What do you see when you look at my picture? Do you see the girl I saw when I was young? Friendly? Lovable? Special?
Some people see hidden curves. Others notice my smile. Maybe the baggy sweatshirt and cozy socks makes you think of a lazy night in, watching movies and snuggling. What if I told you my hair was wet from tears, my cheeks still damp, my lip gnawed on, my eyes mostly bloodshot. Mental health is so important. It’s so crucial. It’s okay to admit we need help. It’s okay to ask others to help us swim across crimson blood seas. We are not weak for reaching out. We are not weak for needing people.
I have bipolar disorder (Type II) and C-PTSD. I’ve gone to a therapist for almost half my life. I take three to four meds a day to stay stable. I have friends who remind me that if my brain doesn’t produce enough chemicals that it’s okay to supplement them with store-bought ones. I have friends who remind me to get out of bed and keep rising. And some days, it’s hard. There is so much stigma around mental illness. It’s gradually getting better, but just look how we are represented in books and media. How flippantly people use the term “schizo” or “bipolar”. People talk about being anxious like it’s just being nervous.
But then, when I talk about staying awake for six days straight and working all night on tearing apart Catcher in the Rye to rework it into a new book entirely, people start backing away. When I start cancelling on people and going days without texting back. When I go on shopping sprees or think I’m the sexiest thing ever or go get piercings without thinking about the ramifications. Painting at three a.m. When I cheat on people I love or hurt people by threatening to hurt myself.
… It’s suddenly not so sexy or glamorous. I’m not Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted. I’m not this beautiful waif with mascara running down my face. I’m not sexy rivulets of blood from nicks in my wrist. I’m sobbing and shaking. I can’t get words out.
Today started as a good day. I talked to a good friend. I felt creative and inspired. And I know people use the word “triggered” like it’s some liberal snowflake buzzword – this coming from an unabashed, bleeding heart liberal – but I was triggered. Unexpectedly. Out of nowhere. I’ve been crying for hours. Now, I’m in bed, trying to explain that we need to reverse the stigma. We have to encourage people to get the help they need. Mental health is just as important as physical health. We’re more than just these meat suits. We have to take care of our minds and souls as well.
I just hope someday, I can see the friendly, lovable, and special girl I saw in the mirror when I was young.