Friday, April 3, 2015

What Should She Look Like? - An Open Letter to ABC

ABC News:

On Friday, April 3rd, I viewed a segment of 20/20 that discussed the abuse of emotional service animals (ESA) by individuals who simply wished to fly with their pets beside them.  During this segment, a woman by the name of Genevieve falsely claimed she had an emotional illness in order to obtain an ESA. Genevieve stated, “What’s the harm?”  To respond to Genevieve’s question, the harm is that individuals who genuinely need an ESA might lose their rights due to abuse of the system.  Further, it is completely unethical to feign illness in order to obtain certain privileges.  It is grossly insulting and offensive to those individuals who suffer from mental illness every single day.  Your segment addressed these issues, and such is appreciated.  However, just as I was disgusted with Genevieve’s actions, I was equally disturbed by the comments made by your correspondent.  Genevieve explained that she located a website that offered a psychological evaluation, and in answering the questions in a purposeful fashion, she was then diagnosed with “panic attack disorder.”  In response to this wrongly obtained diagnosis, your employee stated that Genevieve appeared “very level headed” and that she “didn’t seem like the kind of person that would suffer from panic attacks.”  This leads me to question just what your program, and representatives of your network, believes a person who suffers from panic attacks looks like.  To answer that question,  I wish to inform you of the incredible ignorance and insult present in this comment.  It should not be shocking or surprising that a person who suffers from panic attacks or anxiety appear level-headed.  Why would they not?  Mental illness is an invisible illness, and it is entirely possible that an individual with mental illness, including panic or anxiety disorder, lead a very successful life.  Not only may a person with mental illness appear level headed; they may also be intelligent, inspiring, compassionate, organized, productive, competent, and accomplished individuals.  The suggestion that individuals who suffer from panic attacks would appear somehow disheveled or physically deranged is insulting, and an apology should be offered.  The comments made during this segment only further the devastating stigma that currently surrounds all mental illness. 


Angela Ryan 

PHOTO: Genevieve told ABC News "20/20" she doesnt have a need for an emotional support animal and just wanted to fly with her dog Kali.
Link to story below:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shared Desires -- Different Endings

There is a power in writing, and there is a greater power in sharing our stories.  I'm certain that I have before shared the C.S. Lewis quote, "We read to know we are not alone."  The same might be said of writing.  Our stories often reveal our souls, and when such stories are shared, the writer is often hoping to be heard, hoping to know that he or she is not alone, hoping to know that he or she might yet be saved.  In the same turn, some stories are shared to let others know they are not alone, their pain has been felt, and survived by others.  Our stories can give others strength.  I am truly astounded by the strength of the young writer who composed the following guest post.  She leaves us with an important lesson to be alert, be involved, and be gentle for everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.  Further, we have the power to shape our own stories and we can be the hero instead of drafting a horror tale.  Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous author of this story for inspiring me to write and share once again, as it has surely been one of my struggles.  Thank you, dear girl with a beautiful smile and strong spirit.    -- Angela 


Shared Desires -- Different Endings 

I have fantasized about killing my stepfather. Several times, actually, and those fantasies were always deeply satisfying.  There was freedom in that fantasy.  That fantasy almost became reality on one occasion. After another day of repeatedly labeling his family as worthless and stupid individuals, my stepfather wrapped his hands around my mother’s throat so tightly that he nearly killed her. Witness to this terrible and violent encounter, I refused to remain silent and I pounded my clenched fists against his back until he stopped. After releasing his grip on my exhausted, despondent mother, he turned to me and wickedly laughed in my face.

“What the fuck are you going to do about it, you stupid piece of shit?” he asked me.

I didn’t know how to respond, or what to do next, but I was so angry I was shaking uncontrollably and felt enraged into possibly vengeful actions. In a mocking motion, my stepfather shook his head at me while proceeding to the kitchen, while my mom lay on the floor temporarily unconscious. I looked at her helpless, limp body on the floor and I was overcome with indignation and a desire for some justice or peace. He returned from the kitchen and handed me a knife, with an air of arrogant authority.

He whispered in my ear, “Go ahead. Show me you aren’t just a scared little bitch. I dare you to use this,” he further taunted, “Really, I’d love for you to try.”

I kept such severe scenes of abuse a well-guarded secret from nearly everyone in my life. I internalized my pain and, after years of guilting and shaming myself, the pain manifested itself in the form of self-injurious behavior.  I would have horrific nightmares every night and my incessant thoughts were often dark. Eventually, I channeled this negativity into writing. I composed haunting short stories about rape, abuse, and murder. I often scared my own self  with how twisted and troubled the dark recesses of my mind could be – those spots where I hid my secrets and protected the same wicked man I had often wished to kill. At times, I felt so depressed and dejected that I wanted to end my life; other times I was so incensed that I sought to end my torment by taking my stepfather’s life.

Such memories – and such dark desires – returned hastily to me as the news of a local homicide shocked our small town. The images of a troubled young female named Ashlee flashed across television screens and dominated news feeds. Ashlee, a seventeen year old junior, was attending the very same high school from which I graduated when she allowed her own dark desires to control her actions, leading to inconceivable loss.  Ashlee shot and killed her stepfather this past weekend, and she also stabbed her mother to death after falsely imprisoning her three younger siblings behind locked and tied bedroom doors.  She then fled to Indiana, where she was promptly located by authorities. Many are aware that Ashlee published horrific short stories and poems on a personal blog titled “Nightmare.” Such tales and tributes clearly demonstrate the degree to which Ashlee’s mind was troubled. It is further common knowledge among her peers that Ashlee even shared aloud, in her high school English course, one of her stories about stabbing someone to death and delighting in such destruction. I believe such public sharing was her way of asking for help. Obviously, and quite regrettably, her cries for help fell upon deaf ears. The result is the loss of life for two individuals and the loss of innocence for three more.

My story could have been all too similar to Ashlee’s ghastly fictional tales and real life appalling horror.  Fortunately for me, I had friends who recognized the times when I was troubled and reached out to me. They would ask me to stay over at their house or tell me how much they cared about me. Such simple acts helped to save my life, and the life of the man who tormented our family. I also had teachers who sensed something was amiss with my home life and pulled me out of class to ask about my bruises and work toward securing my physical safety and emotional well-being. I had people who genuinely, truly cared about me and my welfare. I had people in my life who saw the warning signs and didn’t simply turn a blind eye; they helped me through my struggles and helped me find my inner strength.  

So when my stepfather handed me that knife that day, I gripped it so god-damn hard that my knuckles ached and my teeth clenched so that my jaw throbbed. I stared intently at that bastard for a while, thinking about what would happen if I did actually proceed to plunge the knife into his chest. I knew no one would miss him. I knew my life would be a hell of a lot better without him in it. But then I thought about all the people who loved me. There were suddenly so many people I could think of with fondness and gratitude. It actually brought tears to my eyes to consider how much I was cared for, despite my stepfather’s disregard, and before I could change my mind, I told him, “No. Because if I did that, I’d be no better than you. And I am so much better.”

That is how the story ended that day.  I put down the knife, and worked fervently to set aside all my anger as well. But imagine how differently I might have reacted if I hadn’t been able to bear in mind all those people who consistently reached out to me in my time of need. What if I had been bullied at school? What if I felt none of my peers cared about me? What if my teachers and mentors had ignored the bruises and ignored my need to heal? You might have seen my name in the headlines for homicide too.

I am in no way stating that Ashlee’s actions are acceptable, and she must be held accountable for her crimes. Further, I am truly sorry for this family’s immense loss. I don’t personally know Ashlee, so I cannot ascertain if emotional or physical abuse drove Ashlee’s regrettable decisions. However, I do know that by failing to see Ashlee’s warning signs, we have failed her as a community. It is crucial that we as individuals each take the time to reach out to those whom we see are hurting. I pray that we can take this as a lesson to extend care, compassion, and consideration to everyone we meet.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Boys Don't Like Whores

I showed her the bruises on my arms.  She shrugged and said, “Well, boys don’t like whores.”  Is it my fault that I drank too much?  Is it my fault that my shirt was low cut?  Maybe, but I didn’t want this.  She shook her head and said, “They don’t want women to be in control,” as though it were just a fact of life that boys can fuck around, but a woman who does the same is a slut.  The woman who expects control of her own body and sexual relationships is in the wrong.  Women shouldn’t expect gratification; women should only seek “soul mates.”  A man has needs, but a woman is a sinner.  Her desires are an admonishment and she should be shamed. 
I wonder if I was really ever in control though, and if I was ever getting what I wanted.  I know I wasn’t.  I wanted him, but he had rejected me.  I wanted to show him that I was desirable, so I let myself be had by any man who told me I had a pretty face or a hot ass.  When he said he was hurt and didn’t want me anymore, I accepted another offer, foolishly believing I could incite his jealousy and alter his mind.  That offer was more than I had bargained for.  I should be ashamed for trying to play these games.  If I had just been honest and said I’m sorry, I wonder if I wouldn’t have this surplus, gigantic grief now riding around on my back.
So maybe I was wrong then.  No, I know I was wrong, but that still doesn’t justify what happened next.  “Boys don’t like whores,” she said and that’s precisely why he was rejecting me.  I wasn’t his, and he wasn’t mine, but he didn’t want me to belong, however temporarily, to anyone else either.  I didn’t belong to them though; it was just my skin and I was still my own woman.  He was allowed his freedom, but I was denied mine.  I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. 

Why can’t a woman have casual relationships? Why are women denied noncommittal pleasure? It’s not safe for us.  Good girls can’t afford to play the same games the big boys do.  We wouldn’t have to be so damn afraid if society changed.  If we stopped building up boys while berating women maybe there wouldn’t be such a perverse imbalance and abuse of power.  The boys couldn’t get away with it and claim we wanted it.  Girls can’t tease and girls can’t change their minds because such misdirection and indecision is worthy of retribution. 
I showed her the bruises, and even she blamed me.  “You should never have gone home with him,” she chastised, “You barely even knew him.”  Her warning then could not possibly alter the past, shake this fucking beast off my back, so what good was that? Women don’t need to condemn women even further.  Women don’t need to excuse men who don’t listen when a woman says no.  Why are we still making excuses?

Maybe I made him angry because I was a woman who wanted the upper hand.  Maybe I made him angry because I wasn’t seduced by his power or prowess.  Maybe I made him angry because I wanted to be safe even though I was playing these otherwise dangerous games.  Maybe I made him angry because I wasn’t falling in love.  He shouldn’t have expected me to swoon; this was never about love.  This wasn’t even about affection or sexual attraction.  Two intoxicated bodies momentarily finding each other for mutual satisfaction.  Nothing more.  I wish it were nothing more, but his lust turned to hate and I suffered for his ire.

I can still hear my own weak voice in my head.  No. No. No.  He didn’t listen.  Yes, I was already revealed to him and indeed his lips and limbs had already touched private parts of me.  The play became too rough and I didn’t expect another player on this field.  The whore doesn’t get to make the calls; she doesn’t coach this game.  She should sit silent and willing on the sidelines, and I didn’t.  Good girls keep their mouths shut; good girls don’t speak up.  Bad girls get their due punishment; don’t take it easy on bad girls.  And big girls, who recklessly believed they were in control, do cry when their bodies are being violated.
Stop crying, silly girl; I thought you wanted no emotion here.  If you want love and emotion removed from the equation, how can you be surprised when they are replaced with violence or perversion?  You shouldn’t be so irresponsible with things like your body if you don’t expect bruises.  Girls who make hasty decisions get hurt.  You should have just said you were sorry and went back home instead of into the arms of another.  You don’t have the skill to play this game with all the big boys.  You’re no contest, little girl.  Girls like you are easily taken.  Girls like you are whores, and boys don’t like whores.  That oughtta show you. 

I showed her the bruises and she showed me the standards of our society: “Boys don’t like whores.”  Men and women are still expected to behave to certain gender standards, and our society justifies any harm to the deviants.  We need to end these archaic expectations.  We need to equalize the playing field.  We need to stop excusing bad behavior.  We need to stop making the victimized feel guilty.  We need to stop condoning violence through acquiescence.  We need to stop admiring “big boys” and branding “bad girls.” Even bad girls feel the sting of the bruises, and an even greater ache from the agonies unseen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Just Speak

The following post is the result of ten minutes of typing.  This is a free write with no edits (beyond spelling corrections from misplaced fingers while rapidly typing) and no pauses -- just ten minutes directly from my mind.  This is not normally something that I would share here.  Despite sharing very personal stories about mental illness, rape, attempted suicide, and the like, this becomes even more personal because it exposes someone other than my own self.  I am always cautious to do so, and this piece probably belongs in a private journal rather than as a blog post, but I really want to get back into the practice of writing.  This art has been absent from my life too long, as is evident through my rare, intermittent postings here.  The voice lends us power when we feel weak and worthless, and hence I share.  I share not only to gain back my personal strength and power, but in the greater hope that some of that power can be shared and gained by readers.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who hears that wicked, self-loathing voice of doubt and shame and it's important to share our struggles. We need to speak up. Please speak up. 

I thought it was all over between us because when I cried, you just sat there … numb.  Tears gushing forth from my eyes like a dam breaking, rolling on tumultuous waves, ever unceasing and frightfully dangerous.  What smarted the most is that I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want this to end; you were still my best friend.  Don’t you know that I need to be in control, and so it hurts like hell when I can’t make you love me? I can’t illicit the response I want, and I don’t know what to try because every fucking thing seems to fail.  Should I put on a little more lip gloss? What if I try thick eyeliner and smoky eyes? Can I tempt you then? Will you be my willing victim? Do I need to lose ten more pounds? Or twenty? Or go back to skin and bones so you feel that you’re in control because you can lift me and toss me around like a light paper sack?  You can fold me up and tuck me in the back of an untidy kitchen drawer until you have some need for me. Would you like that?  To keep me out of the way until I’m convenient for you; I won’t be making unsightly messes all of the god-damn time, mucking up the image of this perfect little family.  Should I just keep my big mouth shut? Say only please and thank you, and obediently shake hands?  Should I swallow ten more pills? Or twenty? Erase this stain on the otherwise lovely little canvas you effortlessly painted.   It’s all effortless – not easy – but effortless because you’re too tired to try anymore. No effort. None.  My heart is breaking and you just sit there … numb.  You don’t try to fix it, to bandage it, to heal it.  Please put on a fucking dressing; strap, compress, and bind me if need be.  Do anything but sit there silent. 
This is not a comfortable silence.  Every second that you keep your mouth shut is like another cut of the knife.  Your abrasive blade shines and casts wicked shadows, speaking for you though your tongue is still mute. Why won’t you whisper even one word? What kind of cold, uncaring soul can just sit there and not offer a hand or one single word of condolence?  You must have no feeling for me because you just sit there … numb.  In your silence, I am berating myself with those words unspoken.  No apologies and no admissions so I speak for you and that wicked voice says, “I don’t love you anymore.  You’re an inconvenience.  You’re worthless. Worthless bitch.  Fat, worthless bitch.  Fat, obnoxious, worthless bitch.  Fat, obnoxious, demanding, worthless bitch.  Fat, obnoxious, demanding, untalented, worthless bitch.  Fat, obnoxious, demanding, untalented, wasteful, worthless bitch.  Worthless. Worthless. Worthless.  Worthless.  You’re not worth fighting for.  Not worth fighting for.”  I have told you this too.  In the silence, that is what I hear.  You know this.  You know this, and yet you do not deny it.  Why is there no counter to my self-hatred?  The lack of a counter is a confirmation.  Your silence is acquiescence.  Your silence says you have given up on us because I am trying, scratching, clawing, screaming, crawling, and you just sit there … numb. 
What if I buy a push up bra?  If I put my cleavage right under your nose, make your eyes rest upon my ample breasts, will you want me then?  Will you touch me, kiss me, show some tenderness?  It hurts to not be desired.  It hurts to not be in control.  It hurts to be screaming and kicking for your fucking attention and have you just sit there … numb.  Don’t you see how much I love you?  Don’t you see how much I need you?  Don’t you see how much I want you?  I just want to be wanted too.  I need that.  Without that, I hear those forsaken, biting voices whose evil, piercing whispers are like tattoos upon my skin, marks upon my brow, scars upon my wrist.  Worthless. Worthless. Worthless. Bitch. Inked on me in some fancy script.  You see the words and don’t try to scrub them off.  Why won’t you help me come clean?  Why do you let me fester amongst such putrid filth?  I just want to be your good girl; I just want you to love me.  I need you to love me because if even you can’t find some love for me, what’s the hope for me?  You were the rock; you were my constant support.  You were the one I could always trust. The one I could always turn to, and now you just sit there … numb. 
So, is this over?  Is it even me?  Should I believe the wicked words that repeat on that obnoxious internal soundtrack?  Or do you hear those words too and that’s why?  Fuck up. Fuck up. Fuck up. Failure.  You have no love to offer me because you have no love for yourself.  Fuck up. Fuck up. Failure.  That’s why you have become so numb.  Don’t believe them.  Let’s promise each other this: If you don’t believe them, I won’t believe them either.  Let’s learn to love ourselves and one another again because I need your love.  I need you – all of you – in my life.  Please speak.  Just speak. Speak to me tonight.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Perhaps this fall season is more vivid and stunning than those past, or perhaps it is my child’s excitement that allows me to more rapidly recognize the beauty surrounding me.  

“Look at that red, Momma!” she points and calls from the back seat of the car, “It’s soooo pretty!” I can’t see her beautiful face, her nose and cheeks patterned with delicate little angel kisses, but I can hear the genuine excitement in her youthful voice.

Because I have been commanded to do so, I now call my own attention to the picturesque trees along the side of the road, changing colors and catching my daughter’s eye with sincere, unadulterated delight.

Unadulterated. Adjective. 1. Not diluted or made impure by adulterating.  2. Utter; absolute. 

Though the dictionary would provide a somewhat different definition, I consider that word now. Unadulterated. Un – adult: free of adult perspectives.  To see the world as we did when children. To recognize beauty and joy without the challenges and contests of adulthood.  To take authentic delight in daily occurrences.

We all need to more often be unadulterated – to remove the fouled filters of age and see the world through fresh, fledgling eyes.  To see that all the splendor and happiness in the entire world is evident in one single newly altered, radiant red leaf.  We allow beauty to fall before our very eyes and go unnoticed.  Worse yet, we complain about the cold weather to come or the chores to be done. We need to stop and watch the world with an unadulterated lens.  We need to smile and call out to others, “Look! Look at all the magnificence that surrounds you! Do you even see? Do you even realize?” 

Unadulterated.  To allow happiness into your life.  To examine the world with a vista of joy.  To truly live.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Price of Stability

I have rarely suffered this sensation before of staring at a blinking curser immobilized and incapable of finding the right words.  Words were never elusive before, even when emotions like happiness and contentment were.  Yet, now I sit here erect and feeling empty, wondering where all the words have gone.  Where are the emotions that would fall insistently forth upon the empty screen or blank page? Where are the feelings incapable of being contained, bursting seams and breaking barriers? Where are the voices ceaselessly petitioning for an outlet? Now I prayerfully implore them to come out and play, to reveal themselves and vacate their secret hiding places.

I admit I have been dishonest, yet, for constant creative words were absent for many years.  I was unaware of their absence, though, or I didn’t miss them as I was then assisting others to spark their individual imaginations or kindle their creativity.  I didn’t know that my own voice was being hushed and quieted until I was left completely alone.  When I finally spoke up again, with my own, most authentic voice, however soft or shushed, I yearned to be surrounded with wonderful words again – to write, invent, express, emote. 

I further realized that in addition to damning voices of a fearful and agitated authority, my medications were muting me.  That immense creativity and passion that had once been present had become absent in my lethargy, but I accepted this as a component of my necessary stability.  After a change of medication, I had regained a voice I didn’t know how critically I had needed and missed. No more mood stabilizers and just anti-depressants.  Later, though the drugs tormented me with nightmares and missed doses led to staggering migraines and shocking anxiety, I feared change and I dreaded a return to complacency.  I was willing to endure the atrocious side effects and instability to keep the creative portion of my mind active.   

Then I could no longer endure and the anti-depressants, at any dosage, were ineffective, so I tried another combination – another prescription – another shot-in-the-dark at some kind of healing and normalcy. And now I here I am – sitting, staring at a blinking cursor, unsure what to write next and losing the words that once flowed so freely from my fingertips.  I feel like I have lost a part of myself.  Is this the price of stability?  Please let this not be the price of stability.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why I Didn't Write About Robin Williams

Most surely you’re aware that beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams was recently found dead in his northern Californian home, having lost his battle against major depressive disorder.  It has been nearly impossible to escape reports of this tragedy, and the abundance of subsequent tributes and responses.  Admittedly, upon hearing of William’s death, I was filled with immense hope that maybe – just maybe – this tragedy would result in less stigmatization and more understanding of mental illness.  If an individual such as Williams, who brought humor and joy into hearts and homes across the nation, could suffer from mental illness, then most surely society would come to understand that major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and similar ailments are not a choice.  Such outcomes have largely been my goal when sharing my own stories and struggles with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Subsequently, it occurred to me that I should create a post addressing the issue.  After all, wasn’t this an opportunity to further my mission and raise more awareness of mental illness?  However, I had second thoughts: Was it selfish to view a family’s tragedy as an opportunity?  How vital was it that I put up a new post while William’s suicide was still “trending” in social media?  These considerations gave me pause, and in this interval, the internet had already been flooded with responses that sounded as if they had been pulled directly from my internal thoughts.  I would like to tell you that this post ends here; I have provided you with the reason for my failure to respond to this actor’s death.  It had all already been said and done, so it was that simple, but that’s not the real reason I failed to respond to the loss of this comedic legend.

It was within 24 hours of Williams’ body being discovered that I was sitting on my kitchen floor sobbing and swallowing down pills, completely convinced that I was nothing but an inconvenience to my family and friends, and therefore the world would be a far better place without me.  I was exhausted and overwhelmed – exhausted from trying my hardest to remain positive despite the challenges my illnesses (and life) continue to present.  I felt unloved and underappreciated, and my illness had effectively convinced me that such feelings were my own damn fault because I was, in fact, unlovable.  I was a worthless, miserable failure who only presented problems for those I most loved.  Even my two beautiful children, who have been nothing but incredible blessings in my life, would be so much better off without me.  They would have a father who could commit fully to their happiness and well-being if he were no longer totally tapped out trying to fix me and all my fuck-ups.  I needed to die.  I deserved to die.  My death would ultimately be a favor to the world. 

There was just the smallest part of my pure heart and rational head that remained and tried to speak, but I found that voice was muted.  That voice was unable to say I want to live because I would never abandon these children.  I want to live because I have friends that really do love me.  I want to live because there is yet light and promise in this world.  Those thoughts went unheard and instead a voice told me to grab a bottle of pills. Ironically, though not uncommonly, I thus swallowed down anti-depressant after anti-depressant.  Failing to do their job in the prescribed form, I suppose they may have been ultimately successful as I would no longer feel crushed by this heavy depression in death.  But death was just one more goal I would fail to reach as my husband woke from his slumber and halted my progress.

Consequently, I ended up in the emergency room and then in a locked behavioral health unit.  When I might have been home typing a brilliant post in response to Robin Williams’ struggles in an effort to end the stigmatization toward mental illness, instead I was being admitted to a small white room and having my belongings inspected for safety.  Although I did not write that post in a timely fashion, here is what I want you to know now: Robin Williams did NOT kill himself.  Depression killed Robin Williams.  Had I actually been successful in my attempt, I can only imagine how much it would have pained me to then be blamed for my own death.  I was not in my right mind when I believed I needed to die and that suicide would actually be a favor to my family.  That was not me; it was the major depression.  My illness was responsible for my actions.  If I were fully in charge, I wouldn’t struggle with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing in the first place.  If I were fully in charge, I would never take my life and leave my two young children behind.  I wasn’t in charge; it was the illness.  You need to know this, so I repeat that Robin Williams did NOT kill himself.  Depression killed Robin Williams, just like it has formerly made me cut myself and it more recently made me swallow those damn pills.

While on the unit, another patient asked about my family.  I showed her a photo of my children and she expressed how beautiful they were.  She then asked about my home and my career.  After sharing a bit of my life with her, she then said, “Well, look at you.  You have a strong education, a beautiful home, and two amazing children.  Your life sounds pretty damn good. How can you possibly be depressed? Why are you here?”  My reply to her was very basic as I simply stated, “Because I have a mental illness.”  This, too, is what I had hoped society would recognize from Robin Williams.  It does not matter how many external blessings you have in your life.  You can have a wonderful, loving family.  You can have a strong education and a promising career opportunity.  You can even have fame, fortune, and admiration.  None of that matters if you have a mental illness.  Mental illness does not discriminate and no amount of wealth or wisdom can cure it.  It is; it just is. Yet this question came from a woman who was sharing a behavioral unit with me.  Even she didn’t get it.  If she didn’t understand, how could I expect the world to understand although it earlier appeared to me that it had all “already been said and done”?  We need to keep on saying.  We need to keep on doing.  It’s going to take a lot more than 48 hours of trending articles in reaction to an actor’s death in order to change the misconceptions that exist about mental illness.  Mental illness is an ugly, ugly beast and we better start paying attention to it as I assure you it refuses to be ignored for those who are suffering. 

Despite my earlier considerations, I have decided it is not selfish to talk about mental illness in the wake of Robin Williams’ death.  It is necessary, just as it is every single day, to continue to educate society about mental illness and suicide.  In addition, the act of suicide itself is not a selfish one.  It is indeed tragic and devastating, but we must hold major depressive disorder and mental illness responsible rather than the ailing individual. Approximately 38,000 people die from suicide annually, and 107 other individuals lost their lives to suicide on August 11th, the day the world lost Robin Williams.  We can’t ignore those numbers. We can’t continue to ignore mental illness and expect that individuals just “snap out of it” because they have good things in their lives.  The illness can speak louder and then one only sees a distorted view of the world – a view in which the world is far better off if he or she were just dead.  Trust me.  Please trust me because I know, and I know our attitudes and beliefs about mental illness MUST change.  Every moment should be an opportunity to make a difference and end the stigmatization of mental illness.