I’ll preface by saying I know you’ll never see this and that is quite alright with me. I don’t fangirl, I grew up with my father knowing many popular musicians on a first name basis that I am kind of desensitized by celebrity. I know you are just a man, a wonderful man at that, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable by what I feel the need to put out there for others to see.
But you see, John, I’m sick. It’s an invisible illness that doesn’t get a fair shake in this country and a lot of people self-diagnose it online then throw themselves at the feet of people like Carrie Fisher because they feel a certain kinship with them. Mental health isn’t a joke, it isn’t something I fake for attention and it certainly isn’t something I enjoy. I suffer and sometimes by watching these girls at conventions stand up before a crowd of people they’ve never met and proclaim to a celebrity about how the celeb’s strength and openness has “saved” them, I can’t help but wonder if they really are mentally ill or they just want attention and a chance to feel close to someone.
This isn’t a picnic. I hate it. If I could give it away at a moment’s notice, I would. No second thoughts. No regrets. Surviving mental illness is a misnomer. I’ve been inpatient, I’ve been in group therapy with truly ill people. You don’t survive this stuff, you suffer. Some days are better than others, but that’s it. You wake up and think, “today doesn’t suck quite as bad as yesterday did” and that’s a good day. If I have a day where I don’t go, “is there a television on upstairs or am I hearing voices again?” it’s a good day.
Treatment is a crapshoot. Medications may or may not work depending on your body chemistry and all that. Some days are absolutely hopeless. You, as you struggle just to live, watch your friends and family struggle with trying to help you and not having any means to actually do so. Borderline Personality Disorder is not a joke. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not a joke. And certainly, Bipolar Disorder is not a joke. No person that actually has these disorders wants to have them.
Enter where you come in. Last August and September (2012) I, a Wisconsin native, was in Atlanta for Dragon*Con. I’ll admit, while I am a Doctor Who fan, I never watched Torchwood so I really had no idea who you were beyond what other people have said about you. But my dear friend Kate assured me that I should at least say hi, maybe get an autograph, and that your energy would just brighten what was a really dark time for me with my illness. Not that I expected anything less, but your kindness, your smile and even just taking a moment to compliment my eyes were enough to lighten my mental load for the rest of the convention.
This was not for any superficial reason. This was not for a crush. This was because it was obvious that you are an extraordinary person who just exudes joy in a highly contagious way. It’s hard to explain, because when a person, namely me, loses all hope in medicine, in doctors, in therapists, in the world and the people in it, just knowing that someone somewhere finds joy in life gives me a kick in the mental pants to tell me that it is not all lost. That some day, I can be happy again and things will get better.
I’ll admit, things have been on a downward spiral since Dragon*Con last year, and I feel some days like I’m grasping for straws to keep me afloat. But if I’m in my office, I look up at your autograph and remember your kindness and I have faith again. On the bad days, I watch videos or look at photos you post on Facebook and I can find the strength to smile. On the really dark and bleak days, I re-listen to episodes of the Nerdist that you are on. Because your kindness and your joy, they are contagious. Keep being you, you are amazing. Because by being you, you are helping an ill woman in Wisconsin hold on to a shred of hope that finding joy again is possible.
~ Dawn in Wisconsin
PS. I am very happy for you and Scott. Congratulations.