Open letter to Dartmouth admin, mental health services

In response to the “Stop Hiding, Start Talking” initiative on mental health

I would like to start by stating that what I am about to share has taken me years to understand and more years to be willing enough and strong enough to share. It has taken me this long because for much of my life, I have been silenced. I did not choose to go into silence, but was forced there, often by friends and family and this world, or society rather. My voice was choked by people I loved and people I hated. It is for these reasons, as you might understand, that I kept quiet and chose never to open my mouth about my “story.”

In essence, I was afraid and I wanted to protect myself. I thought that if I gave my story voice, was vulnerable, it would not have been listened to; it would be ignored, or have fallen on deaf ears. This was my greatest fear and still remains to be to this day. This is how I lived most of my life; in fear.

I have depression and anxiety. Each day is a struggle, yes, but each day is also an opportunity for me to do better for myself and for others just like me. Each day I fight a battle that is often painful and horrifying. Since I was a child I experienced these emotions and feelings, never knowing that it wasn’t something every living person experienced. I thought it was normal and I should suck it up and put it away. So I did, and for years it grew. I grew up on an Indian Reservation in Montana where health services are free, but extremely poor.

Where I come from, if you were sad, you drank and did drugs. Where I come from, depression and anxiety did not and shouldn’t exist. I say shouldn’t exist not because it was a wonderful place, but because somehow, inadvertently, you were taught not to talk about it. You kept your mouth shut and you never looked “weak.” If you appeared with the slightest sign of weakness, you were incompetent. So I kept quiet and kept the appearance of strength and bravery.

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