“‘Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.” — ‘Watchmen’ excerpt via Patton Oswalt
I want to talk frankly about how to support people who are suicidal, from the position of someone who has been suicidal at times herself in her teenage and adult life. It can be incredibly difficult to be a support person for someone struggling with these issues, and I get asked a lot what to say or what to do. I’d also like to create a basic support guide for someone with daily mental health issues like depression or anxiety, but that’s another post (and there’s some resources out there).
I’m someone who has often been told that I’m just so strong and so many people look up to me and I shouldn’t ever consider suicide because people need me, etc. etc. etc. I know it’s all meant well, but it makes me feel like an animal in a cage, unable to express how I feel because I’m constrained by other people’s opinions of me and my own reputation. It’s not healthy for me, or for anyone. It’s ok to break down sometimes. It’s ok to reach the end of your rope.
And we need a community to help prevent this from happening over and over again. Keep reading »
Twenty-year-old Tallulah Willis, youngest daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, gets really candid in a new video for the personal style site Stylelikeu, opening up about her eating disorder, body dysmorphia. “I’m diagnosed with body dysmorphia [from] reading those stupid fucking tabloids when I was like 13, feeling like I was just ugly, always,” she said. “I believed the strangers more than the people who loved me, because why would the people who loved me be honest? It was just a conviction.” Because she read on the Internet that people though her face was ugly, Tallulah reacted by dressing to show off her butt and her boobs; she then went in the other direction, losing a lot of weight and her curves. Only in the past year or so, Tallulah said, has she realized that her feelings about her body are only her own mindset. It’s really refreshing how little shame or embarrassment she has talking about this; Tallulah comes off as really thoughtful and intelligent. As someone who has had friends with body dysmorphia, I appreciate her speaking publicly and honestly about the illness and how it has been a long road to recovery for her. “It’s crazy to like yourself and not just like the way you look — to like YOURSELF,” she said. Damn straight. [People Stylewatch]
Clinical depression sucks and it’s only growing more common. Almost one in two people in the U.S. will suffer from depression or another mental health condition at some point and about one in 17 Americans actually has a serious mental illness right now.
Despite its rising rates, depression can be hard to wrap your brain around, especially if you’ve never had it. It’s not easily treated or cleared up by positive thinking, or yanking yourself up by your bootstraps, or shoving your feelings to the dark corners of the back of your mind. It’s so much deeper and more insidious than that. I once described depression this way:
“None of those external [good things you have going for you] truly register or resonate when you have depression. You can logically identify them as Good Things, and you know they are supposed to make you feel Good, but you can’t feel them, they can’t get in. It’s like your brain is wearing a full-body armor designed to keep only the good things out. Bad things … get ushered in instantly, like VIPs.”
People who don’t have depression don’t always know what to say that could possibly help to a friend or family member going through the all-encompassing yet simultaneously utterly numb sensation of your own brain turning against you. Here are a few things not to say (unless you want said friend or loved one to grow homicidal as well as miserable): Keep reading »
Here are two things I never expected to be told in the same breath: “You’re so skinny! This will look cute on you,” and “I’m pretty sure you’re lying about that time your dad molested you.”
Nine months ago, I confronted my father about sexually abusing me as a child. Since then, my communication with my family has been limited, and it caught me off-guard when, just two weeks ago, my aunt invited me to meet her for lunch. I impulsively agreed, and initially, we started on the right note. After a few minutes of polite pleasantries, she handed me a gift bag. Inside, I found a hand-me-down Ann Taylor blazer with the tags still on (“I love the pattern, but it just doesn’t fit me”) and a copy of Meredith Maran’s My Lie: A True Story of False Memory (“I learned so much from this book. It’s amazing how unreliable our memories are, don’t you think?”). Never before had I felt so flattered and insulted all at once. Keep reading »
I remember my first panic attack in more detail than I remember losing my virginity or the first time I drove a car by myself. (I guess vivid terror of suddenly not being able to breathe really ingrains itself into your psyche.) It was 1998 and I was watching the “Psycho” remake with my family’s French exchange student. During the infamous shower scene, my throat and lungs tightened inside me like a figure eight knot. I got up and paced around the movie theater, unable to control my body and wondering if I was having a heart attack. I’ve had panic attacks periodically since then, probably due to a combination of biology and circumstance. I’ve made an effort to lessen the conditions that they occur in and for the most part, I live a pretty calm life. My anxiety only spikes in extreme circumstances, such as the rare times I’ve gotten temporarily stuck in a subway underground (I’m claustrophobic).
After a couple of years without anxiety attacks in my everyday life, I’ve started having them again. The stress is related to old stuff resurfacing in my life and the anxiety is pretty much the same, too: my chest tightens, my heart beats too fast, I can’t breathe, and I feel like I’m having a heart attack. (Or, you know, what I assume a heart attack feels like.) I’m 30 now. Panic attacks are still shitty and frustrating, but all the experience I’ve had coaxing myself through them over the years actually does makes them less intense and quicker to get over.
These are my thoughts on what panic attacks are like, how to deal with them, and what I hope other people could understand if they’re trying to help:
Keep reading »