Friday, June 15, 2012

i support my brain.

this is where i write my really serious post about mental illness.

and how i feel about it. because this is my blog. and i write about what i feel like.

i could go one of two ways with this post.

1. i could blog about my experience of having a mental illness.
2. i could blog about how i'm advocating at alma and how i feel about it.

i'm going for the second route. not because i don't want to share my experience with you but because i just don't think i'm ready to put that on a blog yet.

so this isn't a post about me being proud of being in hufflepuff, me watching lord of the rings obsessively and discussing the lion king, being an RA, or being bombarded by moustaches.

no, this is my serious blog post about mental illness. and i really hope that you continue to read it.

i was going to write about vaginas. yesterday i wore my "got vag" shirt in public and i was pretty proud of it. and with all the stuff that's going down in michigan, it seemed like a nice topic. but my awesome friend lisa beat me to it. you can read her fantastic vagina blog here.

so now i get to blog about mental illness, yay!

because that's such a fun topic.

are you feeling uncomfortable? i haven't even started yet. hold onto your pants.

we have this huge stigma about mental illness. we don't talk about it. especially depression. we have this illusion that depression is just something that somebody works through and that they can just "get over" it. they can just wake up one day and decide to be happy.

believe me, i wish i could wake up every day and decide to be happy, and i don't even have depression.

and then we get into deeper realms, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. how much do you even know about schizophrenia? i know what i learned in my psychology 101 class. different types of schizophrenia. its different effects.

but one thing about it is clear: it's caused in the brain. thus it's a mental illness. but it's physical. there's something in the brain that's not right.

why is this so terrifying to people?

"oh good lord, your brain! surely not! they must be unbalanced! i should stay away from them. their brain is messed up."

a brain is a part of your body. like a boob. we don't hide from people with breast cancer. we support people with breast cancer.

i should make a sign that says I SUPPORT MY FUCKED UP BRAIN.

i saw this really great picture and it's somewhere on my tumblr, but i can't find it at the moment. its title was what if we treated regular diseases the way that we treat mental illness?

"tom had another pneumonia attack in his room the other day and he's too afraid to come into work. he's always doing that."

"i really wish you would just get over your cancer. it's really dragging down the company."

"i'm sure your cystic fibrosis will get better if you just decide to be happy."

am i the only one who realizes how ridiculous that sounds?

back to brains. i'm not a scientist, and i'm certainly not a neurologist, but i know for an absolute fact that my particular mental illness is physical. it happens in my brain, but what doesn't go on your in brain? is my brain diseased? infected?

no. there are just certain neurons that don't fire properly. and because of that, i have a mental illness. boom. you have certain chromosomes that work together and now you have brown eyes. boom. they're pretty much the same.

it's incredible when i tell people.

"wow! you have a mental illness? i never would have guessed."

"but you seem so normal."

"it must not affect your life that much."

1. millions of people have mental health issues. and you never would have guessed.
2. of course i'm normal. so is everybody with every disease out there.
3. no, it doesn't affect your life because i spend a lot of time making sure that it only affects mine.

at alma college, where i go to school, i'm the public relations president of active minds, a student-run college organization that works to help end the stigma against mental illness. we tackle stuff from depression to anorexia to schizophrenia. alma's active minds is one of the biggest chapters in america. and i couldn't be more proud to be a part of such a great student group.

once a month we put on what we call programming. we have a "normal size" barbie that we put in the cafeteria with facts about body image, how disproportioned barbie is, and the dangers of eating disorders. in february we have "mirrorless monday", where we tirelessly cover every mirror we can on campus. we plaster the mirrors with signs about anorexia and bulimia and how they affect college students. jacob and i spent three hours covering the mirrors in his dorm last year. this year we tackled the library and the academic building.

this is jamie tworkowski, founder of TWLOHA.
this is him speaking at my college chapel.
i am absolutely in love with this man and his dream.
he gives great hugs.
september is suicide prevention month. my freshman year, we brought jamie tworkowski, the founder of to write love on her arms (TWLOHA) to speak at our chapel. he is the coolest person i have ever met by far. we're hoping to eventually get frank warren from post secret, but he takes like, three years to book. TWLOHA was hard enough.

we have stall street journals. each month we highlight a mental illness, write an article about it, and stick on the back of all the bathroom stall doors. it's fun to read about seasonal affective disorder when you're in the john. i'm serious.

this year we stuck 1,100 yellow flags (yellow is suicide prevention color) in the ground to commemorate the 1,100 college students that commit suicide every year due to depression. we put yellow streamers all over campus.

play-doh organ system!
before exams, we have anxiety oasis in the library, where kids can come play with therapy dogs, play with play-doh, color, and be a kid to take off the pressure of exam week. we hand out stress balls and pamphlets about stress and other mental illnesses. last year we made the entire human organ system out of play-doh. not to scale, of course. we're not art students.

and every march we put on a play called "the synaptic gap", which is a dramatic reading. it shares the stories of various every day americans and their battles with mental illness.

jacob and i always play the same married couple with a son with bipolar disorder.

our motto is "changing the conversation about mental health". because you know what?

we don't talk about this. nobody does.

mental health is something that we hide. we shy away from it. it's scary. nobody wants to talk about it. i don't walk down the street with a big sign that says I AM MENTALLY ILL.

you know what? i don't even like that phrase. i have a mental illness, but that does not make me "mentally ill". we have put such a bad connotation with that phrase that i don't even like it. and i'm a mental health advocate.

i'm here to change the conversation. i'm not going to be silent about this anymore. it's time that we talk about this.

i'm pretty sure you would feel the same way when you've stuck 1,100 flags in the ground and with each flag, you think to yourself, this is a college student that took their own life because they felt that they couldn't talk about their depression.

i don't understand why we don't talk about these things. i don't know why we're so afraid. i, with my mental illness, am not dangerous. my grandmother doesn't even know i have it. and i'm not going to tell her. because i'm afraid of how she'll react. i'm not worried about breaking down and crying and confessing about what it's like to live with this.

no. i'm worried that she'll react the way that our society acts. this terrible stigma that we have. this idea that people with mental health issues are unbalanced. that they're dangerous.

this is a solid fact: people with mental health issues are more of a danger to themselves than other people. and these are people with serious mental illnesses, like paranoid schizophrenia. your neighbor that is struggling with depression is not going to hurt you. i promise you. she just wants to get through her day where she's battling depression. why aren't we supporting her? why are we afraid?

i'm not really sure how to end this post. this is something that i am very passionate about. and i'm going to continue to be a mental health advocate for as long as i have my mental illness.

and that will be the rest of my life.

to learn about active minds, click here.

if you're morbidly curious about my mental illness, click here.

don't be shy to click that button. i put it there for a reason.


  1. i love this. girl you don't even know the feelings it made me go through, not only about how rroud of you and your college organization i am, but also about myself and my own mental illness
    you rock ten times as much as most people, in case you didn't know already :)

  2. courtney, you are super strong. and we can stick together. and you are totally awesome too, i promise you. :)

  3. This is about ten times better than any vagina blog:)

    ¡Te amo!