It’s easy to put depression into a box of symptoms, and though we as a society are constantly told mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, we are stuck with a mental health stock image in our heads that many people don’t match. When we see depression and anxiety in adolescents, we see teens struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives. We see grades dropping. We see involvement replaced by isolation. People slip through the cracks.
We don’t see the student with the 4.0 GPA. We don’t see the student who’s active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society. We don’t see the student who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group. No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.
I was this kid too. As an abuse survivor, I learned very early how to hide in plain sight. I didn’t want anyone to find out what was happening to me, so I knew that keeping up good grades, not doing drugs, not causing trouble meant that no one would ever question what was happening.
That also meant that my abuse and depression didn’t catch up to me until much later in life, and I wasted a lot of years dealing with something I could have dealt with at a younger age. That’s not good. We need to do more to get to survivors, and others with mental health issues, earlier, regardless of whether they fit our stereotypes.
Over the last few years I have worked with an incredible sexual abuse prevention team.
They provide training for schools, community centers, and governmental organizations, help families out of tragic situations, and provide counseling to victims. The work they do both turns your stomach to lead and lights a fire in your heart – it is unspeakable tragedy but there IS hope.
They have opened my eyes to how every single person in the world can either add to a culture of child sexual abuse, or dismantle it. Our very words can help prevent children from abuse.
Here are a few phrases I’ve learned from them:
What phrases would you add to the list?
5 Phrases That Can Help Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse
Social media sites like Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. get a lot of bad publicity when it comes to mental health. That’s understandable, because too many people who are vulnerable to bad ideas, use them to feel bad about themselves, or interact with people who hurt them.
Social networks are made of people at the end of the day, however. Our interactions with other people online are no different than they are offline. Some relationships are good for us, and others aren’t. Hopefully, those of us who use social media platforms can use them for something like finding other survivors to share information and resources, or support when needed.
There is a healthy way to be online and take part in these networks. If you can find it, there is a lot to be said for seeing that you aren’t alone.
Sheryl has written a quick review of two books she has on the top of her list for healing, The Courage to Heal, and for partners, spouses and other family members, Allies in Healing.
You can check out what she has to say on her site:
Books That Heal
What I learned from my story was that an abuser is an abuser. There aren’t any hidden terms and conditions on whether or not they are related to you, or laws stating you have to love them due to your shared biology, regardless of their cruelty. The truth is it doesn’t matter who they are, all that matters is how they treat you.
One day, in a place far away, you won’t have to live in fear of what they are going to do to you. You won’t be known for what happened to you, but rather for how you picked yourself up despite it.
This is an extra struggle, because for many of us who were abused within the family structure, not only are we trying to find our voice and tell our story, but we are seen as turning on our own family. The truth is, however, that the abuser is the one who turned on their own family, all the survivor is doing is telling the truth, and family members who don’t see that, don’t deserve to play a role in our healing.
Sibling Abuse Is Real, And It’s Often Overlooked In Families
So many take for granted that they are able to get up each day, go to work, attend a dinner party, bowling league, or anything else that might be considered “no big deal”. For survivors, those things can be terrifying and just the thought of them is enough to make us want to stay home in our safe zone.
As a survivor, just getting out of bed is a victory for so many of us. It’s so much easier to just pull the covers over our head in the morning, turn off the alarm, cuddle up with our cat or dog, and call off sick. When you wake up and your mind immediately goes into full gear, thinking of what all has to be done or worse yet, never shut off from the night before, it can be exhausting and overwhelming.
So when we do something positive, no matter how minor it may seem to someone else, why not celebrate it?!”
This is also how you build confidence, by focusing on the small successes, and building on them, instead of focusing on the failures and building on those.
What successes did you have today? What can you have tomorrow?
Small victories count and should be acknowledged
““Someone will call in and know they need help, but they don’t know how to get there,” says Ben Harrington, executive director.
“They need treatment, or they need to find a doctor. Our specialists find out the most pressing issues, and when they say they understand, and that they’ve been there too, it’s huge.
“Shared struggles are so important to someone who thinks they are all alone.””
I love this idea, having survivors taking calls so that the person calling in immediately knows that they are not alone in their struggles. If you go back with my own site for much time, you know that is exactly why I keep it up, so that child abuse survivors at least find someone out there who has been where they are.
You Are Not Alone
“I wish I would’ve known the signs earlier. I think about some of the things my cousin said before his passing, and now I know where his head was. That’s what breaks my heart more than anything—suicide can be prevented if you watch for the signs. But that’s thing—so many people don’t know what to look for until it’s too late.
So please, I implore you, keep your eyes open and watch for signs. Don’t lose someone you love to suicide. Don’t lose yourself to suicide. Call someone. Use the resources available to you. Post anonymously on reddit. Find a forum. Just do something.
Don’t let go. Don’t give up.”
Well said Cameron. Don’t ever give up.
Know the Signs of Suicide, Save a Life
“So how is this misleadingly named curse different from recognisable grief? For a start, it can produce symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s – forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation. Making even the smallest decisions can be agonising. It can affect not just the mind but also the body – I start to stumble when I walk, or become unable to walk in a straight line. I am more clumsy and accident-prone. In depression you become, in your head, two-dimensional – like a drawing rather than a living, breathing creature. You cannot conjure your actual personality, which you can remember only vaguely, in a theoretical sense. You live in, or close to, a state of perpetual fear, although you are not sure what it is you are afraid of. The writer William Styron called it a “brainstorm”, which is much more accurate than “unhappiness”.”
It’s been awhile since I found myself really in a deep depressive episode, but I do remember well enough. And the one thing I remember more than anything was just how overwhelming EVERYTHING was. Simple acts, like dropping a dish while trying to get something to eat would leave me sitting on the ground in tears because I believed that I could never be normal, or take care of myself.
Something like holding down a job, paying my bills, or being in a relationship seemed was absolutely beyond my comprehension. I did not see myself as being capable of any of that, and it was beyond just a feeling of being incapable, I was physically overwhelmed by the idea, unable to carry myself in the same way that I had.
I don’t recall being more clumsy, or stumbling, but I do recall every physical act being absolutely exhausting.
So yeah, having depression like this leaves you in a bad way. I would agree with that.
Renee Fabian has published a list of nine memoirs written by women dealing with mental health issues, that have helped her deal with her own mental health.
Obviously, this post is mostly directed at women but anyone looking for some reading material to help see that they are not alone in the struggle for mental health may get some value from the books.
If you do check out one, or more, of the books on her list, consider dropping back here and leaving a review!
9 mental health memoirs that have helped me through my own mental illness