Response to “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing”

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Ok so I’m on a roll with the “response” posts, but one particular blogger had me fired up late last week. Last Thursday xoJane.com published the article “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing”. When I first saw the article I was intrigued. While I thought the title was exploitive click bait, I thought maybe what followed would offer a provocative personal perspective about mental illness. Or I thought maybe it would be a reflection on how relief can sometimes be a complicated and even more painful aspect of grief.

But I was wrong. The article that followed was a string of shallow and callous judgements that begged the question of how it made it past an editors desk. XoJane later removed that article and apologized, though the author has not apologized. You can still see the original post here.

As someone who works with the mentally ill and has loved ones with mental illness, I was not only angered and offended, but also disappointed by the lost opportunity a explore a challenging but worthy issue. Let me try to explain what I hoped the article might be, and point an angry finger at what it actually was.

As a sibling of someone with severe and chronic mental illness, I’ve watched first hand the pain caused by mental illness to the individual and everyone that cares for them. The value of living such a painful life is a worthy conversation, not because anyone with mental illness is better off dead, but because the conversation brings light to the suffering that goes ignored or stigmatized. I’ve watched my brother go through hell. I’ve watched my parents’ lives turn upside down in their exhausting efforts to help him. I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments, when things were really bad, when somewhere deep in the darkest corner of my mind would it be better if he wasn’t here? became a thought. The times this has happened, shame and pain immediately follow. Shame for my own weakness and difficulty merely observing the pain that my brother somehow finds the strength to endure every day. Shame for my narrow sightedness that my parents’ unconditional love is a burden and not a triumph. After the shame, comes immediate gratitude for my brother, everything he teaches me with his experience, and everything his presence on this earth offers us. Our society has become so motivated by pain and discomfort avoidance, that we often forget pain precedes growth; pain precedes strength – and that must make my brother and others with mental illness some of the strongest people in the world.

As much shame as I have associated with that thought, I think that maybe it’s worth sharing. Sometimes our mind goes to a terrible place without asking our permission first. It’s human. It’s a product of the pain caused by mental illness, and the helplessness felt by anyone who cares, which is a result of such insufficient treatment and support. So maybe others have had similar experiences/thoughts, and similarly judge themselves. Maybe instead of judging ourselves we could share our experiences, lean on each other for strength, and try to make some change.

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This is the complicated emotional experience of someone whose life is touched by mental illness. You, Amanda Lauren, are not one of these people.

Your article didn’t mention any pain you experienced at a result of this person’s struggle. At most you described inconvenience and annoyance in response to what sounded like mere personality differences, not pathological symptoms. If you’re going to make the dubious argument that life with mental illness isn’t worth living, talk about homelessness, talk about insufficient treatment, talk about stigma, talk about being the victim of violence… Don’t talk about having a messy room and lack of a boyfriend.

You admitted to not even giving this girl a thought for years before you decided to add her to your Facebook feed solely for your entertainment. Based on some concerning behavior and posts about her diagnosis, you draw assumptions that she died lonely, unhappy, and a burden to her family, while simultaneously judging her family for allowing this to occur (as if it were something they had control over). You wrote an article assigning value (or lack thereof) to a person’s life that you weren’t even involved in.

If your point is that your former friend’s life was a tragedy best ended, you need to take responsibility for that tragedy. You watched and judged someone who needed help, and did nothing. Now she is dead. You can try to justify your behavior by backwards reasoning that she’s better off dead – But no, she’s not.

Now you not only need to take responsibility for how you treated your former friend, but the message you sent to everyone suffering with mental illness by publishing that article. The first step is taking responsibility for whatever mindset is at the root of such callousness. Seek some help Amanda Lauren. Don’t worry, you’ve cause some people some pain, but you’re not a lost cause.

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30 Things to Remember When You’re Feeling Down

This a more personal post than I usually write, but something was telling me to share. I find it’s generally best to listen to your gut in such situations, even if your brain hasn’t figured out why yet. Who knows, maybe the universe is telling me someone else might need to see this.

Like everyone else, sometimes I feel down. As I get older, I think I’m getting better at putting these low moments into a healthy perspective, but some times are more difficult than others. I recently decided to write in my journal about all the things that are helpful to me when I’m feeling down, so that I could later refer to it, and maybe it would help me snap out of future ruts. Below is this journal entry:

  1. Remember to be tough. Stand up to life. You’re stronger than whatever is facing you.
  2. Remember the positives. Focus on your strengths, your blessings, your happy memories, and the things you have to look forward to.
  3. Remember to have a perspective of gratitude. Whenever you get upset about wanting more out of life, remember everything you already have to be thankful for. Focus on enjoying and appreciating what you do have, instead of focusing on how it could be better.
  4. Remember to meditate.
  5. Remember that only you can make yourself happy or sad/secure or insecure. Remember that when you are upset, it is only because you are choosing to focus and indulge in negative thoughts and get carried away by them.
  6. Remember to distract yourself until you are feeling more emotionally/mentally equipped.
  7. Remember that the people in your life can only be who they are. Don’t get caught up in wishing or hoping they would be someone or something other than who they are. They can only do the best with what they’ve got.
  8. Remember to exercise.
  9. Remember that most of the time you are pretty happy, but sometimes you’re just going to be sad – and that’s life. As humans, our moods will fluctuate regardless of our external circumstance.
  10. Remember that your mood has always fluctuated throughout various circumstances in life, and it will continue to do so no matter how your circumstance change. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
  11. Remember that allowing yourself to believe external factors are responsible for your mood/happiness only jeopardizes your external situation i.e. corrupting a relationship because you keep blaming the other person for how you feel or asking for more from the other person so you feel more secure, or convincing yourself your job is awful and keeping you from feeling happy.
  12. Remember to journal.
  13. Remember to get outside. Get fresh air. Get sunshine. And if at all possible, jump in the ocean.
  14. Remember to make yourself laugh. Watch a funny movie, or listen to stand up comedy.
  15. Remember to call a friend. Feeling low can make you want to isolate yourself… fight this urge. Put yourself around others, even if it’s sitting and reading in a crowded Starbucks.
  16. Remember to constantly ask yourself if you’re looking for a sense of security from someone or something else, and avoid doing this at all costs. The only sustainable sense of security comes from within, and the more you allow yourself to depend on outside sources of security (validation from others, financial prosperity, etc.) the more insecure you will feel in the long run.
  17. Remember that you’re lucky to have some amazing people in your life, but you also do just fine on your own.
  18. Remember to listen to music. Especially the kind that makes you want to dance.
  19. Remember to try something new that will help you grow.
  20. Remember that there’s no way to know how the future will turn out, but chances are you’re going to be just fine.
  21. Remember to continually invest in yourself above and before anyone else. Remember how doing this tends to attract positive things, and that doing this is the only way that you can offer the best version of yourself to those you love.
  22. Remember all the happiness you’ve been able to experience despite hard times in the past.
  23. Remember that those who make it through the hardest circumstances are the ones who can assign an important meaning/purpose to their struggle.
  24. Remember to put on an outfit you love. Even if it sounds superficial, remember that when you look good, you feel good, and when you look like a slob, you tend to feel like a slob.
  25. Remember that if you’re a generally happy person, you’ll probably continue to be generally happy even if things don’t work out the way you hoped.
  26. Remember to pray.
  27. Remember there’s a lot of people who think you’re hot shit.
  28. Remember you are hot shit.
  29. Remember that every struggle = growth. Every struggle is shaping you into the person you’re meant to be, bringing you closer to reaching your fullest potential. Remember to find the lesson, and look for the growth within yourself. Remember some of the darkest parts can be what will make the tapestry most beautiful when it’s complete.
  30. Remember that this too shall pass.

What helps you through the tough times???