[Editor’s note: The article discusses mental illness and suicidal ideation.]
In the wake of Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the internet is abuzz with commentary. There’s a lot of shock, much empathy and certainly sadness at learning about the struggles the couple has faced in the royal family.
And there is meanness. Comment threads on social media are filled with coldhearted, insensitive and, quite frankly, ignorant remarks calling into question the validity of the truths revealed, particularly by Markle who shared her struggles with mental health and suicidal ideation.
I am going to make one remark directed to the negative commenters and then turn my attention to the people who deserve it: The ones who are being deeply harmed by reading all those comments.
When you comment on stories like Markle’s, from the safety of the internet, Markle doesn’t see it. Your comments are not going to change the way that Markle lives her life. Do you know who does see it? Your partner who has been trying to muster the courage to tell you they need to see a therapist. Your child who is having a hard time at school and doesn’t know if it’s safe to talk about it. Your friend who needs desperately to trust that they can come to you and be vulnerable.
In the words of @bekindmentalhealth, don’t be that person.
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But this love letter is not for the negative commenters. It’s for you.
You with a mental health concern. You, who’s feeling alone and devastated by the negative responses. You, who is supported and loved beyond measure.
This is gaslighting, plain and simple. It is incredibly harmful and unfair.
Please know this: Their behavior right now is their shortcoming, not yours.
Maybe they are feeling triggered—and if they are, I hope that they realize it and get the help they need. Maybe they are racist. Maybe it’s something else.
Whatever the reason for their comments, the issue lies with the commenters, not with Markle—and certainly not with you.
Here’s what is for you.
Validation. Space. Attention. Love.
Validation is for you. Your mental health concerns are valid. They are very real and very difficult, and no one deserves the right to make you question that. Standing where you are today has likely taken you on a long and winding journey that only you can fully understand. Your mental health is valid, and so is the pain you feel when people try to make you feel otherwise
Space is for you. You deserve to take up space, and you deserve to do whatever it is you want or need to do in that space: cry, be loud, complain…it’s all okay. You are not too much for claiming hold to your space. In fact, I suspect that you could probably do to take up even more space than you think you are “allowed.” You are marvelous—all of you. The parts that feel messy and unresolved. The parts that feel incomplete. That parts that yearn to feel better and the parts that are trying so hard every single day. You are worthy of the space you occupy.
Attention is for you. Asking for help and shedding light on a problem, actions that elicit attention, are actions to be praised, and I am sorry that the world has taught you that you are wrong for doing them. Besides, even if you are “attention-seeking,” why have we decided that that’s a bad thing? What if it’s actually totally normal to need the attention of the people around us to feel supported, especially when we are going through something as challenging as mental illness?
It’s okay—and really smart—to ask for attention when you need help. This might look like telling your partner that your suffering, asking a friend to go on a walk, calling a therapist to make an appointment or checking in to a longer-term care center to get the medical attention you need.
You deserve attention if you want it.
Love is for you. You merit love. The love of your family, your community, yourself. You deserve to be deeply held and loved and nurtured, simply because you are you.
Try this: See if you can envision a forcefield growing around you—it can be made of light or steel or vines or anything that feels right. As they spew their words, they bounce off the forcefield and land on the ground. Their words are not for you.
While this is easier said than done, I need you to remember that just because the negative voices seem like the loudest, they are not the strongest. There are many more people in this world who are on your side. Who see you—the whole you—for who you are and love all of it.
Keep living your truth.
Keep seeking help for your mental support (and if you haven’t yet, make today the day).
Keep being you.