Category Archives: mental health

Unique, Volume 2

By Stacey Lehrer

EDITOR’S NOTE: Get caught up here on Unique’s story.

The summer I visited Unique in a rural Appalachian town was the first time I went to see her on my own. There were some indications that the agency wasn’t the best or safest, but Unique said that things were okay. Later that summer I started having trouble getting in touch with her – every time I called, the staff would tell me she wasn’t there. I eventually found out that she was in the hospital, her first psych hospitalization in years. It was the beginning of a very different phase of her life. The next few years were a constant cycle of hospitalizations. She was chronically suicidal, desperate to find a way to end the pain she was feeling. I got really good at tracking her down, and at getting the staff in various psych units to let me talk to her even though I never had the magic “code number” at the start of each new stay. She was in one rural psych unit often enough that the staff recognized my voice and didn’t even ask for the code number anymore. She started saying things that didn’t quite make sense, talking about the agency administrators bugging her phone and stealing her belongings and stalking her. The agency was shut down not long after, so it’s not too far-fetched that there was some sketchiness happening and her brain was trying to find a way to make sense of it.

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Unique, Volume 1

By Stacey Lehrer

Unique always used to talk about writing a book about her life. She worked on it off and on for years, often telling me about a chapter she was working on or what part she planned to write about next. It’s been years since she had a working computer; I don’t know what happened to her writing. But I do know that she wanted people to hear her story. I can’t speak to what happened in Unique’s life in the time before I knew her, although I’ve heard enough about it that I feel like I have a pretty good idea. But I can tell her story as it connects with mine, in the 14 years since we met. I’m leaving out some of the more intensely personal details, to respect her privacy, but hoping to share her story (and, in part, our story) as she wished.

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Her Jacket

by Allie Burke

Usually women with schizophrenia are diagnosed in their twenties. The same went for me, but my symptoms started around 3 years years old. I just didn’t know it at the time. Most children have monsters in their closets or under their beds, and as I got older, I figured it had to do with that, even if they were still there. Humans—we’re such odd creatures. Always looking for the excuse that makes us normal.

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Self Reliance: The Rise of the Millennial

by Allie Burke

In his piece, Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson presents the idea that we must be self-reliant—in our ideas, beliefs, environment, and ultimately, in the structure of our lives—to be an individual in society. But Emerson wrote this piece in 1841. How do his ideas of non-conformity apply today? People my age, with mental illnesses, who are somewhat offended by the statements “Millennials ruin everything; we can’t even joke around anymore” or “When I was your age I owned a house” but are also somewhat uncomfortable by the idea of identifying as Millennials because we work 8-to-5 jobs—where do we fit in, and how? Our generation seeks to never conform, but what about those of us who still work in Corporate America and who still care about what people think of us? How can we be self-reliant but also thrive in a world that so obviously doesn’t respect that idea? What would Emerson do?

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The Oppression of the Schizophrenic People

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a very technical, researched piece I wouldn’t normally publish here but its content is close to many of our hearts. Thank you as always for reading.

In an age of mental health awareness—even by our nation’s celebrities and respected public figures—there is one group of people still suffering the aftermath of mental health stigma. The schizophrenic people have been so heavily stigmatized for their brain disease that in some cases they won’t even seek treatment for fear of being discriminated against. Lack of treatment can lead to a plethora of issues, including suicide. Of the few (in comparison to the masses raising awareness about other mental illnesses) writing and speaking about this disease, most prefer to use the term ‘people with schizophrenia’ over ‘schizophrenic’ because people to do not want to be defined by the illness. Even Elyn Saks, a professor who has achieved fame with her memoir The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, has been quoted many times with the words, “Please hear this: There are not schizophrenics. There are people with schizophrenia.” Other advocates and mental health professionals have warned me against the term ‘schizophrenic’, which is precisely the reason I believe this disease needs activism. The desire not to be defined by something that is so clearly part of us veils the real problem: we need to educate society about the disease we live with instead of making an attempt to distance ourselves from it. Schizophrenia is not a shameful thing and we should own it just as we would own anything else about ourselves that we are proud of.

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