Lessons from the Mental Hospital | Glennon Doyle Melton | TEDxTraverseCity

Lessons from the Mental Hospital | Glennon Doyle Melton | TEDxTraverseCity

Translator: Tijana Mihajlović
Reviewer: Denise RQ Hi. I have been trying to weasel my way out
of being on this stage for weeks. (Laughter) I am terrified. But about a month ago, I was up early,
panicking about this, and I watched an old TED Talk
that Brené Brown did on vulnerability. Dr. Brown is one of my heroes. She is a shame researcher, and I am a recovering
bulimic, alcoholic, and drug user. So I’m sort of a shame researcher, too. (Laughter) It’s just that most of my work
is done out in the field. (Laughter) And Dr. Brown defined courage like this. She said, “Courage is to tell the story
of who you are with your whole heart.” That got me thinking about another one of my heroes,
Georgia O’Keeffe, and how she said,
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant. There is no such thing. Making the unknown known
is what is important.” So, here I am to tell you the story
of who I am with my whole heart, and to make some unknowns known. When I was eight years old,
I started to feel exposed, and I started to feel very, very awkward. Every day, I was pushed out
of my house and into school, all oily, and pudgy, and conspicuous, and to me the other girls seemed
so cool, and together, and easy, and I started to feel like a loser
in a world that preferred superheroes. So I made my own capes,
and I tied them tight around me. My capes were pretending and addiction. But we all have
our own superhero capes, don’t we? Perfectionism, and overworking,
snarkiness, and apathy; they are all superhero capes. Our capes are what we put
over our real selves, so that our real tender selves
don’t have to be seen and can’t be hurt. Our superhero capes are what keep us
from having to feel much at all, because every good and bad thing
is deflected off of them. So, for 18 years, my capes of addiction and pretending
kept me safe and hidden. People think of us, addicts,
as insensitive liars, but we don’t start out that way. We start out
as extremely sensitive truth-tellers. We feel so much pain and so much love, and we sense that the world
doesn’t want us to feel that much, and doesn’t want to need
as much comfort as we need, so we start pretending. We try to pretend like we’re the people
that we think we’re supposed to be. We numb, and we hide, and we pretend, and that pretending
does eventually turn into a life of lies, but to be fair, we thought
we were supposed to be lying. They tell us since we’re little
that when someone asks us how we’re doing, the only appropriate answer is,
“Fine. And you?” But the thing is
that the people are truth-tellers. We are born to make our unknown known. We will find somewhere to do it. So in private,
with the booze, or the overshopping, or the alcohol, or the food, we tell the truth. We say, “Actually, I’m not fine.” Because we don’t feel safe
telling that truth in the real world, we make our own little world, and that’s addiction. That’s whatever cape you put on. So what happens is all of us end up living in these little, teeny, controllable,
predictable, dark worlds instead of all together
in the big, bright, messy one. I binged and purged for the first time
when I was eight, and I continued every single day
for the next 18 years. Seems normal to me, but you’re surprised. (Laughter) Every single time that I got
anxious, or worried, or angry, I thought something was wrong with me. So I took that nervous energy
to the kitchen and I stuffed it all down with food, and then I panicked, and I purged, and after all of that,
I was laid out on the bathroom floor, and I was so exhausted and so numb that I never had to go back
and deal with whatever it was that had made me uncomfortable
in the first place, and that’s what I wanted. I did not want to deal with the discomfort and messiness
of being a human being. So, when I was a senior in high school, I finally decided to tell the truth
in the real world. I walked in my guidance counselor’s office and I said, “Actually, I’m not fine.
Someone help me.” And I was sent to a mental hospital. In the mental hospital,
for the first time in my life, I found myself in a world
that made sense to me. In high school,
we had to care about geometry when our hearts were breaking because we were just bullied
in the hallway, or no one would sit with us at lunch, and we had to care about ancient Rome when all we really wanted to do was learn how to make
and keep a real friend. We had to act tough when we felt scared, and we had to act confident
when we felt really confused. Acting, pretending,
was a matter of survival. High school is kind of like
the real world sometimes, but in the mental hospital,
there was no pretending. The gig was up. (Laughter) We had classes about how to express
how we really felt through music, and art, and writing. We had classes
about how to be a good listener, and how to be brave enough
to tell our own story while being kind enough
not to tell anybody else’s. We held each other’s hands sometimes,
just because we felt like we needed to. Nobody was ever allowed
to be left out. Everybody was worthy – that was the rule –
just because she existed. So in there, we were brave enough
to take off our capes. All I ever needed to know,
I learned in the mental hospital. (Laughter) I remember this sandy-haired girl,
who was so beautiful, and she told the truth on her arms. I held her hand one day
while she was crying, and I saw that her arms
were just sliced up like precut hams. In there, people wore their scars
on the outside, so you knew where they stood, and they told the truth,
so you knew why they stood there. So I graduated from high school, and I went on to college, which was way crazier
than the mental hospital. (Laughter) In college, I added on the capes
of alcoholism and drug use. The sun rose every day,
and I started binging and purging, and then when the sun set,
I drank myself stupid. The sunrise is usually
people’s signal to get up, but it was my signal every day
to come down – to come down from the booze,
and the boys, and the drugs, and I could not come down. That was to be avoided at all costs,
so I hated the sunrise. I’d close the blinds,
and I’d put the pillow over my head, while my spinning brain would torture me about the people who were going out
into their day, into the light, to make relationships,
and pursue their dreams, and have a day. And I had no day; I only had night. These days, I like to think of hope
as that sunrise. It comes out every single day
to shine on everybody equally. It comes out to shine
on the sinners, and the saints, and the druggies, and the cheerleaders. It never withholds. It doesn’t judge. If you’ve spent your entire life
in the dark, and then one day
just decide to come out, it’ll be there, waiting for you,
just waiting to warm you. You know, all those years, I thought of that sunrise as searching,
and accusatory, and judgmental, but it wasn’t. It was just hope’s daily invitation to me
to come back to life. I think if you still have a day,
if you’re still alive, you are still invited. I actually graduated from college – which makes me both grateful to and extremely suspicious
of my Alma Mater – (Laughter) and I found myself sort of in the real world,
and sort of not. On Mother’s Day 2002, – I am not good at years,
we’ll just say on Mother’s Day – I had spun deeper and deeper. I wasn’t even Glennon anymore. I was just bulimia. I was just alcoholism. I was just a pile of capes. But on Mother’s Day, one Mother’s Day, I found myself on the cold bathroom floor, hungover, shaking, and holding
a positive pregnancy test. As I sat there with my back
literally against a wall, shaking, an understanding washed over me. In that moment, on the bathroom floor, I understood that even in my state, even lying on the floor, that someone out there had deemed me worthy of an invitation to a very, very important event. So, that day on the bathroom floor, I decided to show up, just to show up, to climb out of my dark, individual,
controllable world, and out into the big, great, messy one. I didn’t know how to be a sober person, or how to be a mother,
or how to be a friend, so I just promised myself
that I would show up and I would do the next right thing. “Just show up, Glennon,
even if you’re scared, just do the next right thing,
even when you’re shaking.” So I stood up. What they don’t tell you
about getting sober, about peeling off your capes, is that it gets a hell of a lot worse
before it gets better. Getting sober is like recovering
from frostbite. It’s all of those feelings
that you’ve numbed for so long, now they’re there, and they are present. At first, it just feels
kind of tingly and uncomfortable, but then, those feelings start
to feel like daggers. The pain, the loss, the guilt, the shame – it’s all piled on top of you
with nowhere to run. But what I learned during that time is that sitting with the pain
and the joy of being a human being while refusing to run for any exits is the only way
to become a real human being. So, these days, I am not a superhero, and I am not a perfect human being, but I am fully human being,
and I am so proud of that. I am, fortunately and frustratingly, still exactly the same person as I was when I was 20,
and 16, and 8 years old. I still feel scared all the time, anxious all the time, oily all the time. I still get very high
and very low in life, daily, but I finally accepted the fact
that sensitive is just how I was made, that I don’t have to hide it,
and I don’t have to fix it. I am not broken. I’ve actually started to wonder
if maybe you’re sensitive, too. Maybe you feel great pain and deep joy, but you just don’t feel safe
talking about it in the real world. So now, instead of trying
to make myself tougher, I write and I serve people
to help create a world where sensitive people
don’t need superhero capes, where we can all just come out
into the big, bright, messy world, and tell the truth,
and forgive each other for being human, and admit together
that yes, life is really hard, but also insist that together
we can do hard things. You know, maybe it’s OK to say,
“Actually, today I am not fine.” Maybe it’s OK to remember
that we’re human beings, and to stop doing long enough to think, and to love,
and to share, and to listen. This weekend was Mother’s Day, which marked the eleven-year anniversary
of the day I decided to show up, and I spent the day on the beach
with my three children, and my two dogs, and my one husband (Laughter) my long-suffering husband. You can only imagine. Life is beautiful and life is brutal. Life is brutaful
all the time and every day. Only one thing has made
the difference for me, and that is this: I used to numb my feelings and hide, and now I feel my feelings and I share. That’s the only difference
in my life these days. I am not afraid of my feelings anymore. I know they can come,
and they won’t kill me, and they can take over
for a little while, if they need to, but at the end of the day,
what they are is really just guides. They are just guides to tell me
what is the next right thing for me to do. Loneliness, it leads us
to connection with other people, and jealousy, it guides us
to what we are supposed to do next, and pain guides us to help other people, and being overwhelmed,
it guides us to ask for help. So I’ve learned
that if I honor my feelings as my own personal prophets, and instead of running I just be still, that there are prizes to be won. Those prizes are peace,
and dignity, and friendship. So I received an email last week, and it’s now taped to my computer at home. It just said, “Dear Glennon, it’s braver to be Clark Kent
than it is to be Superman. Carry on, warrior.” (Laughter) So today, I would say to you
that we don’t need any more superheroes. We just need awkward, oily,
honest human beings out in the bright, big, messy world. And I will see you there. (Applause)

43 Replies to “Lessons from the Mental Hospital | Glennon Doyle Melton | TEDxTraverseCity”

  1. I been in and out of mental hospitals for ten years I was sneaky and escaped with my mind and intent EVERY single time. I also literally escaped from State hospital. I broke out

  2. God bless your heart. So proud of you for sharing. I am sensitive too. And this is so beautiful. In sharing thoughts to a friend over time, when she got mad at me, she threw them in my face and made fun of me! Despite that I felt so much the whole gambit and I am still plugging along. They are my dreams. Thank you. I haven't shared that with anyone.

  3. woww I love this talk.. Glennon… one of the best talks ever…. earthy & encouraging real & up lifting Ty Kay La

  4. I really appreciate u Glennon. My mom suffered depression and anorexia for 25plus years. And passed away from it. I too suffer from depression and addiction since her death. Life is hard. Everyday I feel so alone and just wanna die. Hopefully one day I can get better and help people and share my story like you do.

  5. I’ve watched this ten times already today. I really really needed these words 💕 Thank you. I’m a little more ready to go out there into the bright, big, and messy world now :’)

  6. In some small ways I wish the real world was like a mental hospital (granted not all of them are nice some are just a no go) but with my experience not only is everyone unmasked and genuine, but the people around you are only there to either get better like you or are committed to listening and helping you grow as a person and find peace with yourself away from distractions. I was only there for 5 days but I wish I had stayed there at least a month to fully learn everything I know now in a better environment. Beautiful speech.

  7. @Glennondoylemelton I Love You 💕Such an inspiration for me and the world that is hurting inside! You got this! 💕🌸💕🌸💕🌸💕🌸💕🌸💕🌸💕🌸

  8. Whats annoying sounds she makes with his tounge.oh my god i wanted to listhen but it makes me crazy.drink water before talking or somtihig

  9. Thank You VERY MUCH Glennon!!! Wishing You A Life Filled With Love, Health, Happiness and Prosperity!!! I Will Share Your Most EXCELLENT TALK!!!! From Istanbul Turkey, Daniel Patrick Young.

  10. But what if nobody wants to listen? Is it better to keep hiding than getting hurt trying to connect with people….

  11. I really love this – sometimes I think it's a good idea to be kind to people who are bitter with us… because fighting egos (or fighting capes) are just not worth it, because it's not a fight for the truth. Thanks for sharing your truth!

  12. when i was in the mental hospital last year they showed all of us this video and it left a mark on me. today i came back to look for it because ive been at a complete loss on how to pick myself up and carry on again. i got chills just like the first time i watched it. thank you so much

  13. Is amazing how many societal issues stands from poor mental health. We have medically been treating patients suffering from Opioid Use Disorder and Alcoholism for over 20 years, and I can tell you that the great majority of them could have avoided an immense amount of suffering if proper mental health care had been provided.

    We need to not judge, not stigmatize and individually treat those who need. Everyone deserves to be heard and understood.

  14. There are different kinds of psych wards. Some are for the rich. Others are for the poor. There are no similarities between them. I once met a guy who altered the molecular structure of books into cereal. So every morning at breakfast , he would ingest a small library of knowledge. He says altering the moleculer structure of things is easy.

  15. I care when people tell me their problems and when i ask, i really want to know! I would feel the worst if someone tried to confide in me and i asked them how they were doing, and didn't really care,but that's not me. I won't ask if i don't have time to actually listen. I'll stop what I'm doing if u need me, but if it's a very important thing I'll miss, then i will call someone and let them take over. I know pastors, caregivers, hotlines etc… My friend is former military, she has PTSD, my sister is Schizophrenic etc… Friends who are alcoholic, Drug addicts, a family members friends etc.. I wish no one ever committed suicide, i can't imagine wanting that. I wish the best for everyone who needs help. 💜

  16. She went to a counsellor said I'm not ok and they sent her to a mental hospital?? Why do people exaggerate in these stories.

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