Welcome to Painted Constellations, my weekly self-therapy segment where I talk mental health, future lives, and things I wish I'd known before now. The title comes from this amazing spoken word piece.
Judy Garland. River Phoenix. Chris Farley. Billy Mays. Brittany Murphy. Amy Winehouse. Thomas Kinkade. Whitney Houston. Cory Monteith.
I had another post prepared, but on Sunday, July 14th, around 2 AM, the world was informed that Cory Monteith, best known as Finn Hudson on FOX's hit show Glee, was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room at the age of 31. Cory had struggled with addiction since he was thirteen, and went through rehab as recently as April of this year to try and stay clean.
According to a 2010 poll, almost 105,000 people die every year from drug, alcohol, and other self-harm induced suicide. 2.5 million people die every year, and there are about 316 million people in this country, but 105,000 still seems too many to me. Perhaps part of it is because I have been in that place. That horrible, rotting, dark prison where you are held completely captive - and the worst part? Nobody knows you're there. The world is not your jailer; you are. And so, inside yourself is a four-walled cell that's pitch black and cramped and completely devoid of happiness...but you are forced to portray a mask of calm and contentment because it's not okay to be unhappy.
I have been diagnosed, most recently, with acute anxiety and mild depression. I take medication for those things, and they are very effective. But, like with all chronic illnesses, sometimes even the medication doesn't work. There are bad days. A friend of mine calls these her "hobo days," which I think is an apt description. For me, at least, good days are when I wake up feeling sort-of tired. I go through my day, struggle with making decisions, cope with discomfort, and maybe have a couple laughs or smiles while I hang out with friends. A bad day is when I can't answer emails, don't check any of the blogs I like, and can barely get out of bed without feeling like a failure. Everything hurts my feelings or makes me upset - my parents and friends avoid me. It's one thing to feel utterly alone; it's another entirely to actually be that way.
I am okay with talking about this, now. As recently as two years ago, that wouldn't have been the case. I'm lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to be in therapeutic groups with other girls my age to talk about things like this - eating disorders, depression, anxiety, what it's like to be LGBT, school pressures, and family issues. I have had an amazing therapist for over eight years, and my primary- and secondary-care doctors all support my treatment and maintenance of these problems. But therapy and treatment for mental health disorders are still taboo in most social circles. Some people view managing your issues as a cop-out; like somehow, taking charge of your sadness and seeking help to feel better is acting weak or selfish.
I wish this conversation didn't need to be had. I wish I didn't have to worry, constantly, about the people I love - are they getting the help they need? Will I even know if they need help? - but I do. I worry about passing my mental disorders on to my children. I worry about being stable in the event that I lose a friend to suicide. I worry about everything, from my next meal to my funeral arrangements. But my constant, gnawing worry, is that there are people out there who can't get help. My worries don't consume me anymore. I can have a fight with my mom without wanting to rip the skin off my body. I can cry without breaking.
Why are child/teen suicide rates so high? I picture an older, white man, in a suit and tie, saying "Back in my day..."
"Back in my day, no one was depressed." Yes, they were. But instead of Zoloft and Abilify, they had bourbon and gin.
"Back in my day, no one was bullied." Yes, they were. Kids called other kids names, and pulled their hair, and gave them wedgies, and strung them up the flagpole. But parents didn't do anything about it, and there was no such thing as the Internet.
"Back in my day-"
Your day fucking sucked, man. And now we have Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Formspring and Tumblr and Google and Reddit and Jesus Christ all these kids know everything about each other and it. never. stops. In your day, if a kid got bullied at school, he'd go home and watch TV and forget about it. There was no texting, no News Feed, no nothing to remind him of his humiliation. And maybe some kids would remember the next day, but not many. And then those kids would forget and someone else would be the target. It's not okay, but it was alright. Now, every single breath is recorded and inscribed in the Book of High School and it's fucking Hotel California, man, because you can graduate, but it never leaves you alone. And you can get a job, but that picture of you with a hooka tube in your mouth isn't getting deleted. And you can lose your job, and your house, and your car, and your wife, and you can down 4/5 of a bottle of Jameson and you can hang yourself from the rafters, but then it's someone else's head in the toilet and history's repeating itself.
It costs my parents over $600 a month to keep me healthy. I don't know how much our insurance covers, but I bet it's not a whole lot because I can hear my dad bitching about it under his breath. Obama's healthcare is smarter, but it's certainly not perfect, and if Congress had its way, it wouldn't be here at all. So we get Aurora, CO. We get Newtown, CT. We get bombings and massacres and suicides and gangbangs and who knows what else because people don't realize that this world is literally killing us.
I dream of a world where my sanity is free. I dream of a world where people who claim America is a Christian nation actually fucking believe it because if they did, they'd also believe in healing the sick. In caring for the weakest amongst us. In loving thy neighbor as thyself. And if they believed in those principles, they'd try and get help for those who desperately need it. We don't need 15-year olds convicted of murder. We don't need to fight another war in the Middle East. All we need to fight is the war being waged inside each of us, here. All we need is love.