We Want to Be Seen and Heard
The truth about my anger toward the mental health system
But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.
~ Samwise Gamgee
Happy Memorial Day, Friends.
I've been going back and forth on whether I want to write this post because frankly, I'm in a pretty awesome spot right now. I'm cheerful, relaxed, and loving me some sunshine. My partner and our fur family just went through a super rough month or so, and now I'm feeling the profound relief and sense of gratitude that comes when you’re out of the shit.
I thought maybe I'd write something fun and light-hearted this week to match my mood. Then, I looked at my substack stats, and one thing was abundantly clear: you guys are here for the heavy shit!
No judgment. I totally get it.
If I seemed a little pissed off in my last post, it’s because I am. I have been. I’m disappointed in the state of mental health care and have been since my days of being misdiagnosed and over-medicated as a teenager.
I continue to be disappointed because I’m not sure how much better things are now. I’ll tell you why, but first…
Trigger warning: suicide
Some of you who have been reading for a while may remember that I took a long break from Substack and then returned last fall. Part of my reason for returning was that I lost a blogger friend I had met through WordPress, which is where I had been blogging during my break from Substack.
Ashley was a former mental health nurse living in Vancouver, and author of several books about mental health. Her blog, Mental Health at Home, was a community of thousands of people from all over the world living with various mental illnesses.
Ashley was the first person to start following my blog and is still the #1 commenter. She responded to every comment I left on her posts, and kept up with many of her readers via email.
Even though we never met, I considered her a friend.
On October 28, 2022, after weeks of radio silence, one of Ashley’s family members updated her community that she had succumbed to her depression earlier in the month.
The comment I left in response to that post mimicked many others: we were shocked and shaken by the news, but none were surprised.
Ashley had been severely depressed and suffering for years. In the short time we knew about each other, she had checked herself into the hospital and subsequently left against medical advice (AMA) after having several disagreements with the doctors and nurses handling her case — which I’ve also done before.
She was receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the hospital. I’m kind of blown away by how many people think that’s a made-up torture treatment. It’s a real thing that helps some people!
But after finishing her rounds of ECT, Ashley had a hard time getting on a medication regimen that worked for her.
Both in and out of the hospital, she butted heads with doctors who wouldn’t prescribe meds that Ashley knew had worked for her before. After a while, she had a hard time finding someone who would even treat her.
It was the posts in which Ashley shared her frustrations about seeking treatment that really got me riled up. Anyone reading her blog can see how hard she tried to overcome depression, but the professionals who were supposed to be helping her get there wouldn’t take her seriously, and often spoke down to her (according to her accounts, which I believe).
I know that feeling.
I know how it feels to sit across the desk from a doctor who’s in charge of your mental health care, but who won’t even look at you much less consider your personal preferences for treatment.
I’ve been a patient in psychiatric hospitals before.
I remember stripping naked in a bathroom with two female staff members while one of them gave me a full cavity search. Even after that, it was several days before I was allowed to use the bathroom unsupervised.
I remember getting locked in a room with padded walls that smelled like piss.
I remember voicing concern about a male patient who would not keep his fly zipped. The solution was to give me sedatives so I would calm down.
This is a place we expect people to heal and recover from mental illnesses?
Come-fucking-on. Yeah, I’m pissed.
Ashley is not the only friend I’ve lost to suicide, but her story hits home the most. It brings me an ounce of comfort to know that she left behind a community of people who continue to support and value her work, and I hope people will continue to learn from her for years to come.
But there’s only so much a person can do for themselves, especially under the crushing weight of depression.
People with mental illnesses are people. We deserve to be seen, heard, and listened to.
That’s all I have to say about that for now.
I’ve written about my own mental health experiences here:
However, the deep personal detail I get into in those posts inspired me to make them available to subscribers only. So, if you missed reading them the first time, you’re gonna have to pay 😎
The good news is, I’m offering a discount on subscriptions this week! It’s applied automagically, so go ahead and subscribe by June 4 to take advantage of this offer!
And if you want to show extra support, you can buy me a coffee. I deliberately didn’t include the BMAC link in my last post because I thought it might seem insensitive. But you know what? I just realized coffee is my love language. If this is the case for you, too, I want to make it easier for you to share the love.
Speaking of sharing, if you know anyone who might benefit from reading this post, please share it. Thank you X a million!
I love you,