As a lot of you know I've been going through a really tough time lately, and in the last week I started to feel suicidal. I made these feelings public, both to some real-life friends and on the dA life help forum, feeling desperate and needing support, and the vast majority of people were very kind, loving, and supportive. I am still struggling but I think the worst is over for now, and I want to extend my thanks to everyone - everyone - who has helped me keep going.
But some "advice" I received brought to light a serious issue in the arena of mental health - one that I think is extremely damaging and contributes to those with mental health troubles feeling that they are alone and cannot talk to anyone about it. Again, I want to emphasize that the following comment was from one person, and that the majority of responses I received were very kind and helpful. But I think this comment, although harsh, puts on display the attitude that many people hold about people struggling with mental health issues.
For some background, I had mentioned in my forum post that I was feeling suicidal, that I both work and go to school full time, and that I have had difficulties finding friends and making connections due to the frenzy over marijuana legalization where I live (I have no interest in weed, but it's all anyone in my age group wants to do), and that there is not a therapist in my area and my school does not have a campus therapist.
The comment was as follows:
"There's a lot of options out there, but you seem dead set on making reasons why you can't actually address your problem. So what exactly can anyone do when you've already made the choice yourself to NOT do anything about it. I'm sure it would be a lot easier for your family if they just found you dead one day, in some grotesque manner, then you actually talking to them about it.
As for all your other excuses, they are simply that. You are going to college, which means that in your fees you're covered for medical, including therapy, and if there isn't one at your school, they have to send you to someone else. So that isn't really a reason so much as a rationalization for why you have made the choice you made. Not that it matters since clearly you have chosen to use the fact that it's too far as another excuse. I'm sorry, what are you going to do with that time? Hang out with the people you said you hated?
I get it, you don't want anyone to know. You want it to be a secret. You want to hide it. But honestly what's the point of hiding it? If you really were resigned to death, you'd realize that you have nothing to lose by putting effort into it, but when a person just makes excuses for choosing to not address their problem, and it's clearly because they want to hide it from others it's for a very simple reason. You're afraid that your problem could actually be fixed, and then what? You wouldn't be the special snowflake anymore. You wouldn't be able to use your depression as a crutch. You couldn't use your emotional stability as a scapegoat anymore. You'd have to accept that good and bad things happen, and any failures are yours and yours alone. You'd actually have to function, and you're not used to that, you're used to making excuses.
But whatever. You've made your choices and your excuses. And keeping that in mind, it really sounds like you should move. You hate the people around you, you hate the place you live, so move. You said yourself, no one will miss you, so no one will miss you if you move. But again that takes initiative, and a willingness to brave the unknown in the hopes of something better. So I doubt you'll do that. Again, if you've truly resigned yourself to die, what do you have to lose.
There is always a distinction between thought and intention. You've simply thought about it, and that's all it will ever be, which is fine. But since there isn't any intention, you need to stop feeling that entertaining a thought you will never act on is a crisis. You can't even take a chance to fix your problem, so it's even more unlikely you'd take a chance at death. At some point you're going to have to learn how to function one way or the other."
First off, this person is horribly uneducated about the American college system - medical expenses are not included in college fees and colleges are NOT obligated to provide therapy for students, but that isn't the point, really. What was so disturbing to me about this comment was that they were quick to blame me for my own problems and accuse me of using my depression as a "crutch". Essentially, they told me that I am a non-functioning member of society.
I am not using my depression as a crutch. I am excelling in spite of it, I hold a stable, full-time job and I am also taking 12 college credits at the moment, and I hold a 3.9 in school. My depression has not prevented me from doing these things, but it has made it damn hard. I expressed that I was exhausted, both emotionally and mentally, and that I did not feel that everything I was doing was worth it. I did not feel that I was important to the people in my life. Yet, that was just a result of me using my depression as a "crutch". I see the word "crutch" being thrown around a lot when it comes to mental health and I cannot tell you how much I hate it. This implies that I somehow rely on my depression, that somehow it is beneficial to me.
It isn't. And anyone who has ever been depressed will tell you the same. It isn't that we don't want to get better - it's that the obstacles we face seem so impassable that we don't think we can ever do it. Yet instead of people sitting down, rationalizing it, and encouraging someone with depression to overcome their obstacles, they are slammed with the accusation that they want to be unhappy. That they are only making excuses. That it is their fault they feel this way.
Would you tell someone who had cancer that they were using it as a crutch? That it's their fault they had cancer? As their illness worsened, would you tell them it was because they weren't trying hard enough, that they didn't want to get better?
No. You wouldn't.
So why do we do it with mental health? Yes, it is a matter of thought and free will to an extent, but it is also a simple matter of a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a medical issue, just like anything else. While I will admit fully that there are sufferers of depression who push away help and don't try to help themselves at all, I think our society is entirely too quick to throw out the "crutch" argument, and this is not helpful, at all. People who express feelings of hopelessness and being trapped, especially in the manner I did, are typically not using their issues as a means to get attention or stand out from the crowd. They are reaching out for help. And telling them they are using it as a crutch will only make them feel worse, they will feel guilty, and they probably aren't going to be comfortable asking for help again.
Instead of blaming someone for the way they feel, instead of making them feel ashamed at their struggles, or comparing them to someone else's problems (another terrible thing to do - yes, someone else may have it worse, but does that make me better? It absolutely does not.) let us instead come from a place of love and support, and encourage those who feel helpless, and help to show them that we care.
Then maybe, just maybe, we will finally start to see mental health issues treated the way they should be.