Pay Attention

There is a fairly common trope that is directed towards people (primarily young, female, white people, often those who self-harm, attempt suicide, or have an eating disorder) who engage in unhealthy behaviors that they are only doing it for attention. You’ve heard it before. “She only hurts herself for attention, it’s no big deal,”. I’ve had this trope directed at me before, and absolutely seen it directed towards my friends. I don’t like it.

 

At first glance it seems fairly insightful, and provides a reason to not give the individual the attention they want: don’t want to reward bad behavior do we? Nobody likes an attention whore, and we absolutely don’t want to feed in to their need for attention. None of us particularly want to deal with negative, difficult situations, and if you can avoid them while telling yourself that your actions are positive, then all the better. But despite the first blush appearance of good advice, this kind of attitude relies on some extremely negative premises and is actually incredibly unhelpful to the individual struggling.

 

First and foremost, this trope rests on the idea that it’s not ok to want attention, or that you’re bad if you do something strictly because you want attention. It suggests that wanting attention is an inappropriate motive, and that it undermines the entirety of an act. This is straight up wrong. Pretty much every human being in the world wants attention. It’s part of what makes us social creatures. We want others to listen to us, to hear our troubles, to help us out, to be with us, to tell us stories. This is part of what confirms to us that others care. Mutual attention is how we form relationships. Wanting relationships is good right? So wanting attention is good.

 

Interestingly enough, when someone engages in what’s viewed as a positive behavior in order to gain attention, we often praise them and give them the attention they want. Imagine the star football player in high school: if someone were to become the quarterback because they liked the popularity, we wouldn’t think twice about it. Those individuals still get the support and attention of the school and their peers. We understand in many circumstances that trying to get attention is good. So why do we use it to undermine certain behaviors?

 

The second element of this trope that kicks into play even if we do accept that wanting attention is acceptable is the idea that we shouldn’t reward someone for negative behavior. We know from little kids that if you react to someone throwing a temper tantrum, they’re getting what they want and they continue to engage in that behavior. If you don’t want someone to hurt themselves, then you shouldn’t give them what they want when they hurt themselves, right?

 

There are two elements that can be important to remember here. The first is that even if someone is being ineffective or unhealthy in their behavior, that does not mean that their motivation is inappropriate or wrong. This is something we forget a lot about all sorts of emotions. Let’s take anger for example. Oftentimes when someone gets angry and yells or breaks something we tell them that they shouldn’t be angry. However there may actually be a perfectly good reason the individual is angry. What is not appropriate is the action they undertook with the anger. So while you may recognize that someone is doing something unhealthy or inappropriate with their need for attention, you can still recognize a very real need and true emotion that needs to be addressed.

 

In addition, you can address someone’s needs without promoting or validating what you view as a negative or unhealthy behavior. For example if someone is cutting and you believe it’s because they really want and need attention, the way to deal with it may not be by getting extremely upset with them or by focusing on the cutting. You can give them attention without connecting it to the negative action right away. Asking them how they’re doing, what’s going on in their life, or simply asking them to hang out are all good ways to give them the attention they might be seeking without indicating to them that you’re doing it just to get them to stop cutting. Of course at some point down the road you may want to bring up the self-harm, but only giving attention to stop the symptom is not a good way to go.

 

If someone is desperate enough to hurt themselves, to attempt suicide, to restrict food, to purge, to do drugs, to drink excessively etc. just to get someone to pay attention to them, then this is a fairly good sign that they really do need more attention than they’re getting or that something bad is happening in their life that they need help with. Many times these techniques may be the only way they can get someone to pay attention, and that indicates that they really do need something from those around them. If someone wants attention that badly, they truly do have a problem. When we blow off people’s negative actions by saying “she just wants attention”, we seem to be saying that the problems are not real if they were motivated by the desire for attention. We are telling individuals that those desires for attention invalidate all of the very real struggles that they might be going through. We tell them that their problems are fake, made up, or not worth our time and energy. It gives us an excuse not to do anything and it invalidates all of their feelings.

 

The motivation of attention does not make something trite or unimportant. It doesn’t turn a problem into a joke. In fact it’s a good indication that the problem is real and severe and requires attention. Let’s stop blowing off the very serious problems of people we just don’t want to deal with by casting aspersions on their motivations and step up to the plate to find a healthy way to give them the attention they clearly need.

Support Is a Two Way Street

Over the weekend I was on a panel for FtBCON about supporting individuals with mental illness. It was really fun to participate in, and I feel like I got some good insight from others, as well as solidified some of my own feelings about what’s helpful and what’s not, but there’s one thing that I feel is extremely important about supporting someone with mental illness that we didn’t touch on at all (it was a one hour panel, there’s only so much we can do). But I think that this topic is something that we need to talk about because it will make life easier for support people, it will reduce some of the guilt and shame for people with MI, and generally it will strengthen and solidify relationships to last beyond the end of an MI.

 

Support is a two way street.

 

Ok, obvious thing is obvious, but many people, particularly support people, forget this. Any relationship you’re in requires a give and take of support and being supported. This is true EVEN if the person you’re in a relationship with has a mental or physical illness and needs more support than the average bear. A lot of the time support people think that they can’t burden their friend/family member/lover with any more troubles, and so they keep all their own difficulties to themselves. They want to protect their loved one. They think it’s showing that they care: they will take care of you through anything, but they won’t ask anything in return.

 

Unfortunately this tactic will make both parties feel like shit. First and foremost, a relationship with someone with an MI is a relationship, and any time you have massive inequalities in a relationship, that relationship is likely to not work or to lead to unhappiness. In very few other circumstances would it be considered acceptable to treat one party like a child and expect to be able to have an adult relationship.

 

If you try to protect the other person and you don’t allow them to offer support, both people will end up hurt in some fashion. It will make the support person resentful, afraid, and give them feelings of complete responsibility for the other person. It leads to lots of burnout and means that in the long run your relationship is likely to fall apart because the only thing sustaining it is sympathy or “fixing”. And from the perspective of the person with the disease, it feels incredibly condescending, isolating, and lonely. You never really get to hear about the other person. You don’t get to feel useful. You feel like you’re less than the other person or a drain on them. You feel like you’re ruining their life, or like they don’t actually want to be around you but they feel obligated. You feel like they don’t trust you to be adult or helpful or positive. It’s horrible.

 

Support people: you are allowed to make requests, set boundaries, and ask for support with someone who has a mental illness. Not only are you allowed, but you should. Being a support person is HARD work and if you aren’t willing to take care of yourself and be open and communicative about how you need to take care of yourself, it will not work. If the other person repeatedly makes demands that are too much for you or that you feel are enabling them, you are allowed to say no. If you’re having a horrible day, you’re allowed to call them and ask if you can vent or hang out or go to the movies. However just like any other relationship, you need to remember that when you do these things you should be gentle and validating of the other person.

 

People with mental illness: your mental illness is not a get out of jail free card. I know that sometimes it feels like you can’t add any more onto your plate. That’s ok. That’s when you get to set your own boundaries. But you have to step up for your friends and family when you can and how you can. All of us have something that we can give to others. All of you have something about you that draws your loved ones to you. Remember that and remember that if you want to maintain a strong and healthy relationship with someone then you owe honesty, support, and respect to them.

 

One good example of this is something that is really hard for everyone: opening a dialogue and asking for more information. Support people often find themselves a little lost and confused about what’s going on in the mind of the person they love. In this case, they need something. They need more information to feel some certainty, some understanding, and to be able to help more effectively. Lots of people are afraid of doing this because they feel it might set something off. However just like the person with the MI, the support person needs to listen to their own emotion of confusion and plan out strategies for how to ask for something. In this case, they should probably alert the other person ahead of time, ask without accusation, and try to maintain a curiosity about what’s happening with the other person.

 

Oftentimes we forget that the person with the MI is learning a great deal through therapy or skills training or simply dealing with their day to day life. They pick up on lots of skills and coping mechanisms. These often involve ways to take care of themselves, particularly in a relationship. However these are skills that are generally good for everyone. Learning how to be kind and giving, learning how to hold to your values, learning how to request something, learning how to set a boundary: these are all things that we should be taught clearly as children but most of us aren’t. And so just like the individual with the illness has to learn new things, so do the support people so that they can be more effective both for themselves and for the person they’re in a relationship with. People with MI want to be able to support and help others. It helps us remember we’re not useless. Giving us clear ways to give back does a lot for us, and it will do a lot for you.

Men Are Easy: Lies Sex Ed Told Me

Note: for the purpose of this article I’m going to be talking about heterosexual, cis-gendered men and women. Obviously there is TONS more ground to cover about understanding sexuality as a queer individual or a trans individual, but that’s just not my focus here. When I say man and woman I’m shorthanding for cis.

 

This morning I was going through my normal blog rounds and I moseyed over to The Quail Pipe, an online feminist magazine. The article up today was about how sex education needs to do a better job of facilitating discussion between the sexes so that guys can get some idea of how to actually please a woman, because otherwise they’re lost and frustrated and embarrassed. Overall I thought the point was entirely spot on (yes we need more communication, and yes it’s hard to get what to do with anatomy that’s not your own), but there were a few lines that stuck out to me as indicative of a larger societal attitude that is pretty damaging to young women trying to explore their sexuality.

 

The article focuses on men understanding women, however it takes a somewhat casual tone towards women trying to understand men. It says “male sexuality is a relatively primitive business. You can pick it up” and “identifying (or indeed generating) the signs of male arousal is like playing a game of ‘Pin The Tail on the Donkey’ without a blindfold in a well-lit room”. These two sentences seem to be part of a larger societal trend of saying that men’s sexuality is extremely easy to figure out and that women require no help to understand it, but that women’s sexuality is confusing and foreign, causing “men in the bedroom [to] sometimes find themselves in the position of a worried homeowner tentatively exploring a fusebox”.

 

It seems to me that this comes from the perspective in which a woman is the other who is foreign and confusing, and men are simply the norm and make sense, which is all too common when talking about sex. It also seems to rely on the tired stereotype that all men are desperate horndogs who will get turned on by looking at linoleum whereas women require some sort of intricate passcode to even make them think about granting a kiss. We have decent evidence that these stereotypes aren’t true in the form of non-horny men and extremely horny women, and we also have literature available from the perspective of women, but here I’d like to focus more on how the stereotype of easy male sexuality is extremely damaging.

 

The first problematic thing about these assumptions is that they seem to involve an implicit assumption either that men are built just for sex or that women are built just for man-pleasing. Neither one of these is supported by much evidence, and each one leads to negative consequences (like rape culture, victim blaming, or objectification). Each of us are complex individuals with different talents and motivations, and assuming that there is some magical fit which allows all women to please men ignores the many differences we have.

 

Part of this is that it assumes that all men are the same and that they don’t have individual wants and needs. It implies that women should just have an understanding because all men have a clear and simple switch that will turn them on, and that none of them are different in any way. This is misleading, and hurts relationships. It also makes it easy to use “boys will be boys” style arguments about men’s behavior.

 

In addition, this assumption gives our world excuses to not educate young women about their partners. Women may have things like Cosmo available, but let’s be honest: those tips are not very helpful or realistic. More often than not, sex advice given to women is not about an equal and open relationship, but about secrets that are supposed to turn on every man. They’re about the requirement that a woman please her man, and about becoming a sexy, alluring object. When we assume that all men are the same, we don’t feel we have to take the time to teach young women to talk to their partners and explore sexuality. Instead we set it up as a formula that has an easy answer.

 

From personal experience, these messages can make sex terrifying. Say you’re hanging out with your boyfriend and he starts doing things and acting like he wants you to reciprocate, but no one has ever told you how. What would you do if someone started asking you to venture into completely unknown territory that involved being vulnerable and intimate? You might panic.

 

Young women are less likely to have watched porn than their male counterparts, so many times all they have to go on is vague descriptions or gossip of acts and let me tell you, a vague description of a hand job is not helpful, and a vague description of a blow job is more likely to make you run screaming in the opposite direction than get you excited about trying it. How does lubrication work? Nobody tells a fifteen year old girl that. And things can pretty quickly get awkward or even painful if you don’t understand some of these basic functions.

 

Even if you can get yourself to explore a bit, if it doesn’t work immediately, it might seem confusing. Men are trained to expect that they won’t get a reaction. Women are trained to expect that men should fall apart the moment they’re touched. This leads to a great deal of confusion, frustration, self-hatred, guilt, and low self-esteem when it turns out that getting a guy off might be a little more confusing than just touching a penis.

 

In addition, this can also lead to confused expectations between partners. Men have been told over and over that they’re easy to figure out, and of course to themselves they are. So if their partner can’t figure them out, they assume that either something is wrong with their partner or with themselves. The same goes for the young women who feel something must be wrong with them if they can’t figure out something everyone thinks is so simple. Feeling like you’re letting down your partner over and over again if you can’t figure out their supposedly easy sexuality can really damage a young woman, make her fear sex, and make her afraid that anything she does will result in frustration and disappointment. This is not a way to build a healthy relationship or a healthy sexuality.

 

It makes you feel incredibly stupid to not be able to figure out something that everyone else says is as easy as playing pin the tail on the donkey with no blindfold. And coupled with the message that it’s INTENSELY important to please your man, it can lead to all sorts of paranoia, fear of abandonment, and feelings of failure. Is it any wonder that girls might be anxious about their first sexual experiences if they’ve been given no information and simultaneously told that it’s of the utmost importance that they do things perfectly?

 

Overall, the messages that women are sent are that not only should they have a basic understanding of how male anatomy works, but that they should be working to step up their game to something even BETTER (see crazy Cosmo tips). Men are never told that they should help out their partner, have individual wants and needs, or might even require a bit more effort than other men. We end up with little to no communication, particularly in relationships between younger people who may be coming in with misleading stereotypes of what they or their partner should do.  It leads to a world of hurt in young relationships when a woman can’t do what she feels she is expected to do, or when a young man feels disappointed by his partner’s lack of skill. Yet again, improved communication on all parts, and better education seem to be the keys, but for some reason we don’t talk about it too often in regards to women understanding men.

The Power of Pets

This is a post about how much I fucking love my cats. I was in no way planning on writing this post today, or possibly ever. But last night my baby boy, my perfect, favorite, sweet, psycho, needy, crazy, lunatic cat Sid Vicious (Darth Siddius the Kittius) died unexpectedly. And it’s honestly the only thing I can think about, and I need to talk about it somehow, and as this is my blog I get to do what I want.

I had a friend ask me recently what the point of pets was. I thought everyone got how awesome fuzzy sweet creatures were, but that question reminded me that it’s likely not everyone understands how integral my cats are to my mental well-being.

People are scary. They require understanding. They expect things of you. They can be passive aggressive, or angry, they don’t always tell you what they want, they can be hard to read. Oftentimes they challenge you and ask you to do incredibly difficult things, especially if you have a mental illness (people ask me to eat and not to cut, which are two of the hardest things in the world for me). While people can also support and share and talk and comfort, they ask for these things in return, and they have biases, and they can be confusing. They require energy. They rarely allow you to be wholly yourself, as each person in the world has different needs and triggers and concerns which you have to be aware of when you’re around them. People have a limited supply of how much they’re willing to listen to you bitch and moan or cry or hate the world. So people are both limited in what they can offer you, and they limit you in that they have expectations and needs and frustrations. For me especially, communicating with others can be particularly difficult, and because of the sensitive nature of a lot of my problems, I don’t feel comfortable being very open around other people. Especially because people often get really uncomfortable and try to make me do things I don’t want to do when I open up to them, I’ve learned that it’s often better to not rely on others.

Pets are completely different. Some people might suggest that animals only like you cause you feed them, or that they don’t really distinguish between people, or they don’t actually care about you. Well even after I moved out, I was Sid’s special favorite. From the moment I walked in the door at my parents’ to the moment I left, he would follow me around, yelling at me to pet him or love him or pay attention to him. He liked me and my dad better than anyone else, and he had his habits with us: he’d wake my dad up first thing in the morning and have a cup of coffee with him. He was needy. He wasn’t afraid to tell you what he wanted, but he never needed that much. He screamed to tell you he wanted to be petted or to stop petting him. He purred to tell you yes please. He hated being ignored, and god forbid if you let a different cat under the blankets first. He had Personality. SERIOUS personality, and he knew who he liked and he knew who he didn’t like, and he liked his older brother and he hated the dog and he loved being cuddled and he hated being held and he loved the sun and he hated loud noises. Sure he needed things, but nothing draining. Just some love. Some cuddles. Some pets.

He was distinct. He knew who he was and he made no secret of it so you never had to guess what he wanted or needed. And best of all he didn’t give a shit what you did unless it affected him. He would love you and rub up against you and only get unhappy if you ignored him. If you were struggling or not eating or depressed, he treated you exactly the same (although his magic cat sense told him when you were sick and he’d give you extra special cuddles). He didn’t judge. He didn’t ask you to do things that were outside of your comfort zone. But he did calm me and comfort me. He was warm and soft and purred, and made me feel close to another being, a being that didn’t require me to censor my thoughts or my feelings at all. Full and complete acceptance.

And what is absolutely wonderful about this kind of acceptance, this unthinking support, is that it made me a better person. I am not usually a very nurturing person. I’m not good at patience. I’m not good at spending time trying to puzzle out what someone is saying or wants or needs. I’m generally not very mothering or very caring. But sweet baby Jesus, when I was around that cat I had the patience of a saint. I would pet him for hours. I would sit without moving until my legs were numb rather than wake him up if he was sitting on me. If he was complaining about something, I would pet him and play with him and feed him and do whatever I could to try to figure out what he wanted because he was my baby, he was my responsibility. He had no better way of telling me what he wanted than meowing, so I had to figure it out. And he brought me back to reality. All of my cats do. When I’m drifting in my mind, somewhere unpleasant and self-hating, and a cat comes by and sticks his butt in my face, there’s only so much more metaphysical musing I can engage in. The physical sensation of touching a soft cat and having them arch up into my hand and purr can do more to center me than anything else.

And so my cats make me feel stronger. They make me feel as if I can take care of something, as if something needs me, as if something loves me no matter what and doesn’t need me to change. They remind me of the good bits of the world, and they remind me that in this exact moment there is a silly, goofy, sweetheart in front of me, tickling me with his tail and begging for a good scratch. They don’t demand that I change myself or make myself better or become healthier. That’s what scares me about other people. Other people put food in front of me or take away my razors or put me in therapy. My cats just show up and tell me that they need me. And then I have to remember for myself that I need to take care of me to take care of them. They make me strong enough to do things outside of my comfort zone on my own terms. They butt into my life when I least expect it and don’t ask me to feel better…they just ask me to cuddle with them for a bit. And somehow this utter rejection of everything that’s going on in my mind makes me feel better anyway.

I love my cats for the freedom they give me. And so I will miss my Sid more than I can say. I’ll miss how if you pet him just the right way you could make him do somersaults. I’ll miss how loud and obnoxious he was. I’ll miss how you could make him go flying across the room in terror if you sneezed too loudly. I’ll miss how he always had to be at the center of everything. I’ll miss how when I left my parents house my clothes would be nearly gray from all the cat fur I had gotten on them while cuddling him. I will miss how statuesque he looked when sitting still and upright, and how he and his brother made perfect little Siamese bookends whose heads moved in synch at any noise. I’ll miss the stupid fighting under the covers when two cats tried to get in at once. I’ll miss it all. Mostly I’ll miss that my baby who loved me for nothing more than the fact that I would give him my time is gone.

Why Do They Do It?

Trigger Warning: suicide

Disclaimer: none of these comments are meant to say anything about my current frame of mind or alert anyone that I am feeling suicidal. I’m interested in discussing how we talk about suicide, and how that talk can affect individuals who are feeling suicidal. I hope we can all be adult and sensitive while still being honest about a taboo subject to try to understand how our talk affects each other.

There has been a lot of writing about and coverage of suicide recently, as Stephen Fry recently opened up about a suicide attempt in his past. It’s gotten me thinking. I have never attempted suicide, but I have absolutely been in a state where I have considered it and been tempted by it. There have been some extremely intelligent and important things said about the subject recently, particularly that there is often no necessary rhyme or reason to it, but I want to get to something that I think is the biggest fear of many friends, family members, and loved ones, something that is extremely important to me, and something that comes up a lot when we talk about the ethics of suicide.

 

If someone commits suicide it is not about you. If someone attempts suicide it is not about you. If someone thinks about suicide it is not about you. When I have talked about suicide and the ethics of suicide in the past, the thing that comes up most often is the harm that it does to those around the individual: it leaves them hurt, lonely, and confused. Many people cite their family or friends as the only reason they won’t go through with suicide-they’re too afraid of who would find them, or of what it would do to their mother/lover/child/etc. More often than not, someone with mental illness thinks long and hard about what their actions are doing and will do to the people around them. But despite how much thought goes into the family and friends, the action is still not about them.

 

I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the vast majority of the time, the feelings of unhappiness, depression, and suicidality are not your fault, nor are they about you. Of course there are some exceptions to this, but for the most part, if your loved one is struggling, they are more likely to be worried about letting you down than they are about you ruining their life. So the action is not caused by you, or motivated by your actions. It’s caused by an internal battle and an internal desire.

 

In addition, the action is rarely taken with the intention to leave you alone, abandon you, or hurt you. Rarely does someone who is feeling suicidal take the pain felt by you lightly. Their struggle really has nothing to do with you though. Whatever feelings may be driving them towards suicide are their own: their own mental illness, their own life, their own circumstances that are leaving them helpless, frustrated, or unhappy. They are struggling with demons in their own mind. You may have some influence on their life: you may have helped some, you may have hurt some. You may have done both. But at the end of the day, no one can make another person depressed or safe another person (I’m going to except abusive situations here because that absolutely can make a person depressed). So they were not motivated by you being bad, nor were they motivated by a desire to leave you.

 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they did it with the intention of ignoring you, or taking your struggle lightly, but that they are so wrapped up in what is troubling them that they can’t necessarily prioritize taking care of your emotions. When I have been in bad places, the unhappiness clouds out everything else. There are people I love and care about, but the hopelessness and pointlessness of my life are all I see and all I feel. To be perfectly honest, those are the times I generally pay little to no attention to anyone else. I isolate. I’m not too interested in what anyone else has to say. And that’s because I’m too busy fighting the battle in my own mind. Other people feel peripheral.

 

When they intrude, it’s mostly to remind me that I don’t want to hurt them. But if I ever were to have gone through with something, the only thing I would have wanted to tell people was that I didn’t want to hurt them, I wasn’t trying to leave them, it wasn’t their fault, and in no way did I mean for it to be about them. If I could have I would have just winked out of existence without ever having been there so that no one would have to experience it. The pain in a suicidal person’s life often outweighs the struggle that they feel to protect those around them. But asking them to think about you and not put you through that can put even more pressure on them, and talking about the survivors afterwards can leave other people in similar situations feeling as if they’re doing something wrong and bad by even contemplating it. Adding guilt to the situation of someone who’s already struggling is unnecessary.

 

Suicide is intensely personal. It’s about an individual’s relationship with themself and the world. It’s about self-identity. It’s about individual experience. But it is NOT about you. When we’re talking about suicide, I would love to see less of how much it hurts others, and more about the experience of the individual who is in so much pain.

My Blog Is a Risk

I’ve recently been applying for jobs, many of them revolving around social media and communications, many of which want to see examples of my previous work. As I’m working to get a job, I’m realizing that the things that I post on this blog absolutely could spell the end of my candidacy at any job to which I apply. Knowing this, I’ve continued to write openly about my mental health, about taboo subjects like self-harm, and about issues that are sensitive and personal. I was asked last night why I keep doing it even though I know that it could harm my job chances in the future.

First and foremost I keep writing about these things because I don’t think I could stop. Whether I did this privately or publicly, I would still be writing and reflecting on all of the issues that I write about here because writing is how I cope, release, and reflect. Writing is just how I express myself. While I”m perfectly capable of having in person discussion and I do enjoy those, my first impulse is always to pick up a pen and paper and let out my thoughts. Writing is what I care about and what I want to do, so I continue to write for my own benefit.

But in addition, there are some reasons that I write publicly about these things. The biggest issue for me is that I don’t want to hide who I am and what I’ve been through. There are a few reasons for this. First, I’ve tried to do that and it feels horrible. It is time consuming, energy draining, unpleasant, and isolating. I don’t like it and I just don’t want to do it. Second, I have found some of the best support and the best discussion from those online. I have found communities that I care about and who care about me. I want to be open with them. Third, I know that there is stigma against mental illness. In my opinion, the only way to reduce this stigma is to make mental illness visible. If people know that their friends, family members, coworkers and the like are mentally ill and coping and successful and relatively normal, they can stop associating mental illness with violence and “otherness”.

Now when I mentioned this to my mom, she asked me why I had to do this. Did I have to fight this battle? Now there is no particular logical reason why I need to fight this battle. However I have known for my whole life that if I can make this world a better place that is something that I want to do, perhaps even something that I need to do. For my own quality of life and for the quality of life of those around me who suffer from similar problems, I can’t help but try to make changes. I don’t want to sit back and let other people dictate the cultural climate around me. I want to be active, and advocate for the things I care about through my own life, and through my activism. While I realize that it’s important to balance my own needs with the needs of the larger community, I know that it is possible to get a job while being open, and I’m willing to deal with the difficulties that posting openly here poses if it means that I can give back in some way.

So visibility is important to me. I am a relatively successful and well-adjusted individual. I want others to see that someone they might view as extremely put together actually has a mental illness. But perhaps most important to me, more than any of these other things, I want to be a voice that other people in similar situations can hear and talk to. If I can help one other individual understand their illness better, be inspired to get help, gain the confidence to talk to me, feel more comforted that they can get better, or find something of help in my posts, then it will be worth it. If I can in any way diminish the suffering of another person, or help someone head off their illness before it gets too serious, then holy shit will I be proud of myself. My potential job prospects are nothing in comparison to what this could do for other people.

From my personal experience, I know that finding others who are struggling, finding others who will be honest and open, and who won’t bullshit about the real reasons they’re trying to get better and why they were struggling in the first place, is the best way to feel stronger and more inspired myself. I don’t pretend that I know I can do this for others, but I can hope. The best way to foster dialogue and to help others feel they can be open and share their experiences is by doing it myself.

So all in all, yes, this blog is a risk. But I feel I can contribute in a very meaningful and intentional way both to my life and to my community by writing openly and frankly about my life. So I’m going to keep doing it.