“Everyone’s Been There”: A Dangerous Myth

BY CHELSEA RICCHIO

Let me preface this post by acknowledging a universal truth of life – everyone has gone through tough shit or will at some point in the future. Everyone has a story.

But when it comes to mental illness, not everyone’s “been there”. People – usually sweet, kind, well-meaning people who are just trying their best – love to say this as a response to someone’s experience with mental illness (often one that is directly correlated with an emotion that everyone really does experience at some point in time, such as depression or anxiety). I believe that when people say this, it is with the best intentions. They want to make the person they’re talking to feel less alone, and they want to believe that they understand.

They don’t realize that statements like this severely invalidate the experiences of a person with a mental illness. It’s not born out of malice; it’s born out of ignorance and the limitations that come with being human.

Whenever I use the word ‘ignorant’ people tend to get all up in arms, but the thing is, when I say that I am not calling out anyone in particular. We are all ignorant because we can only fully understand things which we have experienced. We can try to better ourselves by learning more about the world and other people’s experiences, but we can only do so much, and many people do not go out of their way to do this.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand what it’s like to be a “normal” person, because I have never been “normal”. I do not know the difference. I do my best every day to imagine and to be empathetic towards others, but I do not understand. I don’t know. Continue reading

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Taking a Tolerant Approach to Education

BY CHELSEA RICCHIO

We talk and we talk and we talk about what needs to change in this world and the various things that we need to call people out on. But rarely do we talk about how exactly to do that.

I’d like to say that it doesn’t matter how you say something, it’s what you say, and in some cases that is true, but in this case, the “what” and the “how” are equally important. The “how” might even be more important.

Here is why – imagine that you’ve written something (it can be anything, even a text message), and someone reading it says to you, “Um, excuse me, but just so you know, semicolons are actually only supposed to be used when bla bla bla bla. I mean I don’t expect most people to know that, I’m just a huge stickler for grammar and I went to school for Creative Writing.”

Did reading that kind of piss you off? Because it pissed me off just to write it. Doesn’t whoever that person is sound like a stuck up douchebag? They sound like they’re lecturing, and not because they actually care about teaching you something, but because they want to show off the ways in which they are better than you. Continue reading

Please Don’t Kick Me When I’m Already Down

BY RACHEL WONG

No one can possibly be happy 24/7. If anyone is offended by this opinion, then I apologize. But the truth is, there are always things in life that will inevitably bother us. And at the end of the day, as the optimists of the world will tell us, it is how we react to these things that really matters. We have the capability to make our own decisions and to choose how much we are going to let things affect us.

People with depression aren’t pessimists all the time, though we surely aren’t optimists.depressed-woman-hand-touching-head-350.jpg We see the world through foggy, rainy lenses, but we still have this small inkling of hope for a better tomorrow. Though it may not be evident in the way that we act or present ourselves, it’s there – hidden way below the surface. We know that our behaviour can bring other people down and we know that others generally just want to help. But people with depression are also very solitary. For whatever reason, we think it’s a great idea to be left alone with our emotions. Occasionally, we come out of our shells and we talk to people that make us feel good about ourselves, and other times we might actually feel happy.

But when people with depression open up to family and friends, we don’t expect psychiatric wisdom or diagnoses that you’ve gathered from WebMD. We just want someone to actively listen to us. We need someone to give us an affirmative nod and let us know that we’re being supported.

Because the weird and twisted thing is: we want to be happy too. Not like an overnight, 180-degree turn from sad to happy. We just want to feel better about ourselves and the world around us.

Continue reading

Awareness Does Not Equal Empathy

BY CHELSEA RICCHIO

I have a membership at a rock climbing gym, and I’m usually there at least a couple of times a week. As a result I’ve become known to most of the staff, although not always for my climbing unfortunately.

I frequently use my To Write Love On Her Arms t-shirts as climbing attire, and no one’s ever commented on them. But I guess that doesn’t mean that no one noticed them.

I made friends with one of the staff members, and one day after talking 19afd0b5372b6bea130220e7396c9b78about my experiences with mental illness, he confessed to me that one of his coworkers had said something about me that was less than sensitive, long before we had become friends.

“Yo, she’s a cutter eh?” His coworker said one day, gesturing to my outfit. “She’s always wearing those shirts.”

My friend informed him that this meant nothing and that as far as he knew I wasn’t covered in scars (this was a fair assumption considering that I was fond of prancing around in tiny shorts and tank tops in the summer, although of course that doesn’t mean anything either).

I think it’s interesting that he clearly knew what To Write Love On Her Arms is (sort of – they cover much more than just self-harm) but would still say something as judgmental as that.

Creating awareness does NOT automatically mean eradicating stigma or even providing the right education. Continue reading

My arms are open

BY STEPHANIE BERTOLO

For so long, I’ve been keeping a part of myself hidden, and I think it’s about time I let it be known:

I had an eating disorder.

For three years of my life, I struggled with anorexia and orthorexia nervosa.

Yet, despite the fact that I am a strong advocate of raising awareness about mental health and illness, I have only told a handful of people about my personal experience.

courageWhy?

A number of reasons, but I suppose a lot of them have to do with the stigma surrounding mental illnesses that I attempt to eradicate. And the majority of them are the same reasons that prevented me from reaching out for help in the first place. Continue reading