“Awareness” Culture

When you’re on social media, “awareness” is everything. We’re currently in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week. A few weeks back, we had Mental Health Awareness Day. But for all the lip service about “awareness”, Woke Folk(tm) on Social Media are no better about awareness than the ignorant schlubs from The Outside.

Warning: I’m going to talk about suicidal thoughts. And stuff.

So to get right into it, something I see regurgitated a lot is the idea that suicide threats are manipulative. (This is probably not going where you think it is, but who am I to know?) Granted, if the person is not actually suicidal, this is true. I am not making excuses for people who use threats of suicide to get their way. Let me repeat that in big bold print in case my position on this matter is a little hazy:

It’s NOT OK for people to threaten suicide or use the concept of suicide for personal or political gain! It’s not ok to use the risk of suicide to further your cause! I’m not telling anyone to just capitulate to anyone who claims they’re suicidal, so no willful misinterpretations allowed, ok?

But how can we tell who is suicidal and who isn’t? (Again, we shouldn’t use “not being able to tell” as an excuse for letting it go. Hear me out.) Mentally unwell people often don’t realize just how unstable they are. When I was suicidal, hearing that it was manipulative to threaten suicide made me feel worse about myself. Let me put that into context: I wasn’t the person saying “If you don’t do X, I will kill myself.” Instead, I would say things like “I’m so miserable about X that I want to kill myself.”

I knew I needed therapy, but the process of obtaining therapy felt completely insurmountable. Phone calls, meeting new people (aka the therapist), doctors’ appointments for medication… The whole process was so intimidating that I wanted to kill myself just to get out of doing it. I was reaching out the only way that I knew how- that was accessible at the time, which is unfortunate, but does not make me guilty of manipulation, which implies intent. But I still applied the sentiment to myself, especially because my “methods” mostly just resulted in people not wanting to interact with me. I feel a mixture of sympathy for and frustration with the people who didn’t know how to handle me. Mostly, I just feel sad that it reached that point. It wasn’t my fault that I was a burden.

In any case, I felt like a monster when I asked for help.

On one hand, there are people encouraging the mentally ill to report their problems and seek treatment. On the other hand, there are people telling the mentally ill that reporting their problems is abusive. Often, these are the same groups of individuals- the aforementioned Woke Folk. This isn’t the only example of inconsistency of thought and lack of critical thinking on social media, but it’s definitely an interesting example. I have a lot of faith in people and I like to believe that these people are coming from a good place, but you know what they say about good intentions.

I am not currently (Nov. 13, 2018 approx. midday) suicidal. If I made the same complaints Right Now as I did when I was barely hanging in there, it would be some really manipulative behavior on my part. Because even though I still struggle with the purpose of life and all that, I don’t feel nearly the same level of hopelessness as I once did. I think that my current state is where a lot of Social Media Depressives are, and I think they are applying their experience with a relatively low level of depression to all possible levels of depression. Which I think is understandable, but has unfortunate outcomes.

But that’s just my theory.

Anyway, my Trans History is intrinsically linked to my mental health. Being unable to fully, openly, honestly talk about what I was feeling- all of the questions and thoughts I had- hurt me bad. Being allowed to think I should have been male- not being able to talk through the how and why I was wrong- being permitted to sink my teeth in deeper to a fiction that I created to cope- this all hurt me. Me, the human, the brain behind the body, and eventually the body itself. I should have been able to tell someone what I was feeling. It shouldn’t have been embarrassing for me, as a small child, to have questions about my body, but it was. I thought my thoughts were strange- and maybe they are! But as an adult, I’m okay with my thoughts being strange. As a kid, I thought having strange thoughts would see me dead or worse- abandoned. Were my fears ultimately unfounded? Maybe. But I should never have been afraid to ask. Somewhere, something went wrong. Really wrong.

“Being trans (thinking you are born in the wrong body) is not a mental illness,” is what people say. M… b… but… why not? Because “the experts” say so? Experts are people too. They’re motivated by feelings and emotions just like everyone else. It took me a long time to realize that experts- all authority figures, really- are just people. That doesn’t make them all wrong, but it also doesn’t make them all right. I’ll trust a dermatologist to make the best possible decision regarding the obvious growth on my arm. I can see it there. Being a growth. But there are also experts on ghosts- that doesn’t mean ghosts have been proven to be a real phenomenon.

But it doesn’t cause any real lasting harm to have your house inspected by a Ghost Expert. At least… I hope.

Is it because there’s a stigma against the mentally ill? And nobody wants to be associated with those people? The Woke Folk, who have had their brush with mild depression and think they’re experts- who flippantly tell suicidal people that their suicidality is manipulative- would say no! Of course not! Who are you to equate being trans with being mentally ill?

We’re mentally ill- we know what it’s like, and thinking you were born in the wrong body is definitely not an example of it.

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