(tw: suicide, self harm, c-word expletives & mention of Piers Morgan)
Meghan Markle’s admission of suicidal thoughts and the subsequent backlash is direct evidence of why so many people are fearful of speaking out about their mental illness. I’m belligerent today; a pregnant woman of colour has spoken out about her mental illness and people are claiming she’s lying.
It’s far too fucking common. Mental health discussion is one thing – mental illness discussion is another kettle of fish. People can talk surface level about mental health (self-care etc) but when it comes to getting into the nitty gritty of mental illness people shy away. Come on. You must have seen it happen. Depressed people are written off as the ‘toxic friend’. Suicidal people are ‘attention seeking’. Those with anxiety are ‘overreacting’. Point and case with Meghan Markle. I’ve seen the same fucking people who tweeted #bekind when Caroline Flack died now accuse Meghan Markle of ‘attention seeking’. What is it for these people? Why does a death have to be the only validation for the severity of suicidal ideation? We constantly say talk, reach out; then when people do we batter them back into silence.
Why is this? Why is suicidal ideation ‘attention-seeking’ but suicide a tradegy? The definition of tragedy is “an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe”. Suicide is a tragedy, and its an avoidable tragedy. Yet so many people are fighting against the exact thing that could prevent it happening. It’s not even just the gammon’s on twitter, it’s people with a platform. You know the cunt I mean. It’s not only him! It’s journalists (white) of both genders being paid to write about how Meghan shouldn’t be believed.
Don’t even get me started on the ‘well they have loads of money, they get no sympathy’ brigade. Where is this anger over the mental health crisis amongst those with less? I don’t see this brigade fighting for mental health support for the lower classes. In fact! The people using Harry and Meghan’s wealth and privilege to discredit them are the same people who blame the lower classes for their own poverty and mental illness. It’s not actually about Meghan and Harry’s privilege or wealth, it is just bigotry and intolerance.
These people will find any reason to discredit Meghan and Harry’s statements. When ultimately it’s racism. Every single derogatory comment made about this couple can always be brought back to overt or veiled racism. I am a white woman, and I am not going to speak on the black experience of racism which I have absolutely no understanding of. All I will say, if you find yourself taking umbrage with this couple and/or interview, examine it. Really question yourself and ask why. You might be surprised, and you’ll definitely learn something.
I do have experience of mental illness and not being believed when I spoke about how I felt though. It started in school. Back in the heady days of ‘live journal’ – the beginning of blogging. I used this medium to express my deep feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Incredibly freely, with a childish innocence about what the internet really could be. I wrote very deeply and openly about how I felt. What I know now was depression, at the time, was written off as ‘attention seeking’. From all sides. My family, my teachers, my school mates. In fact my school ‘mates’ went as far as to print off sections of my live journal and hand it in to my head of year. Not because they cared, but because they wanted to highlight the extent of my ‘lying’. Seriously.
Now, one would expect the head of year to enact a duty of care. To discuss this with me. To offer support. Did this happen? Fuck no. My parents were called into a meeting about my ‘lying’ – I sat in an office with my Mum, Dad and head of year. Keeping my coat on to cover the scores of self harm on my arms. Marks that are still on my inner arms today, and have since been added to. My mum looked at me and said ‘why are you lying?’ She was embarrassed. She was embarrassed that I was unwell. She was so concerned with how the school viewed me. Image was everything. Despite clearly having pretty intense depression herself – obviously untreated. I was just an embarrassment to her. She even went as far to say to me that suicide was ‘selfish’. Yup. Even when a family friend’s child killed themself she kept this viewpoint. Oh, and she also said ‘they should have reached out’ despite her own daughter having done so and then shaming me back to silence.
I missed days of school because I couldn’t get out of bed. Mum was infuriated with me about this. There was zero care or concern for my mental well being. I took my first overdose when I was 14. I posted about it on my blog. It got picked up by an absolute cunt. A boy from another school. One who decided I was ‘attention seeking’ for sharing my story. It was a small amount of pills and luckily I just had a night of horrendous sickness. He told everyone I was lying. He went so far as to write a blog about it on his live journal. I sat and sobbed in my room. I knew I was alone. No one was going to help me. I didn’t know how to help myself, my god, I was fucking 14 years old.
My caregivers had not offered me any support, in fact they had demonised me for it. I was told it was wrong to feel how I was feeling. I didn’t know any better. I had to believe them. However, that didn’t stop me feeling suicidal, or depressed. In fact it just made everything worse. I had to retreat to protect myself. I was shown there was no one in the world who cared. I only had me, myself and I. Which was tough, given how much I hated myself. The hate I received for talking about my feelings confirmed that I was in fact, a truly shitty person.
I want to express: I was no angel at this time. I wasn’t this wonderful person to everyone as they attacked me. I lied, I cheated, I stole, I bitched, I resented. I made a lot of fucking mistakes. However, this does not mean I ever deserved to feel like I would be better off dead. My caregivers had a duty of care. They fucked up. However, they are human. I have learnt from their mistakes. Which is all I can take from this in order to not drown under resentment.
Talking about my mental health as a teenager was attention seeking. Not in the way you think. I was asking for attention because I was crumbling under emotions I couldn’t handle. When it was ignored, or used against me no fucking wonder I turned to drugs and alcohol. They gave me the emotional band aid I had been crying out for. I stopped talking about how I felt and consumed everything I could to numb the feelings I had been told were ‘wrong’ or ‘lies’. These emotions and subsequent reactions proved I was worthless.
Fast forward 16 years and I’m sitting watching a woman talk about how she felt suicidal and it being disregarded by swathes of people. I had one idiot write a blog post about me. I can’t imagine what it’s like having hundreds of press articles written about you. Lies, abuse, defamation. Don’t even get me started on the cunt that is Piers Morgan. His obsession with Meghan Markle after she rebuffed his advances. I’ve seen reams of tweets from when he saw her as a ‘friend’ and constantly tweeted her or about her as a ‘superfan’. Those are problematic in themselves. Now he’s taken it upon himself to spout a vicious attack on her.
It’s so triggering. People not being believed when they express how they feel. There are people out there who feel suicidal and are seeing how Meghan is being treated when she voiced her feelings. These people may no longer come out about how they feel, because if someone with a platform like Meghan isn’t being believed then who’s to say they are going to be?
I believe you. I do. I believe you. If someone had believed me as a teenager I wonder how my life could have been different. Would I have avoided abusive relationships? Would I have not become an addict? Would I have had a more stable 20s? Would I be unemployed right now? Would I have faith in my relationships? Would I feel less alone?
I’ll never know, because I wasn’t believed. I am still alive. I’ve had several more, and more dangerous, suicide attempts since. I’m actually lucky to be alive.
Yes we need to talk about mental health and mental illness. We also need to listen. Listen and believe. Seeking attention, and help, can be a matter of life and death. Thank god Meghan has Harry. He saw what happened to his mother and is learning from past mistakes to make the future better for his family. It’s all you can do. We can’t change the past. We can only learn and improve for the future.
So what if someone is lying? It’s not good, granted. However if we play jury to every person’s emotions and decide someone is lying when they aren’t? Well, that person could die and not only that person. Every person who saw that person be ignored and shamed for how they feel and then by not coming forwards themselves could also be mortally harmed. If we take everyone at what they say, the worst case scenario is some time and energy is wasted on someone. I know which outcome I prefer.
Emotion shaming is shitty behaviour. Don’t fucking do it and don’t fuck with people who do do it.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and the domestic violence helpline is on 0808 2000 247. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org