Not long ago, I saw a post on the really awesome Bethany Lamont's blog (I think I saw it on Tavi Gevinson's twitter, if I remember rightly.) It was a post about an art/literature type journal she was planning called Doll Hospital. She was asking for submissions to this zine-type journal which would be a collection of pieces on mental health issues that aimed to destigmatize the topic, to tell the truth about mental health and not to portray it as "something tortured genii struggle with" or "something that only special snowflakes have."
And I wanted to be a part of it.
So I emailed Bethany-really nervously, it's true-and asked her if there was time to submit something. You have to remember this was one of the first times I'd submitted something-ever. I was convinced it would go wrong, or that I wouldn't be important enough or that it was just stupid of me to think I could contribute to something like this.
None of those things happened.
Instead, Bethany replied and turned out to be one of the nicest people you could hope to get a reply from. She told me yes, there was still time to submit something and after a few emails back and forth between the pair of us, I sent in an article.
And she told me it was good. And that she wanted it in the journal.
As you can imagine, I kind of did a few cartwheels at this point. Well, metaphorical cartwheels (as I am not athletic. I am a lot of things but athletic is definitely not one of them.)
So, yeah, I've got an article in Doll Hospital. Which might be a good idea to tell you why I was nervous about submitting it and why Doll Hospital is something that is really important.
I have OCD. I don't wash my hands over and over. I don't count lines in the pavement. But I have OCD. It's just not one of the most common types of OCD.
The same as I have generalized anxiety disorder. And depressive tendencies. But if you knew me, you might not pick up I had any of those. Because I don't always fit in any of the categories and ideas that people have about mental health. And neither do a lot of the other people I know who've had mental health problems.
People like to put other people in categories. They really do. Because life's easier that way. It's easy to depict OCD as something that makes you wash your hands over and over, as something that makes you walk in a certain way. It's easy to portray anxiety as something that you can get over with a couple of breathing exercises and a cheerful conversation, a la a sitcom. And it's easy to think of depression as something that makes you slump down in misery all the time, as something that afflicts the kid who sits in the corner who never talks.
But the truth is, the only sign someone's fighting with their own thoughts, telling them to think the right thing over and over, might be that they're a bit quieter than usual. Someone can have a panic attack about leaving the house one day and the next, can walk out on a stage and feel perfectly calm. Someone can laugh with their friends at school and then go home and curl up in bed and cry because they feel like a failure.
Mental illness has a lot of different faces. We can never write them all.
But it's important that we write it. We put it out there. And it's important because it shows that people who are mentally ill aren't these people who you could pick out at a distance. They don't have it written across their foreheads. It's like that line in Girl, Interrupted: "Crazy is you and me, amplified." Because the thing is, so many people you pass each day will be struggling with mental illness, and you will never know.
And that's why Doll Hospital is important. Because it tells people what it's really like. Not just what you see in the movies or read in the newspapers. What it's like to live with mental illness every day, and not just in the big moments of it you see on TV screens, in the very special episodes of shows. It tells people what it's like to have these illnesses and what it's like to live with them.
And it's OK to be vulnerable. Because no one is strong all the time. You can be great one day and the next, it can fell like you're falling into hell. People are vulnerable and scared and sad, but they can also be strong and brave and they can find their way back to happiness again. But it's OK to have those moments of vulnerability. Because they're not weak. You're just as strong in those moments as you are in any other-you're just feeling overwhelmed for a while and you're allowed to feel that.
Doll Hospital is going to be free. Because nobody should have to pay for mental health. Bethany's starting a kickstarter campaign soon to raise money for printing and I'll link to it on here when she puts it up. But in the meantime, here's the official Tumblr for Doll's Hospital:
I hope this journal will help anyone who needs it.