Go to Therapy, Then Start a Revolution
Updated: Jun 16
When I think back on my time in the hospital, I remember this pervasive feeling that I couldn’t make any sort of difference, no matter how hard I tried. I was desperate to make changes, especially changes on a grand scale. I saw my friends struggling and read about injustices in the news and felt like I wanted-no, like I needed- to make a difference, but what could I even do? Nothing. That feeling nearly destroyed me. What can you do to make a difference on a global scale when you can’t leave the unit of a hospital? And even if I wasn’t hospitalized, I was still a teenager. What teenager could possibly make a difference?
Seeing as I couldn’t end racism or global warming, I curled up in my hospital bed, usually with a good book to comfort me. Reading could distract me from this sense that I was worthless because I wasn’t helping. And one book did more than just distract me. It grabbed a hold of my very core- my soul and my heart- and breathed new life into me. My soul, once discouraged, was now filled with a spirit of hope and determination. I was not worthless, my spirit could change the world! And my heart, which had felt heavy, was now alive, pumping blood throughout my body, allowing my newfound hope and determination to fill me up entirely. Making me ready to take action, because I could do something! I changed myself, and I never even had to leave my hospital bed. All I had to do was read a book.
That book was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For those of you who haven’t read it, I’ll give you a basic overview: it’s a young adult novel about the Black Lives Matter Movement, centered around Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl whose life is turned upside down when she witnesses her friend Khalil get shot by a police officer. He was unarmed. Fighting against this injustice allowed Starr to find her voice and realize that she could make a difference.
While Starr and I lead very different lives, her story made me feel like I had a voice that I could use to make a difference. I remember finishing it and calling my sister from the hospital and saying, “I’ve decided I want to dedicate myself to making the world a better place for all people.” My determination was so strong that I couldn’t see that this statement was A) lofty and B) vague as hell. Like seriously, what did I even mean by that? Did saying that I “wanted to make the world a better place for all people” do anything in the world to make a difference for even one person? Well, in my idealism, I thought it was the start of something, at the very least.
And it was certainly a start. Following that phone call, I did start to take some action. When I was on pass from the hospital, inspiration struck me, and suddenly I was laying out my heart and soul in the description for a Facebook fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I talked about my experiences with mental illness and encouraged people to ask for help, to find courage in being vulnerable. People liked it, and before I knew it, I was running an Instagram page about mental health. I was blogging more and more, sharing parts of myself with the world that I had barely admitted to myself, and somehow, feeling more and more like I wasn’t doing enough.
Fast forward to almost a year later. I had continued with my social media blogging, and had worked on a handful of activism/community service projects. But I was still struggling, especially with productivity. The helpless feeling remained, because I was unable to manage my time and find the initiative to follow through with the things that I could do to make a difference. But I still jumped at any opportunity I could find to do something meaningful, thinking that would be the thing that finally made me worthwhile.
When my friend Emily asked me to help her organize a mental health rally, I seized the opportunity the moment I saw it. Without leaving a second to think. Which is mighty unfortunate, because in a second I could have realized that I was not currently in the space where I could be much of a help. At least a consistent help. I started by diving in headfirst, but pretty soon I lost my momentum. I wasn’t fulfilling my responsibilities and let a lot of people down. It was hard to forgive myself for that. I don't know if I have forgiven myself for it, even to this day. I wanted to help, but just ended up holding everyone back. The day of the rally, I had a show and couldn’t come, but I remember seeing the leaders post about it on social media and feeling this sinking feeling of guilt. I could have done so much more to help, but I didn’t. I broke commitments towards something I cared about and left other people with more work to do. Being consumed with feeling guilty over not doing something you were supposed to do feels far worse than feeling helpless over not doing anything at all.
That’s when I realized: I needed to get my life together before I could help anyone else. And over the past several months, I’ve done just that. I’ve worked my ass off in therapy, diving deep into changing my life for the better. And saving other people won’t be what saves myself from my mental illness. That comes from within, from the work I do on myself to cope with whatever life throws at me effectively. It’s been a nonlinear path to get there, but I’m now at a spot where I am ready to make a difference.
I’m grateful to be the Writing Leader in this years Mental Health Rally. I’m ready to take on an active role and put in the work. I know I am, I feel it That feeling of helplessness has faded, as well as the feeling that I just needed to do something that would “unlock the key” of me being a worthwhile person. I mixed up the order, you see. You work on yourself and realize what a worthwhile person you are, and THEN you can take on big projects to make a difference. As the cliche goes, it’s hard to fill anyone else’s cup when your cup is empty. Taking care of your mental health can be just as revolutionary as leading rallies. But while you can take care of yourself and then lead a rally, it’s hard to do it the other way around. So what’s wrong with taking it one step at a time? With doing what you can at the moment before jumping to big things? Here’s my agenda: Step 1- go to therapy. Step 2- start a revolution.
Just make sure you start with step 1.