My Mental Illness is Not Your Inspirational Post-it Note

I blogged a week ago about mental illness and antidepressants, prompted by an exchange I had with a troll on the #imnotashamed hashtag on Twitter.

I like and support the stated mission of Team Notashamed: “to spread the message that mental heath conditions are nothing to be ashamed of … [and] helping end the harmful stigma associated with mental heath conditions and advocating for better and more accessible healthcare.”

But good intentions don’t mean you never screw up. Rose Lemberg pointed out the following post on the I’m Not Ashamed Twitter feed.

Screenshot of I'm Not Ashamed Tweet and graphic

And…no. Just, no.

I have no problem with some of the comments here. Mental illness is not a character flaw. It can be incredibly helpful to know you’re not alone. But some of the others are a mess, and problematic as hell.

I am creative and smart. I am, in all modesty, both creative and smart, yes. But this has nothing to do with my mental illness. Depression doesn’t make me creative or smart. My creativity, my work as a writer, these things happen in spite of my depression, not because of it. Depression is an obstacle I’ve had to overcome in order to be productive and creative. Please stop spreading the bullshit myth that creativity and intelligence are in some way enhanced by mental illness.

I’m so strong because of it. Maybe you are. Great! Maybe you’re not. That’s okay too. I do believe it takes strength to survive any sort of chronic illness, but does that mean the illness makes you strong? Because to be honest, there are times I wish I could put that strength toward other things instead of spending so much of it coping with depression. I don’t see my mental illness as some sort of gift, one I should be grateful for because it makes me stronger. If you choose to believe that for yourself, fine. Don’t push that on everyone else.

I help others now. This one didn’t fishhook my attention as much as the previous two until I saw a few Tweets by Corey Alexander, talking about the imagined trajectory of “graduating” from trauma to helping others, and the pressure on helpers to focus their energies on others to the exclusion of themselves. It got me thinking back to working with sexual assault counselors, and how many of those wonderful, kind, dedicated people had been through their own traumas. Some were still suffering from PTSD. But the emphasis was always on helping others. I think it’s great if you’re able to help others, and being able to draw on your own experiences can make you a more effective helper. But as Rose Lemberg pointed out, the word “now” makes it seem like you didn’t/couldn’t help people before? Or that this is the trajectory everyone should be on. There’s just so much to unpack here.


I’m not going to go through everything. But all right, I get it. Someone wanted to post something feel-good and inspirational. So they Tweeted something problematic, and various folks on Twitter called them out about it.

At which point it sounds like I’m Not Ashamed began blocking people who had a problem with the Tweet. As far as I can tell, they never responded or addressed people’s concerns; they just went straight to blocking.

ETA: They blocked me less than an hour after this blog post was published.

I asked them about this, but haven’t yet gotten an answer. The Tweet that started it all is currently pinned as their top Tweet. We know they’ve seen the criticism, since they were blocking people, so this feels like a pretty clear message that they’re choosing to ignore that criticism.

And that’s the bigger problem here. This is a group that’s set themselves up as advocates for people with mental illness…while ignoring feedback from the very group they claim to support. I don’t know the individuals behind Team Notashamed or their situation, but this feels like symptoms of Toxic Ally Syndrome, where you’re so determined to be an “ally” of Group X that you ignore or argue with members of Group X because you know best. This is often followed by choruses of, “Why are you getting angry at me? I’m your ally! Fine, if you’re gonna be so ungrateful, I’ll just take my allyship and leave!”

I hope it doesn’t go that route. I hope they read and respond to the critiques from the people they’re claiming to want to support, rather than ignoring and blocking.

ETA2: One of the members of that group Twitter account informed me that “All leaders of team not ashamed personally deal with mental illness.” This doesn’t change my sense that it feels like Toxic Ally Syndrome, but I don’t want to erase that these people also either have or deal with mental illness themselves. Hopefully that makes sense?

I’ll wrap this up with a Storification of Rose Lemberg’s Tweets last night about mental illness and identity and the pressure to feel or act certain ways, generally for the comfort of others.