Shannon Drury of The Radical Housewife started a revolution. She wrote about the taboo of mental health – the skeleton in the feminist closet. For all the topics we tackle in our writing, for all the stones we turn, we leave our mental health struggles in the closet and under the rock.
Why must we be careful with the details of our muddled thoughts, bouts of depression, swinging bridges of mood? Because if we share our mental health issues they detract from the validity of our voices. We’re okay with depressed celebrities, but depressed social activists seem like questionable leaders. How can you affect change with a flattened affect? We need leaders who don’t have days when the sun is insulting. Or do we?
Shannon added breadth to her work when she wrote about her mental health. She started a conversation that immediately gave her writing voice another dimension. And another place for her readers to connect with her. Shannon’s got some lady balls and at Femamom, we like big lady balls. Here’s what she wrote:
The work of feminism, whether in action or in our own minds, is exhausting. Being aware of oppression is a painful state. In the phraseology of most popular philosophical text of the late 20th century, we swallowed the red pills, not the blue ones. Additionally, feminism confronts the horrors of rape, sexual assault and abuse, domestic and dating violence and other REALLY REALLY AWFUL THINGS that over time become re-traumatizing. A lot of the things I hear and know are very upsetting, and there are times when I just can’t fucking take anymore.
There is a culture of blame attached to mental health. I’ve worked as a mental health professional for years. There is an “us” and “them” when working as a clinician. There is a lack of sharing among clinicians regarding their own mental health issues. Early on I thought I was the only clinician who struggled with the same “problems” as our patients…of course, that was before I copped onto the fact that other people operated with these things called boundaries…
None of us gets to float above our temperaments, our biology, and our massive shame-based socialization of women (and more, and more men as well). As a parent, I am aware of my children’s mental health. I tend to their mental health as conscientiously as I do their vaccinations. As a writer, I muck about in my mental health–or lack thereof–daily.
And the greater social issues Shannon writes about, they affect me too. And like Shannon, I find that sometimes all of the woe is just too much. I want to turn the news off when I hear about another abduction and rape of a young woman. I loath the television shows I walk in on my teenagers guffawing at; jokes about men and women and the perpetuation of inequality and sexism are so flagrantly displayed that I wonder if anything has changed.
But most days I lean into the shit. All of it. And some days I spin a little hope. And other days I marinate in a mood that threatens to drown. Such is the life of the conscious. For some it’s easier than others. I treat my depression with medication, strong tea, exercise, rest and humor. And despite my best intentions, there are times I can’t outrun melancholia or get the joke.
Does sharing information about our mental health make us less reliable reporters? Do we lose credibility as commentators on being women, mothers, partners and professionals? Maybe so. But we become more human too.
It’s time for blog-nation to rattle pots and pans, declaring that the stories residing beneath our collective surface are crucial to understanding ourselves. And that the very personal is political–not selfish or self-centered. But political.
When we hide a piece of our lives then we are shamed. And shame creates intolerance and fear. Neither creates constructive change.