I’ve been attending a therapy group everyday for a while now. It’s an IOP group that’s usually used to transition out of a partial hospitalization program to help patients use the skills they learned to transfer back into the swing of things. People come and go from the group all the time and today we had a young girl who had her head down the whole time and never made eye contact with anyone and when our therapist asked her questions about her situation and what she needed, her responses had an immense effect on the rest of the group. See, most of us in the group had already been to the hospital and went through partial; so we had already made a lot of changes in our lives and took long strides to get better. Yet this girl seemed to be at the very first step, which is actually wanting to try to get better, so basically, I began to figure out that she should really be in the hospital, or at least in partial. And I’m sure through battles with anxiety, depression, self harm and other mental health struggles, we all always wanted to get better, we just never want to actually take steps and make changes in our lives to actually change our situation and feel better. Usually it comes to a point when you hit rock bottom when you realize that you do want to change because you can’t take anymore pain. So here was this girl who was very depressed and suicidal, who kept making very black and white statements like “I’m never going to get better”, “None of this matters”, “These programs are a waste of time” and so on. And after a while, other group members were getting very upset with her, because they had already been through these programs and put a lot of work into them. These programs had basically changed our lives and helped us immensely, so many took offense to her saying that it was a waste of time. And those feelings are totally valid; of course I felt that too. But why is it that once we already have taken big measures to reach stability and have recovered in many ways, that we so quickly forget where we came from. I’m sure there was a time that all of us felt the way that this group member expressed. We all felt at one time that we were never going to get better and that everyone that was trying to help us were just feeding us bullshit. And sure, this girl probably made it a bit worse since she didn’t make any eye contact with anyone and didn’t care how she made the other group members feel or try to apologize or anything. But once we make so many changes in our lives, it’s so hard to relate to ourselves months before we started. Does taking strides to lead a mentally healthier life detach us from most other people in the world? Is it that easy to forget where we came from? We started off as extremely self destructive and hopeless people. Is seeing someone the way we used to be so difficult because it shows us that are battles with mental health affected those around us too? Is it too hard to see how mentally ill we were before that we choose to ignore it and judge others’ still in that position?
I found this situation today really interesting. It brought up a lot of these types of questions. I think it says a lot about the way we are quicker to judge others than we are to try to relate to them. Our feelings should be things that bring us together. When we share about them, there’s usually at least one other person to say, “I feel the same way.” Connecting with others is a lot easier than we think. When we make ourselves vulnerable is when we’re able to connect with others the most. And we can’t change people until they’re ready to change. We need to meet people where they’re at, not where we wish they would be.
Coming from someone whose battled mental illness for much of her life, I have to say every portrayal of mental illness I see in the media just always raises so many questions in my head. The media gets so many things wrong basically all the time. But even so I still wonder if we tend to put people with mental illness in a box. Every single portrayal of mental illness has people commenting on it; whether they got some things right or some things wrong, or just flat-out did the mentally ill dirty, and I think this is a good thing, to an extent. I think media should always be analyzed and have people comment on whether they felt offended or wronged or actually felt connected to certain characters. But as a mentally ill person, I can’t say I always feel the same. I know that when I see a character on tv struggle with things I can relate to, I can at least appreciate stories like mine being represented in media. And I always hear all of these comments through social media along the lines of “that’s not how mentally ill people act” or “that makes mentally people look bad” and so on. And I can appreciate those comments when it’s addressing the same tropes of the mentally ill we used to see all the time. But sometimes I think we need to take a step back. I think we should all share our personal stories and how certain media portrayals made us feel, whether it was more connected or more alienated. But I think when we make some of these comments with the best intentions of trying to include every story, we might actually be doing some alienating ourselves. I know for a fact that mental illness is different in everyone’s experience and it can show itself in all different types of behaviors and it affects all different types of people. Mental Illness doesn’t discriminate. And it is very common for people with mental illness to feel alone with their feelings; like they are the only person on the planet who feels this way. And say one portrayal in media made that person feel a little less alone, should we not let that person feel this way because some aspects of the show could have been damaging to other viewers. I mean portraying mental illness in media without making it triggering for the mentally ill viewers is a conundrum in itself. I still don’t know how to feel about that. But what is triggering to some, and rightfully so, might help another person who is mentally ill feel less alone because the media didn’t leave anything out. And I don’t know if this is making sense or if I even believe what I’m saying. In a way I’m kind of playing devil’s advocate. Like most of the time I agree with people’s grievances about media. It should continue to be criticized because it should always strive to be better and more inclusive. But sometimes I feel like being so critical can potentially push us in the wrong direction. The many different experiences of mental illness are not wrong; and sometimes I feel like all these critiques are telling us that there are ways to deal with mental illness that are right and ways that are wrong. Everyone has a different story. Sometimes I think our goal is to perfect the representation of a topic that is just simply not perfect at all.
So yeah I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this because I think it’s still all really confusing for me. Please feel free to completely disagree with me I just would love to hear back from others on what they think. Thanks!
I was always interested in why things were the way we were; why people do the things they do. I’m sure we all were, to an extent. At least at some point in our life. You know how annoying little kids keep asking adults “But why?” about every little freaking thing and their parent begrudgingly responds, “Because that’s just the way it is!” or “Because I said so!” Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for giving annoying toddlers any reason to shut up. But I think we all got so used to adults telling us this when we were little that we really just began to accept things the way they were with no questions about it because, in reality, what were we gonna do about it? Now I’m not gonna sit here and act all scholarly since I finished over 2 years of college before dropping out, but when you start to learn a little bit about our culture in this society and why things are, and psychology and sociology yada yada yada, there’s basically about a million scholars and theorists that can deny that things are one way because, well, they just are. Let’s look at me, for example, since I can really only talk from experience. For starters, once I started to come into my true being, I always loved being very expressive through my clothing and makeup. I loved being a girl who people stared at, for better or worse. From bloody eye makeup and black lipstick to dressing like a slutty five-year old; either way, the saying “less is more” never really had an effect on me. I never minded seeming crazy as long as I peaked people’s interest. I always wanted to be very unique and come off as super interesting, especially with my sartorial choices since I never felt confident enough to do it with my words. I have severe social anxiety so basically if I’m with a group of people I’m just meeting, my mind sort of goes blank and my throat starts to feel like it’s closing up. My whole life I was always characterized as super shy and quiet. I was the easiest target to make fun of because, well, I never said anything. And growing up in a family of people who never shut the hell up didn’t really help. I always remember my grandfather saying, “Kelsey, why don’t you ever talk?!” and how I needed to get a personality if I ever wanted to get by in life. And so me, desperately wanting approval from my family members, my desire to have people interested in me for my uniqueness became stronger and stronger, and our, supposedly “individualistic” societal standards didn’t help to thwart those desires. So yeah I definitely became “unique”, or just a weirdo, whatever you want to call it. But it’s not like my social anxiety went anywhere, sorry Poppop. And yeah, this doesn’t take away from the fact that I am super passionate about clothing design and makeup, but a lot of my behavior also comes from insecurities, which is weird since to most people it would seem like I was super confident in myself and didn’t care what anyone thought of me. Yeah, I wish. Basically what I’m saying is my insecurity about my personality presented itself through my passion for fashion. Lol. You’re probably wondering why I brought all of this up. Well I think it’s interesting to look at the reasoning behind things because the answer is never really “because that’s just the way it is.” We don’t keep doing these random crazy and potentially self-destructive behaviors because we think it’s good for us. I don’t attend my college classes looking like a zombie just because it’s fun; even though it is. I’m super insecure about being boring so I overcompensate! A lot! Most of the time, things we experience during our transformative years almost always come back to bite us. I just think learning about ourselves is so life changing. Learning about anything can be life changing. We need to continue to pursue all of our curiosities and find out why people do the things they do. Because most people are insecure or worried about something and finding out more about them can only lead to more connectedness with others and ourselves. I think learning is one of the most fulfilling experiences and we can always do more of it. We’re all just terrified and clueless human beings, am I right? Learning more about yourself and about the world can only help us! Not do harm. And hey if it does… therapy is great!!
Ya girl Kelsey who is already doubting her first blog post