And I Will Tell You Mine

Greetings! Welcome to my new blog. I’ve daydreamed about starting a project of this nature for some time, but I’m finally ready to dig in.

Here’s the story: When I was growing up, I experienced significant mental health challenges. Self-injury, emotional outbursts, depression, anxiety. No one could figure out what was wrong with me for years. I tried therapy, support groups, pharmacology, and exercise, but nothing seemed to help. I always returned to feelings of overwhelming angst and despair. This all culminated in a suicide attempt and hospitalization in my early twenties, which was horrific and traumatizing.

I came out of there feeling damaged and worthless, but wanting to do everything in my power to ensure no one else would have to endure such dehumanizing treatment. I applied for social work school, which completely changed the course of my life. I learned to live (and think) independently. I surprised myself by coming off (and thriving without) medication. My peers and teachers showed me all the things that were right with me, and I graduated at the top of my class.

Now that I’m working in the field, things aren’t going according to plan. ***Spoiler alert*** Systems change is hard! My idealistic fantasies get brushed off by the apathy of “the way we’ve always done things.” It’s nearly impossible to remain hopeful and grounded when deficit-based is the norm. I try to balance the  enthusiasm of my own lived experience with the learned clinical skills of my seasoned coworkers, but it’s never easy. I’ve been silenced and dismissed a lot. I’ve learned to live with disappointment. No one likes to be told they’re harming others when they’re only trying to help. 

So, Tell Me About Despair will be a space in the cloud for my hopes and dreams of progressive mental health reform. It’ll be an opportunity to explore the uncomfortable two-hatted-ness of being both a survivor of psychiatry and a professional helper. There may be more than a few angry rants about our broken system. All I can promise is that my writing here will be completely honest and authentic. And, if all goes well, I may even inspire you to think critically about our flawed mental health system.

Two posts a month is all I’m agreeing to, but if we’re lucky the Muse will strike more frequently. Consider it a New Year’s resolution. Subscribe and share with anyone who might be interested! 

P.S.: Thanks, Mary Oliver, for writing beautiful poems worth naming things after.


  1. Emily,

    It’s not just that systems change is hard. There are very powerful forces arrayed against you, backed by political power and almost bottomless financial resources. But don’t let little stuff like that stop you. Right garners its own power.

    My very best wishes.

    Phil Hickey


  2. I too have worked in the mental health system in a variety of roles. You are right to say that systems change is hard. I’ve tried it too and it can be very discouraging. I applaud you for trying. The system is so broken and they don’t want to seem to try to do things differently because as you said “that’s how they have always done things.” I think one of the major issues is that medication is the first thing they think of as a solution and they have no idea what it’s like to have to take the meds and the terrible side effects that they cause. Then they call someone “non compliant.” I look forward to the day when mental health challenges will be solved by other means that do not harm the individual.


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