of antidepressants, benzodiazepines, stabilizers, antipsychotics, and other medications that are a very real part of receiving counseling services, treatment or hospitalization? Do they have no obligation to mention the risks?

How can such a major part of the system be ignored? When I asked Ms. Malmon about this, she avoided the question, stating that “Active Minds does not advertise any specific area of treatment,” even though I only hinted at providing objective resources and alternatives that have been helpful to many folks. So, what gives? Why not speak about some of the most pressing issues within the mental health system that are hurting numerous people on a daily basis?

One possible answer brings us back to where similar organizations and campaigns to decrease the “stigma” of mental illness started. In the 1960s, psychiatry began to lose its merit due to books such as Thomas Szasz’s The Myth of Mental Illness which revealed the bad science behind psychiatric drugs. Szasz observed that while the nebulous science behind the theory of chemical imbalances did not add up, extreme emotional responses to life’s inherent struggles were the root of what is often diagnosed as mental illness. This resulted in the rise of the antipsychiatry movement, unintentionally precipitating swift action from the profitable psychiatric industry in order to save itself.

The American Psychological Association quickly published the DSM-III, adding significant numbers of psychiatric diagnoses that used an arbitrary amount of subjective, often self-reported symptoms to diagnose someone as ill. Loren Mosher’s Soteria project, a house without antipsychotics in which non-clinical staff provided companionship, was defunded as Mosher was ousted from psychiatry. Despite its evident success, it was not within the medical model, and so this alternative method of healing was quelled.

Most relevant to this article, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), caught up within the incestuous relationship between the American Psychological Association and pharmaceutical companies, founded an awareness campaign titled “Depression Recognition, Awareness, and Treatment” (DART). Pharmaceutical companies funded this campaign, providing “educational” resources that the NIMH would run for years. Through this campaign, outside organizations that bought the opaque science behind the medical model were initiated, and organizations that aimed to spread the message began to appear, the first of which was the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI) in 1979. The APA teamed up with NAMI, and as a result, NIMH funding rose 84% during the 1980s (these developments are outlined in Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic).

Since then, NAMI has received an absolutely astronomical amount of money from the pharmaceutical industry. With pharmacy’s bad science pushed forward by organizations that presumably believed they were engaging in beneficial campaigns, much as I did while president of the Active Minds chapter at my college, the medical model grew more popular than ever.

Since the 1980s, the amount of mental health diagnoses (and ensuing disability numbers) in this country has exponentially skyrocketed. Some argue that this is due to the decrease in stigma over the years; maybe since we are evolving into a more accepting society, the number of those diagnosed are more comfortable talking about their struggles, and the data reflects this? Perhaps, though, the artificial agenda of big pharma precisely planned that this would be the case by funding organizations like NAMI and similar groups.

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Why not reduce the stigma surrounding struggle by moving towards a society that is more accepting of traumatic experiences and extreme emotions, rather than asking people to “own an illness” that does not have scientific validity behind it? The only difference this holds, aside from arbitrary diagnosis, is that pharmaceutical companies are raking in exorbitant profits.

Active Minds is not NAMI. However, the two groups have worked together, as well as with the Jed Foundation, whose founder and CEO is heavily tied to big pharma. Kelly Cox, the Vice Chairwoman of the Active Minds Board of Directors, works for Johnson and Johnson, which absorbed Janssen Pharmaceuticals, known for falsifying their marketing of psych drugs. The Active Minds National Advisory Committee is chalk full of big names from psychiatry, including chairman Steven Lerman, who has donated to the Treatment Advocacy Center, an organization that tirelessly advocates for forced treatment using tactics such as highlighting false statistical relationships between mental health diagnoses and violence. Active Minds has apparently taken money or sponsorships from Eli Lilly and Astrazeneca, pharmaceutical firms that have hidden adverse drug effects through bad data time and time again.

While Active Minds does not haul in money from drug companies the way similar “mental illness advocacy” organizations do, the aforementioned ties to pharmaceutical companies, including an entire framework around medical model language, certainly leave much room for a pecuniary relationship to exponentially grow between the two. Financial ties are already there, so who is to say that Active Minds won’t propel itself into the next NAMI? If there is little attention given to what happens after referral to treatment now, what would it look like then? Would it look more like the Treatment Advocacy Center’s website?

There are so many folks, both within Active Minds leadership and throughout chapters, who want to talk about the broader emotional context and experiences that contribute to so much suffering and struggle in this world. In our weekly meetings at Westfield State, we did discuss diagnoses and ran events that were sponsored by organizations that were heavily tied to big pharma, but our favorite parts really seemed to come from when we simply talked about what was going on in our lives. We did not need to talk about “illness” to do this.

Discussing our times of extreme emotion and what mattered to us the most was not pathologizing; it was humanizing. At the end of each of our meetings, we would talk about the best points of our day. After everyone had left and I packed up my bag, I felt relieved that I had the support and love of those around me. Even Ms. Malmon stated in our conversation that Active Minds members do often become friends through working together, and that it was perfectly okay that chapters took this intimate mold as relationships grew stronger.

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Why do conversations about the difficulties behind the experience of living as a human being always have to turn to the medical model to find validity? Why not take pride in our humanity, extreme sadness and despair included? The medical model is so ingrained in our world that it is often difficult to fully take in this point of view, but at the very least, shouldn’t alternative resources be available? Shouldn’t Active Minds talk about the Hearing Voices Network, Alternatives to Suicide groups, the Icarus Project, and other alternative resources as well as traditional ones? Shouldn’t we know what we are getting into when we are calling Crisis? Shouldn’t we know what our medications might do to us?

Ms. Malmon and the rest of the Active Minds crew may want to look at these resources with rose-tinted lenses, but people who have traveled the rocky paths of Crisis and hospitalization have had their lives turned upside down repeatedly. As we accept the medical model more and more, this will presumably only worsen.

When I was struggling, I was ready to believe anything, and I think this principle applies much more widely than myself — especially for those who have not spent time inside the walls of psychiatric hospitals. Active Minds allows college students to start conversations on some of the most difficult struggles we face in life, but it’s important to realize that the medical model is limited in scope and harms many who seek treatment for these struggles.

I urge the organization to lead the conversation away from bad science and towards the common struggles that we endure as human beings — or, at the very least, to include alternate resources and far more transparent information around psychiatric medications. If they don’t, other groups such as NAMI, ADAA, AFSP and the Jed Foundation, even with handfuls of caring, well-intentioned staff, will not. Psychiatry certainly will not. We have a better chance of growing wings than of pharmaceutical companies stepping up to reveal the long-term harm that their products cause.

So, Active Minds, please: take the next step and change the conversation. The new generations of psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, mental patients, and human beings so desperately need the truth that money has effectively quelled for so, so long.

Always remember that you are not alone,

and that you are loved.

DK

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Mental Health & Social Media: Home Alone Downloading While Everyone Else is Uploading

I was lying in bed on a Thursday night recently in my apartment while my five roommates were out at the bar. I had been invited, encouraged even, to go out with them, but I was in a low, and wasn’t in the frame of mind to socialize and make small talk. As the hours went by I found myself scrolling through the same three social media apps, and I could feel the little energy I had being consumed from me even more. I was filling my negative space with the seemingly positive lives of others, comparing myself to those who were having a much better time than I was.

I often like to think of myself as having an acute sense of self awareness. Through running a website about mental health, I am constantly learning about new things to be aware of with my depression and incorporating them to better myself and improve my lifestyle.

But the truth is I still fall for some tricks that my depression plays on me. Tricks that make me question concrete parts of my life, engage in negative coping mechanisms, and make a few poor decisions every once in awhile.

Recently I realized that the way I use social media is one of those poor decisions I make regarding my mental health.

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Now I’m not saying that social media caused my depression that night my friends all went out to the bar. According to a study conducted on Facebook use and depression, there is no direct relation between social media use and depression. But what I can say, without a doubt, is that the way I was using it while depressed made my symptoms worse.

The study supports this, as the way social media is used can affect how we feel. The main argument in the study is that when Facebook is used as a tool for personal surveillance, envious tendencies can occur, ultimately leading to depressive symptoms.

Envy?

I didn’t feel envious, did I? I was just seeing what other people were doing. I was just scrolling through observing funny tweets and pictures from the bar and reading a conversation between the two love birds while I did…

absolutely nothing.

Wait.

Surveillance is defined as time spent on social media seeing what other people are doing and comparing it back to what you are not doing. While I may have not been consciously comparing myself with friends, I think part of me knows that I was wishing I was capable of having as much fun as they were.

I continued to feel worse, questioning why I wasn’t able to keep it together enough to go out with my friends. Because of these new doubts, I started to think that their lives were always like this – exciting and fun-filled, while inversely thinking mine was dull and bland.

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A recent Huffington Post article tells the story of a woman named Sydney who experienced hardships during her freshman year adjusting to college life with her anxiety disorder. She described how she began to struggle to distinguish between “fact and fiction” and constantly compared herself to others when using different forms of social media, including Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

“Instagram and Snapchat make me hyper aware of the activities I wasn’t invited to partake in, and less involved in the activities that are actually in front of me,” Sydney writes. “Comparing myself to others is blatantly unhealthy….it makes me question my place in life.”

When social media platforms are used as surveillance and lead us to compare ourselves with others, we start accepting the lives people are uploading as truth. Individuals who consistently use Facebook are more likely to agree that others have better lives. This mindset can be dangerous for our mental health.

When we publish updates and statuses about ourselves, we tend to post only the positive things that happen in our lives, very rarely do we post the negatives that occur. So when someone is fighting something like depression or anxiety, comparing the times they’re struggling to lives seen on online profiles that appear “perfect” can make someone more afraid to speak up.

Because if everyone else is doing okay, we should be good enough to handle this ourselves, right?

But why do we only post the positive things from their lives? This could be based on the way we are “rewarded” for posting. On Instagram, Twitter, and until recently Facebook, posts are awarded with “likes”. Typically, positive and humorous posts get more “likes” than those that are sad or negative.

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We’ve been conditioned to post the positive parts of our lives. We almost do it subconsciously. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that people’s lives are more complicated than their Facebook feeds suggest, especially for people like me who deal with the feelings of inadequacy that come with depression. All it takes is a depressive episode to leave me helplessly scrolling through feeds and concluding that my life is terrible and I’m not doing enough.

Not only is posting positively encouraged, but we need to post enough so that we feel satisfied that people know we are doing something. Apps like Snapchat plant the idea in our head that we need to share our life and every incredible moment in it to have a form of validation. We take videos of the concert we’re attending, post pictures of the food we eat, and make sure we snapchat every funny thing that happens when we’re out with friends. We need to let other people know we do things. We need the validation.

We need to let other people know we’re alive.

But if you have depression, feeling alive can often be a very difficult thing to do. Depression makes us feel like we already aren’t doing enough. It whispers in our ear that we are a failure, that our loved ones don’t love us, and that our existence is meaningless.

But we do matter.

And we don’t need to prove every day that we are happy (whether we are or not) through social media.

Our mental health is important. And the truth is everyone really isn’t as okay as their Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter suggest. While this may seem obvious, it is important to note that our guard can be substantially lowered when dealing with the effects of a mental health condition. Especially those of us who are already fighting a constant battle like I am with depression. Because that’s what happened to me.

I spent so many nights, already in a depressive state, scrolling aimlessly through social media apps and wondering why I couldn’t hold myself together like everyone else. I still do it sometimes. But now I’m constantly trying to remind myself that this is not the whole picture. Social media is often a positive tool to unite us all, but don’t let its representations of only the best parts of our lives convince you that you don’t fit in the reality it has created on the days you feel at your worst.

Always remember you are not alone.

You are loved.

PF


Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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Keep Walking, Don’t Worry

keep getting up before the sun

keep your wit

but make sure it’s secret

until you’re able to trust again

it’s okay

if you don’t know the difference

for a little while

take a walk down the railroad tracks

behind your parents’ house

stare at your boots

feel small and upset

beside the vastness

of the dead swamp

the 1997 family photo stays in the front pocket

of your blue jeans

mother, father, two daughters, a family wedding

remember the tantrum before the plaid jumper

the white socks, the Mary Janes

as if you need such a stark reminder

that past self preserved

now broad shoulders have filled out

the cracking voice

the scruffy chin

the court date

now you are more yourself

than you were

when you were five years old

trying to fall asleep

in purple Pocahontas sheets

wishing towards Sirius

praying on your knees

to a God you’ve never met

that tomorrow

would be a tomorrow

with groves of aspen

golden lion’s mane

and concrete

be thankful that everything is different

that you didn’t give in

to temptation

but keep listening to sad songs

shake the dust

watch the robins

smoke before bed

take sleeping pills

don’t worry about it

visit the ocean

please remember

the tide will always recede.


This poem was submitted by our friend Cal. Cal is a queer and agender mixed media artist and poet from Boston. You can visit Cal’s Instagram page here, and read more of this beautiful work by visiting his website here.

Always remember that you are not alone.

You are loved.

AC

Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com

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International Suicide Survivor Day

All week I have been struggling to find the words to say to you all in regards to today being International Suicide Survivor Day.

Even now as I write this I find myself deleting and rewriting the same words in some effort to express what I am trying to say.

Overall, I feel proud.

I am proud of myself for taking the conscious effort to continue my own life.

I am proud of all of you who are continuing to fight for your own lives.

As I read through social media news feeds, I see so many people raising their voices and opening up about their own struggles. I read about your own experiences and how hard you fight every day to stay alive, and I am so proud of all of you for continuing to open up and share your personal battles. Not only can it be therapeutic, but by doing so, you are inspiring others. You are showing other people that they do not need to be okay all of the time; you are showing them that a fulfilling life is possible while living with a mental health condition; you are showing them that even if they struggle, recovery is possible and attainable.

At Dear Hope, whenever we read a submission or read your comments, we feel your pain and your joy. We are there with you in your highest and lowest points, and we are rooting for you each and every day.

At Dear Hope, you are always welcomed, needed, and loved.

I’m a fairly emotional person and all I want to do today is hug every single one of you and tell you that you’re doing such a great job. It’s hard, it really is, and fighting can be discouraging and exhausting, and there are days where you feel like all your strength is gone but you’re doing it. You’re living. You may not see the progress you’re making but we do.

On this International Suicide Survivor Day, we want to tell all of you — whether you have been battling with your mental health, have had or still are having harmful thoughts, and to those of you who may have attempted to take your own life — you are a survivor. You are a fighter, and no one can take that away from you.

Lastly, we want to take a moment of silence for everyone who is not here with us. You are missed, loved, and this world is not the same without you. Today shows that you are not alone — there are millions of other people out there that know what you’re feeling.

Today, and every day, we ask that you share your story. Share it with us and share it with those around you. Your story is important and it is valid. We are listening.

You are loved, always.

AC


Want to submit to Dear Hope and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email wemustbebroken@gmail.com.

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