Happy Friday, friends! And welcome back to another day in the lovely Shattering Stigmas event. In case you missed it, Shattering Stigmas is an event that will take place from October 6th to October 20th here on Drizzle & Hurricane Books.
Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.
You can also enter our INTERNATIONAL (Book Depository) giveaway! TWO winners will be able to win the Mental Health book of their choice at the end of this event. Don’t forget to ENTER HERE!
It is my honor today to share a guest blog post, written by the incredible Clara, about her story with mental health. I’ve been loving all of the submissions and everything I have shared and will be sharing on the blog, but Clara’s blog post particularily moved me. I hope you’ll love it as much as I did and feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
Trigger warnings: this post deals with anxiety, eating disorders, OCD and suicidal thoughts.
My name is Clara, I am almost 23 years old and I suffer from many, many things. Besides being diabetic I have been diagnosed with cyclothymic disorders and anxiety when I was 18, and recently learned about my eating disorder and OCD. I am always a tad embarrassed to put all those big words next to each other and to say it out loud. Most people think that I’m joking and that I’m exaggerating. Even worst, as soon as those words leave my mouth people look at me and start seeing me differently, picturing me in a way they believe I must be if I suffer from all those things.
I suffer from an eating disorder? But I’m not skinny or fat.
I have anxiety? But I have a job and am on social media.
I have OCD? But my room isn’t neat clean.
I tried to kill myself and still have suicidal thoughts? But I smile and laugh and look happy.
And all those ideas people keep having on their minds about how I should be, end up in books too. Recently an author contacted me because I talk about mental health a lot on social media and because she has just finished writing a book about depression and bulimia. I picked it up immediately, full of hope. In the end it was the worst mental health representation I have ever read, and it hurt a lot.
Suffering from bulimia doesn’t only mean making yourself throw up and binge eating. It also means being unable to see yourself in a mirror and being obsessed with your weight. It means not eating also, sometimes for several days, and exhausting yourself by working out one or two hours each night just to see if you look better. It’s being convinced that you are shaped differently than you really are and thinking about food all the time. It’s thinking that you are weird, that you are failing at life and much more. And that doesn’t stop to bulimia – having anxiety doesn’t mean you are awkward just like having OCD doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed with how clean everything is. Actually it isn’t even like that for everyone – we are all unique and our illnesses are different to every single one of us.
But stigma hurt. Bad representation hurt. It isn’t something new – a lot of people fight for good representation in literature, especially poc and marginalized people who deserve to feel included in what they read about. And that’s what stigma feels like: it makes you feel as if you are a freak, as if you aren’t normal and as if you shouldn’t be included in anything. People see you and think they know you just because you told them about your mental illness. I can’t count the number of people who told me to stop being dramatic, to just smile and that everything will be okay. Because sick people are lazy, didn’t you know that? Everyone keep thinking that depression can be cured if you try harder, if you just stay positive… Well, it’s wrong.
Once, someone told me to stop, that it was all in my head. I went crazy, and thought about this famous quote in the Harry Potter series: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”. That’s the thing with mental health and all those illnesses. It is happening in my head, everything that I hear or think may be wrong, there aren’t even real, but I still hear it, I still think it and that is very real. It’s not because people can’t see it that it doesn’t make it true, and I wish more people would understand that.
As I said many people left me because of my mental health. Sometimes I understood it – not everyone can deal with it and everyone deserves to protect themselves. Sometimes I didn’t – mental illnesses should never be an excuse for you to be mean, but people shouldn’t use them to make you feel bad as well. I have been told and told again that I was too negative and dramatic because I kept tweeting when I was having a panic attack or had suicidal thoughts. They kept making me feel as if I was a monster because I was always complaining and because I couldn’t go out without having someone near me. And just like everyone they told me that I wasn’t trying hard enough, as if suffering from anxiety is like having a cold and that it should pass after a few days.
As I am writing this I feel overwhelmed with all the things I wish I could say. I want to talk about how annoyed I am that people think anxiety is so common because of social media, when actually I had my first panic attack when I was a child. We put the blame too easily on the Internet. I want to talk more about those people who judged me and those who left me, the ones who told me I was a freak and the ones who told me I was a sl*t. I want to keep talking about bad representation and how it hurts. There is too much to say when talking about stigma and mental health. Yet I have to stop somewhere.
I don’t know if it all made sense. I don’t know if what I want to say is even clear in here. What I really wanted to tell you today is that I am sorry if you suffer from anything and people can’t understand it, and that if you don’t suffer from anything then please try to remember that it’s not because you can’t see it that it isn’t real. If one of your friends need to stay in bed and have to cancel your plans together, then trust me, they are sorry but they really can’t make it and you really shouldn’t make them feel bad. They tried. They are always trying, always fighting. You could help by only saying, “I understand, know that I am here for you if needed”. That’s already a lot.
To anyone fighting every day: I love you, you got this and you make a huge difference in the world.