What is Invisible Illness? (+ How to Explain it to Others)

Hipster woman in blue shadow

As the founder of mental health awareness organization The Invisible Illnesses, Emily Torchiana has found that explaining invisible illnesses to others is now second nature. Torchiana travels the country speaking about her experiences with cyber bullying, a suicide attempt, and mental illnesses, all of which give a voice to the invisible.

“Our slogan is ‘Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.’ You can’t see depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses physically, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Torchiana tells Talkspace.

Continue reading What is Invisible Illness? (+ How to Explain it to Others)

How Schizoaffective Disorder Has Affected My Relationships

Foggy window with heart and colored lights

I’m 30 years old, and for many years, the longest relationship I had to date was in middle school — it lasted six months.

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at age 19. Schizoaffective disorder is thought to be a unique combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder like bipolar, presenting with symptoms like difficulty communicating, episodes of depression, delusions, and even hallucinations. It presents differently from person to person, and there’s still a lot to be learned about it. Though it has negatively impacted my life in many ways, it’s been especially difficult to navigate in my social life.

Continue reading How Schizoaffective Disorder Has Affected My Relationships

Women Share Slut Shaming Stories — and Admit Why They Do it Themselves

still not asking for it poster woman at rally

In an era when it seems we’re celebrating feminism more than ever, and sharing stories in solidarity of abuse and assault, why are people still tearing women down over their sexuality? Both in person and online, slut shaming is way too common an occurrence — and oftentimes, the perpetrator is a fellow female! It’s so common that the term is in the Oxford Dictionaries, defined as: “The action or fact of stigmatizing a woman for engaging in behaviour judged to be promiscuous or sexually provocative.”

I took to a secret women-only Facebook group to get some input. Only minutes after asking “Does anyone want to share stories about being slut shamed?” responses were pouring in. Even in just this 200 person group, it seemed a majority had stories to share, ranging from accounts happening only days before to experiences going back years. Continue reading Women Share Slut Shaming Stories — and Admit Why They Do it Themselves

How Pop Culture Impacts Mental Health Treatment

abandoned asylum hallway

Asylums. Insulin shock therapy. Metrazol shock therapy. Electric shock treatment. All miracle cures for mental illness, right? If you read the newspaper in the 1940s, you might think so.

While reporting on the “high standard of psychiatric care” at new facilities at the Hillside Hospital in Queens, NY, in October 1941, The New York Times wrote, “The hospital has pioneered in the use of insulin and metrazol, and also in the electric shock treatment, which has proved useful in shortening the average stay of patients.”

“The electric treatment, they say, at least is not unpleasant, so the patient may be more inclined to cooperate with the physician in future treatments,” said The New York Times in 1940.

If you think these treatments sound more like a horror film, there’s a reason. Continue reading How Pop Culture Impacts Mental Health Treatment

The Stigma of Depression

woman fading away in pieces illustration

The stigma of depression is alive.

When we have depression, we are “lesser people.” We are incapable of living a “normal” life, holding down a job, or keeping a relationship. We are the ones that “normal” people don’t know how to deal with. They keep away, because we are contagious. They don’t want to contract the “crazy.”

At least, this is what many people think. None of it is true, of course. This is the stigma that follows us around daily when we suffer from depression — like a mosquito we keep swatting away that keeps coming back to bite us.

On whom can we place the blame for the creation and longevity of the stigma? Our friends and family who don’t fully understand depression? The media? Society as a whole? Continue reading The Stigma of Depression

Why College Students Should Fight the Stigma of Therapy

female college student on couch with therapist

Fall is fast approaching. The air is getting crisper, and the back to school ads are out in full force. College students are stepping onto campuses all over the country, some for the first time. There is a palpable buzz of excitement as dorms fill up once more.

But college can also be a stressful experience. For some students the feelings of anticipation are overshadowed by homesickness, worry, self-doubt and sadness.

Whether you’re heading back to college for your senior year or you’re an incoming freshman, this time of year brings out a pretty intense range of emotions. College is a period of major self-discovery. While it can be thrilling, it’s often stressful as well. Some students are worried about missing friends and family, nervous about moving away from home, excited for a new experience but dreading starting classes.

For students who are nearing the end of their college careers, the future looms ominously. It can be difficult to wrap their heads around it all. Continue reading Why College Students Should Fight the Stigma of Therapy

Why Mental Health Conditions Shouldn’t Be Pejorative

people pointing fingers at sad woman with back turned

My then-boyfriend and I were at a hole in the wall pizzeria that served the greasiest pizza in town. We were with some other guy that he knew, whom I’d just met that night. Somehow, conversation turned to a discussion about mental illness, so I opened up about my depression and how it was resistant to most medications.

This guy looked back and forth between me and my boyfriend, an expression of confusion in his eyes. “How do you deal with her? She’s crazy.”

Never in my life had I been overcome with such an overwhelming urge to punch someone. I excused myself from the table, pretending I was receiving a call. I ran down the block into an alley and called one of my best friends and then it all came pouring out — the sobs and garbled words barely audible between gasps of hyperventilated breath. Continue reading Why Mental Health Conditions Shouldn’t Be Pejorative

Confession: Sometimes I Use Mental Illness as an Excuse for Flakiness

woman in bed holding head phone on desk

This story is a part of our Mental Health Confessions series, a collection of stories from people who open up about times they felt guilty or conflicted about their mental health issue.

I’m pretty tolerant of most types of people, but I absolutely hate flakes. I have cut off friendships because I can’t deal with others’ flakiness, especially when it comes down to repeated incidents of bailing on plans at the last minute.

However, some might say I’m a hypocrite. Why? My mental illness, at times, causes me to become the very type of person I hate.

Friendship is a two-way street. We expect our friends to put in the same amount of time and emotional labor into maintaining a relationship as we do ourselves. Of course, we know this isn’t always the case, and I’ll be the first to admit it: with some of my friends, I feel like I am giving less than I’m getting. I’ve flaked on even the best of my best friends, and I fear one day they’ll decide to cut me loose because of it. Continue reading Confession: Sometimes I Use Mental Illness as an Excuse for Flakiness

The History of Inhumane Mental Health Treatments

lobotomy brain diagram

Mental health treatment today is no walk in the park — from insurance companies denying coverage, to a lasting stigma, to the fact that the many of the most severely mentally ill among us to their own devices on the streets or relegated to prison. It’s an understatement to say that there is work left to be done. Yet, the inhumane history of mental health treatment reminds us how far we have already come.

Asylums

While terrifying mental health remedies can be traced back to prehistoric times, it’s the dawn of the asylum era in the mid-1700s that marks a period of some of the most inhumane mental health treatments. This is when asylums themselves became notorious warehouses for the mentally ill.

“The purpose of the earliest mental institutions was neither treatment nor cure, but rather the enforced segregation of inmates from society,” writes Jeffrey A. Lieberman in Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry. “The mentally ill were considered social deviants or moral misfits suffering divine punishment for some inexcusable transgression.” Continue reading The History of Inhumane Mental Health Treatments

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About How Therapy Actually Works

Good Will Hunting Matt Damon Robin Williams park scene

The first time I pulled my car up to a therapist’s office, I had no idea what the experience would be like. The only images I had were from “Good Will Hunting” and “Equus,” both great movies but ones that don’t accurately portray therapy. I was skeptical, worried it would be a waste of time and money.

After years of chatting with therapists, other therapy-goers and people who were on the fence, I learned many people who consider therapy feel similarly before they commit. Therapy is a different for everyone, but there are common myths and misconceptions that aren’t true, ones that prevent people from receiving the benefits I have.

To break this stigma barrier, I reached out to therapists and drew upon my own experience. Keep reading to learn the truth about therapy.

Continue reading What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About How Therapy Actually Works