My New Year’s resolution this year was to let someone read my writing. Aside from my articles and editorials from high school journalism, I’d never let a single soul read a creative writing piece penned by my hand. When I made the resolution, I assumed I would let one or two people read my writing. My sister, my boyfriend, my best friend, or someone who I knew wouldn’t make fun of me if the writing was terrible or the prose lackluster.
When I shared my blog post to Facebook, I assumed the same 60-100 people who regularly see what I’m up to would read it. That was a scary enough step.
Now, 7 million views and counting later, I can safely say that I have fully achieved my NY Resolution.
I never expected the response I received from my writing. Depression has a way of making you feel that you are the first person in the history of the world to feel what you feel and think what you think. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two weeks, it’s that depression is a liar. And, I have thousands of blog comments, reposts, news articles, and emails to prove it if I ever forget.
To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement.
I am humbled. I am excited. I’m perpetually nauseous.
I decided to write one more post to address some feedback I received, and to give all the lovely people who followed my blog an idea of where I’m headed next.
To start, thank you so much for every person that commented, reblogged, emailed to share their personal stories and struggles with mental illness, or have gotten a semicolon tattoo. I have read every single comment and reblog, and am working to respond to all emails and Facebook messages as soon as possible. Every person that shared their story, even just to me, is brave, and beautiful, and I admire and love you all dearly.
Originally, my tattoo was so representative of my own internal struggle, and felt intensely personal to my experience. Now that so many have read my story and gotten the same tattoo, it still feels intensely personal, but now, every time I look at it, I’m reminded of how many people are on my side.
Well, most people. Some people have accused me of trying to be the hero, or of glorifying mental illness or trying to make a “meaningful” tattoo trendy. Which is funny in itself: I decided to get the tattoo at 4pm that day, and by 5:30 I had gotten the tattoo and was eating dinner at home. An hour later, I’d written and posted the blog post. The middle body of that blog post was originally written to be performed as spoken-word poetry. It wasn’t edited for a blog. It was creative, not expository. Like I said, I didn’t think anyone would read it. There was no agenda, no plan. I still can’t believe it blew up the way it did.
To be honest, I got the tattoo because that morning I woke up wanting to kill myself. I was terrified that there would come a day I wouldn’t want to talk myself out of it. So I got the tattoo as a physical reminder (a reminder literally etched into my skin) that there was a time where I was strong enough to want to keep going. It felt a little like a last-ditch effort. I’m not a beautiful story of triumph over mental illness. I’m just a girl who triumphed yesterday. And am working on triumphing today.
There’s nothing trendy about depression. There’s nothing beautiful about killing yourself. I’m not a hero, I’m simply a girl with a story who wanted to share it so other people who were struggling knew they weren’t alone.
Please don’t get me wrong when you read my story about my struggle with mental illness. I’m just a 20-year old college student who is in the process of changing her major for the sixth time, finished Orange is the New Black Season 3 in 72 hours, and regularly locks her keys in the car. I am no expert on life or on mental illness. The only thing I can claim expertise on is my own experience, which you all read about in my last post.
So many people have it worse than me. So many people have struggled for longer. I received emails from humans in their late 70’s, who’ve struggled with mental illness for most of their life. I’ve struggled for a couple months. But here’s the stigma I was trying to break with my last post, and the stigma I’ll try to break again, here: you are not required to earn your depression. Or anxiety. Or eating disorder. Or bipolar disorder. It is an illness, and thus has no real parameters for attacking the body.
There’s a tweet I love that sums up my thoughts on this:
I didn’t write about the specific causes of my mental illness for a very specific reason. For starters, the circumstances that brought me to filling my first antidepressant prescription are no one’s business but mine and my therapist’s. And, again, I do not have to earn my depression.
But, I digress.
Last thing: I have decided that this post will be the last I will make available to the internet for the time being. I have been lucky enough to have received many offers to appear on podcasts, be a part of organizations, print my writing in magazines, etc. Project Semicolon has reached out to me about regularly blogging. Mizzou Department of Marketing & Communications wants to interview me about on-campus resources. I was interviewed by Buzzfeed today, for God’s sake.
It’s wonderful to know people have found hope, encouragement, and solace in my words. But, I’m still a student. I need to focus on school, my campus involvement, my relationships. I am a sociology major who confidently plans to pursue a social-justice related career, but I don’t believe it’s the right time in my life to dive into non-profit work. For now I’m just going to be me, and work on healing.
I’m an incredibly privileged human being to be able to have had such a large impact on humans. One of my biggest passions is being an ally to marginalized humans: I am a white, well-off, college-educated, cisgender, heterosexual woman who the opposite sex tends to find attractive, and this means that I am oftentimes the beneficiary of everything that is wrong with society. When society is ugly and biased towards marginalized populations, I benefit.
I spoke up about my mental illness so that I could maybe use my privilege to help those that can’t speak for themselves, and will continue to do that on the University of Missouri campus. I promise to continue to be an advocate for mental health awareness, to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, and continue to start those difficult, uncomfortable conversations that need to be had.
My tattoo is healing, and so am I.
I hope the millions who have reached out to me or who identified with my story will begin to heal, too. The world sucks more often that not. I hope we can all find beauty in today regardless. HP
A few other things regarding mental illness that I’d like you to keep in mind when you’re working to be an advocate of mental health awareness:
-African-American adult are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.
-Every 65 minutes, a veteran of the United States commits suicide.
-The suicide rate for transgender or gender non-conforming humans are nearly 35% higher than that of the overall U.S. population.
-Racial and ethnic minority populations are less likely to have access to available mental health services, are less likely to receive needed mental health care, often receive poorer quality care, and are significantly under-represented in mental health research.