When I started this blog I jumped in with a spirit of idealism and inspiration. It started as a sort of personal social justice thing and it’s still that, but I’ve ended up with a heavy focus on my own mental health/mental illness (major depression with a side of anxiety).
I used to write funny stuff sometimes! I promise I’m going to start writing funny stuff again!
I am fine with a large part of this being about my struggles with mental illness. I am fine with it because it seems that my ability to be vulnerable and honest resonates with people. Some people have even told me that my words help them feel less alone, and if me babbling about this shit helps someone, I will keep on babbling. I will say though, that I wish more people would openly share their struggles. It gets a little lonely out here.
I believe my vulnerability/sensitivity is a gift I can share and I will keep doing so in spite of how uncomfortable it makes some people, but it gets tiring hearing, “I admire your vulnerability, more people should be open about this stuff, thank you for sharing this,” etc. but then… it’s still just me out here naked. When I envision this metaphor I am on a craggy hilltop. It’s windy, and I’m standing before a bunch of fully clothed people who are like, “Good for you for taking your clothes off!” And I’m like, “Thanks! Come join me!” And people are like, “Oh no. That’s crazy. It’s windy out here! I am very comfortable in my jacket, but I’m super into watching YOU be naked!”
That really is OK, I just get tired sometimes. But hearing from people means a lot to me and I respect people’s boundaries. Most people don’t like sharing their personal shit on social media. I get that. Every time I do it I experience terror and usually some level of regret for having done so. In fact, this week, which has been one of the darkest of my life mentally, I made a post about my mental state that I hid from most people. I hid it from family because I knew they would worry, I hid it from most people I have to actually see in real life because sometimes I want to maintain some shred of privacy, and I hid it from people I just don’t trust with my heart. But I do feel called to do this, and when I say that I do not mean called by god, I mean called by people who have shared their reactions with me.
I have a few friends who understand my struggle, and I am thankful that I have them to check in with, even though as a friend I wish they didn’t understand this struggle. On an individual personal level, it’s very difficult to check in with most people who don’t understand what I’m going through because as well-intentioned as they are and as much as they may love me, I think people who don’t experience depression don’t actually believe it exists unless they’ve had a close person in their lives they’ve witnessed dealing with it. Maybe it’s not fair to say that, but I’ve heard too many times that I have nothing to be depressed about or I should focus on the good things or, have I tried exercise? People who know this struggle do not say these things. They say, “I understand. I see you, I feel you, I love you, I’m sorry you’re hurting, I’m here for you and I’m not going anywhere.” Or something like that. I actually believe that people who have major depression are probably some of the most compassionate and empathetic people around. I have no research to back this up but you should probably just take my word for it. I’m in graduate school now so I know stuff about things.
I could write a whole essay about what I’ve been going through this week, but I’ll just say it’s been dark and scary. What I want to shift to is our current political climate and what that means for me as a white woman with a mental illness. I will tell you that I’ve felt hopeless, and that everything I’m learning about in my Master’s program is reinforcing that hopelessness because all I see is that we keep repeating a cycle of bigotry, cruelty and violence, and I see no end to it. These things have been a factor in my mental health recently, as they have been for nearly everyone I know. We are living in the dark ages and it’s painful.
We had midterm elections yesterday. There was a lot of good news and a fair amount of bad, but overall I have been able to grasp a sliver of light and hope because for one thing, record numbers of women were elected to congress, including several firsts for Native women, Black women, Muslim women, Latinx women, Trans women, Asian women, and probably other identities I’m forgetting, but you get it. We have all probably taken a breath today and been the tiniest bit reassured that our country is, overall, moving in a progressive direction. Fuck you, Trump.
Then I looked at the polling data from some of the more painful losses and saw that once again, the majority of white women voted republican in those races. White men too of course, but that comes as no surprise, and actually white women abandoning other women doesn’t surprise me anymore either (yes, that is what you’re doing when you vote republican, sorry not sorry). We’ve been doing this for generations. We have chosen again and again to pledge our loyalty to white men over our fellow women in the hopes that being power-adjacent might allow us to have a voice. But we don’t have a voice, and white women keep doing this shit. We have actively and intentionally worked against the rights of non-white women while also sabotaging ourselves, but we remain blind to that fact.
This is a time when people will express anger, and some of that anger will be directed at white women. How do I respond to this as a white woman who is working to be an actual ally? A white woman who would never vote for a republican as the republican party stands now? A highly sensitive white woman with a mental illness that is in full effect?
I would like you to hear these words and sit with them, especially if you, like me, are a white woman:
The anger being directed at us is valid and justified.
(Much of this anger is expressed by us as well, which is also valid and justified and it is our jobs to try to chip away at the internalized misogyny and bigotry of our fellow white women.)
The anger and hurt felt and expressed by women of color (and I use this term for efficiency but acknowledge that it does not do justice to the various groups of people who have been lumped into this category) is anger we need to sit with. WE need to sit with it. WE white women. We do not need to convince anyone that we are the “good ones.” And above all, we do not need to weaponize the concept of mental health.
What the fuck am I even talking about with this leftist mumbo jumbo? What it means is this: White women’s tears are and have historically been used to distract, to re-center whiteness, to cast people as “others” and threats to our safety, thus providing an excuse to incite violence (think Emmett Till as one extreme and horrific example).
We cannot continue to center ourselves in response to other people’s anger and hurt. We cannot shift the conversation from the things people are angry about to us having hurt feelings because people are angry at us. Do not do this. There is no #notallwhitewomen. Do not decide that you don’t have to listen to people of color because they expressed anger in a way that made you uncomfortable. That discomfort is real. It’s valid. And it needs to be felt, without a defensive response. This is not easy but goddamn it white women, it is necessary if any of us actually give a shit about other human beings.
I am a person with severe mental health issues and I am highly affected by, well, pretty much everything. I need to take care of myself. Sometimes that may mean disconnecting from social media and media in general. What it doesn’t mean is that I stop listening to people and claim it’s because it’s “bad for my mental health” or that my mental state just can’t handle being spoken to in a way that isn’t “nice.”
Do you hear what I’m saying?
White women, feel your hurt and your defensiveness and your discomfort. This is where opportunities for growth are. Sit with it, take a break to process it, talk to each other about it instead of responding to women of color. Shit, message ME about it if you want to! Take care of yourself and your mental health. But don’t you dare use “hurt feelings” as an excuse to disengage. Don’t you dare turn your back on people expressing their outrage because you “just can’t handle it.” Don’t you dare weaponize mental health or mental illness by centering yourself and your tears. As a person fighting to keep my head up on a daily basis, I understand emotional pain and I do not accept emotional pain as a reason for you to disregard something we all need to hear.
We have work to do.