On the Road to Being a Real Woman 

I’m not going to lecture you on what constitutes a real woman or a real man. What I’m going to do instead is share with you a realization about what being a woman is, as opposed to being a little girl, in a new aspect. Now, I’ve been critical of the general societal perception that thin is in. I’ve even gone so far as to call the skinny girls of the world “broomsticks” out of sheer jealousy. But this morning, something inside of me changed. It’s not my attitude toward thin is in. It’s my attitude toward the girls and women who fit this particular image. I’m not hateful towards them anymore. I have no reason to tear the thin ones down, simply because they are thin. It’s not their fault they’re thin and therefore beautiful by society’s standards. Just because they were born lucky, doesn’t mean they stay that way.

There is no need to tear a person down, because they’re perceived as having more value than you. It must be hard for them, too, because of this perception that you have to compete.

I’ll admit it. I’m fat. I can’t compete. But knowing this frees me to find the inherent value I have inside myself. There is a purpose to my existence. If there was not, I would not be alive. Believe me, those who love me have fought to keep me on this planet, even though I have had a strong desire to leave at times in my life. Yes, I have had to fight my own desire for suicide. But I have won. To paraphrase Alice Walker, I may be poor, I may be fat, I may be ugly, but I am here.

I’ve also learned that I can get a man on my own, without having to compete with anyone. A real man won’t make you compete. Boys want women to feel insecure, to compete and focus on them, as if the woman is his mother. Boys need mothers. Men need women. Which brings me back to the real woman.

A real woman is not that hard to spot. She is the one who builds women up, not tear them down. She can stand on her own without a man. She can want and desire a partner, but she does not need one. A real woman works on her healing. Trust me, the world wants you to be a girl, because girls are controllable. That’s why the world works to break you as a girl, to freeze you – keep you as a girl. Girls wallow in their hurt. You can see this in earlier posts.  Trust me, I have not quite made it to being the real woman. But I have taken a step toward it.

Mental Health Stigma Hurts Us All  

“Take your meds, move along.” That’s what I tell myself every once in a while now when I am tempted to not take the medicines I use to stay somewhat healthy. Don’t get me wrong; there are times I gag when I put the larger ones in my mouth. I still take the medicine anyway because it’s the easiest way to take it. Some people need it as a shot every two weeks; some people can just take the medicine as a daily pill. (There are probably other ways, but I’m not knowledgeable in all of them.) Here’s the trouble: I know of at least one person who avoids taking medicine and would prefer multiple stays in a mental hospital. Why? Why do a large number of people avoid taking the medicine at all? Why do people not accept that the medicine helps? Better yet, why does it take extreme drama and possibly even a revocation of possible rights to get some people to take medicine at all? Could it be due to mental health stigma?

First, let us define stigma.

Stigma:

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  (Oxford University Press)

Well, isn’t that special? Having a mental illness is a mark of disgrace in this society. That makes perfect sense. People don’t want to be disgraced. The disgraced are hated and discriminated against. What does that lead to? America’s largest mental health facility is inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The disgraced are also criminalized, too, by the way. So it takes a crime to get a person the help they need without submitting to the stigma? Who has to suffer because of it? No, it’s no longer who has to suffer. The question is now this: Who has to die? How many people have to die before they recognize stigma does not work?

This is how stigma works: Stigma gets a person thinking they cannot be loved and accepted with the particular quality (aka Mental Illness), so they hide it. And hide it with drinking, drugs, eating, and maybe something else. Until it backfires and is revealed. Usually, there has to be a crime before somebody intervenes because then the person can be removed from society with approval, if they have not already done so themselves (ex. suicide).  Nobody wants to do anything, or even believe there is a problem at all, until the problem hurts permanently. Even then, some families of suicide remove the person from their memory, and try to make the problem go away again. Repeat the cycle until somebody finally speaks up, or until death affects the family visually. Or, maybe, until suicide becomes homicide.

So, what’s the solution? The solution is painfully obvious: end the stigma. Make it okay to take care of your mental health. Don’t make a person think they have to be Mental Superman. Mental Superman does not exist. I think you need to make it okay to take your medicine. Take your meds, move along.

Mental Health Stigma Hurts Us All

“Take your meds, move along.” That’s what I tell myself every once in a while now when I am tempted to not take the medicines I use to stay somewhat healthy. Don’t get me wrong; there are times I gag when I put the larger ones in my mouth. I still take the medicine anyway because it’s the easiest way to take it. Some people need it as a shot every two weeks; some people can just take the medicine as a daily pill. (There are probably other ways, but I’m not knowledgeable in all of them.) Here’s the trouble: I know of at least one person who avoids taking medicine and would prefer multiple stays in a mental hospital. Why? Why do a large number of people avoid taking the medicine at all? Why do people not accept that the medicine helps? Better yet, why does it take extreme drama and possibly even a revocation of possible rights to get some people to take medicine at all? Could it be due to mental health stigma?

First, let us define stigma.

Stigma:

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  (Oxford University Press)

Well, isn’t that special? Having a mental illness is a mark of disgrace in this society. That makes perfect sense. People don’t want to be disgraced. The disgraced are hated and discriminated against. What does that lead to? America’s largest mental health facility is inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail. The disgraced are also criminalized, too, by the way. So it takes a crime to get a person the help they need without submitting to the stigma? Who has to suffer because of it? No, it’s no longer who has to suffer. The question is now this: Who has to die? How many people have to die before they recognize stigma does not work?

This is how stigma works: Stigma gets a person thinking they cannot be loved and accepted with the particular quality (aka Mental Illness), so they hide it. And hide it with drinking, drugs, eating, and maybe something else. Until it backfires and is revealed. Usually, there has to be a crime before somebody intervenes because then the person can be removed from society with approval, if they have not already done so themselves (ex. suicide).  Nobody wants to do anything, or even believe there is a problem at all, until the problem hurts permanently. Even then, some families of suicide remove the person from their memory, and try to make the problem go away again. Repeat the cycle until somebody finally speaks up, or until death affects the family visually. Or, maybe, until suicide becomes homicide.

So, what’s the solution? The solution is painfully obvious: end the stigma. Make it okay to take care of your mental health. Don’t make a person think they have to be Mental Superman. Mental Superman does not exist. I think you need to make it okay to take your medicine. Take your meds, move along.

A Story for World Suicide Prevention Day

When I learned Robin Williams had committed suicide, I was in shock for days. How could someone who brought laughter and happiness to so many not be able to have some of that happiness left over for himself? I grieved and mourned, like the rest of the world. For those of you who drove his daughter off Twitter with your comments, I condemn you. She needed you, and you let her down. I wish I could be baffled by suicide,  but sadly I am not.

I am going to tell you something difficult: I was once considering suicide – even up to the planning stage, when I was discovered and reported. I was 17. My parents were divorcing, my younger sister was rebelling against the rules and going through her migraines, my brother wanted to live with his father, my elder sister was doing her thing, raising her little boy. I don’t know if it was a cry for attention – because some people think that. I was failing my classes, getting my dreams dashed, I had no friends – the list goes on and on. When living with autism in high school, one is usually bullied and left out of things, as I was, so I had no friends to speak to. I think I was trying to end the pain, which would end anyway soon – and through some more pain, learn I was stronger than ever.

The events of the day I was discovered go like this: I had decided to stay home that day, because I had the flu, I think. Late in the morning, I was confronted by my mother, who was devastated at the news. I remember little about the conversation, except she said, “I can’t lose you.’ It tore me to my heart, because I thought my death would make people happier. That’s what people think when they consider death as a way out- that only positivity could come out of it.

My mother took me to the school nurse, where I told her of my formulating plan – something to do with knives. Since I was discovered, there was only one thing I could do: tell people how much I was hurting, and watch as they rejected me – but they never rejected me. I could not tell my acquaintances; there was no one close enough to talk with. Then, I was taken to the doctor’s office, where I was interviewed, and by that evening I was in the psych ward of a local hospital. I ate cold roast beef, Brussels sprouts and some sort of starch dish – I cannot remember. This would begin a long journey which would involve pills, regaining my love of certain things, and finding out who my true friends are. It would last for years, through divorce, abuse and being completely alone, but now I am back.

I can’t say I haven’t gone back down that dark path since, because I was starting to go when my sisters kicked me out of their house and sent me back to my mom, but I have never been so far again. It’s only under extreme pressures that things like this enter my mind, but it’s been thankfully only once.

You know something? I have said the word “I” more times in this article than all the others. That is the tragedy when you’re only thinking of yourself – you get down on the subject you’re thinking of when it’s you. Perhaps thinking of myself less – getting out of my head and into others’ problems – is the key to having a purpose.

Want to know what goes on in the mind of someone considering death? Here are a few thoughts:

1) Negative Self-Talk: “Everyone would be better off if I was gone.” “I’m a burden.” “I’m a source of tension.” “Things would be better without me.” When you think your presence is only negative, you tend to think it needs to go.

2) Toxic Relationships: I hope reading the article is giving you a clue as to who or what was influencing my thinking – people letting me down. Hopefully, you can find someone to go to when things like this happen.

3) A Poor Self-Image: People with autism are viewed as a burden and a tragedy, as are most people with so-called disabilities. Sometimes you need to have the person think of a scenario where their specific talents are necessary for the survival of society. For the autistic, for example, maybe the lesser knowledge of social graces can finally bring the truth out considering a bad situation. If somebody wants to remind me what good things about a person like me has, please let me know.

4) Mental Illness: Depression and other illnesses are common in people who think death is a way out. As a matter of fact, it is often a sign that there is an illness there.

5) Alcohol / Drugs: Fortunately, this was not a factor in my contemplations, but getting a mind-altering substance into somebody is usually a dangerous prospect, especially when death is concerned. You’ve seen the beginning of “The First Wives Club,” where the wife was insanely drunk when she leapt to her death. There is truth in that. Self-medicating is a sign something is wrong.

These are a few things which get inside the head of a person on the verge of suicide. I wish I did not know it intimately, because I could have led people down a dark, unforgiving path of death.

I hope talking about my experiences does not glorify suicide, rather I hope it drives you to get away from it. I know for a fact my family would never recover had I gone through with it – and I would not be here to triumph today.

National Suicide Hotline:

1-800-273-8255