by Lilith Starr
Today is World Mental Health Day. My compassion goes out to all of you who face mental health challenges like do. There is much misunderstanding and stigma about mental health out there, so I want to raise my voice about my own mental illness struggles. As a Satanist, I rebel against misconceptions of mental illness as fake, easily thought out of, a lack of a positive attitude, or even ─ and this is a common childhood experience among my friends ─ supposed demonic possession.
I think most of you are highly aware already, since I talk about it all the time, but I suffer from major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I also have chronic pain, which makes both these mental illnesses worse. It all prevents me from working, so much so that the state has determined I have a disability. I struggle with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and imposter syndrome brain weasels that tell me I'm a failure no matter what. Especially when the pain overloads my sensory buffer, I fall prey to panic attacks where my chest hurts so bad I feel like I might be having a heart attack.
I speak up about all these challenges on a regular basis ─ partly because it helps me cope and alerts my wide online support network, but also because I know not everyone else feels comfortable doing so yet. I've had people decide I was a bad leader because I dared to be vulnerable ─ they wanted someone invincible and strong who wouldn't share about their weaknesses. But I've had many more folks tell me my sharing helped them feel less alone about their own mental illness, for which I'm DEEPLY grateful.
The stigma associated with mental illness can make people reluctant to seek out essential, even life-saving treatment. Talking out loud about mental illness helps to normalize the topic and to lessen the stigma around it.
If you’re struggling, I encourage you *not* to stay silent. Talk to people you trust. Seek help. Look into organizations such as NAMI and DBSA that help you find low-cost or even free care providers. And know that treatment is a process: it can take time, sometimes years, to find the right combination of therapies and medications.
Over a lifetime, I've experimented and finally found several psych meds that help a great deal, plus I am in counseling, which is helpful. My support network of friends, mostly on here, keeps me together when I feel I'm breaking apart. My Beloved partner hugs me and holds me and keeps me centered. Though it's taken a lot of proactive self-care and pursuing multiple medical options, I've found ways to cross the abyss and come back safe.
There IS help, and you deserve effective treatment, just as with any other illness. There's nothing "made-up" about mental illness, and it's not something you can just power through with positive thinking, any more than diabetes or a broken leg. Reach out, even if it's just to a close friend.
Things can get better. You're worth it!
Lilith Starr is the author of "The Happy Satanist: Finding Self-Empowerment" and "Compassionate Satanism: An Introduction to Modern Satanic Practice." She is a Minister of Satan. She holds a BA from Harvard and an MA from Stanford and founded the Satanic Temple of Seattle in 2014.