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February 07, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, February 7, 2014 - 5

shame and
suffring behind

I'msorry for your pain.
That's what someone
told me recently after
hearing a song I wrote for my
upcoming album, and it's not
the first time.
It's not the
first time
that some-
one's rec-
ognized the
agony in my CARLY
voice and lyr- KEYES
ics and then
for the evident, all-consuming
I don't share openly about
my trials with mental illness
because I want sympathy. At
one point in my life, sympathy
was like oxygen; I needed it
to survive. But I don't need it
today. I'm not sorry for my pain.
I am sorry that I thought I ever
needed to hide it.
I speak up despite the social
stigma because I'm hoping it
might encourage others to do
the same - to feel comfortable
enough to share their struggles
with mental illness, too. I used
to think that my problems -
alcoholism, depression, perfec-
tionism - were so unique. But I
quickly learned that it's not my
struggles that are unique; it's
my willingness to share about
Every time I watch "Inside
the Actor's Studio" and I hear
James Lipton ask his guests
during the famous exit inter-
view, "What is your least favor-
ite word?" I know my answer:
Shame. It's an ugly word, it's an
awful emotion and it's killing
people left and right by keeping
them from asking for the help
they so desperately need.
in my last column, I focused
on another emotion, fear, and
how letting it run my life will
dampen my dreams and pre-
vent me from living life to the
fullest. But if I let shame fester
and infiltrate my soul, this toxic
emotion will prevent me from
living period. It'll get me alone,
keep me alone and prey on my
self-worth until there's nothing
I'll never know the true
extent of the harm I caused
while in my addiction as I spent
hours upon hours blacked out,
but I do vividly remember plen-
ty of embarrassing, shudder-
worthy incidents, and these
memories constantly tempt me
to spiral into a shame attack: I
drove drunk hundreds of times
- with unsuspecting passen-
gers in my car - and got arrest-
ed twice (the first time I was
in a bathing suit). I spent two
weeks in Oakland County jail.
I woke up next to men whose
names I never learned. I stole
from my loved ones and blamed
it on other people. I lied and lied
and lied and lied ... and while
today the idea of taking my own
life sounds more than foreign, at
one time it wasn't. At one time, I
was in that place.
I remember first hearing
about the concept of suicide as
a young girl, and it confused
me. I didn't understand what
might lead someone to viewing
death as a viable option - until
that someone became me on a
Sunday night in the fall of 2009.

I remember it was a Sunday
because I had been watching an
awards show with my younger
sister earlier that evening. I love
my sister dearly, and some of the
best memories I have are of us
making music together, wheth-
er onstage or in the studio. The
beautiful sound of our voices
blending together is a fitting
metaphor for our relationship -
harmony at its best.
But even though I had the
love of my sister, a devoted fam-
ily and sea of friends in my heart
and an abundance of passion for
athletics, academics and art in
my soul, I also had a physical
ailment in my brain: A vicious
pair of mental health disorders

known as addiction and depres-
sion, and I was drowning in
a well of shame - filled to the
brim and spilling over the edges
- and instead of swimming, I
decided it would be easier just
to sink. Yes, that night I decided
that it would be better to die
than admit that I was an alco-
holic suffering from depres-
sion who couldn't get sober and
stay happy when left to my own
devices, I had too much shame
about my conditions to ask for
help ... even from my own sister.
So, I said good-bye to her for
what I thought would be the last
time, drove to Meijer, bought a
fifth of Jack Daniels and began
to down a bottle of painkillers
I'd saved from when I had my
wisdom teeth removed. I didn't
even think to write a note; I just
wanted it all to be over with.
But for once in my life, Id never
been happier that I'd failed at
something. I woke up the next
morning, and emotionally [had
reached a new level of pain that
I can only appropriately and
entirely express when I have a
guitar in my hands or piano keys
at my fingertips.
I immediately called my fam-
ily, entered a treatment cen-
ter and learned all about my
co-morbid biological diseases
called addiction and depression.
I began to slowly rid myself of
the inappropriate shame I car-
ried as a result of having these
conditions. Some of the best
medical professionals in the
field taught me that it's not my
fault; it's not a chtice I made.
Addiction, depression, any and
every mental health disorder,
is a disease and a physical ill-
ness of the brain that requires
Just as a broken leg needs
a cast, I have an injured brain
- the body's most essential
organ - but while a broken leg
can fully heal and return to its
normal state, treating a mental
health disorder is not a quick
fix situation, nor is it perma-
nent, but the healing process
starts by removing the shame
factor - realizing that a mental
illness does not make someone
an immoral or a weak or a "less-
than" individual.
About three weeks ago, I
came across a piece of news that
rocked my world: A beautiful,
19-year-old freshman track-star
at the University of Pennsylva-
nia had jumped off of a parking
garage to her death.
My empathy grew when I
read that she had also been a
standout soccer player in high
school, and my heart broke as
I gazed upon a photo of her
dressed head to toe, smiling
ear to ear, in a familiar outfit: A
vibrant, bright red and dark blue
Penn athletics uniform. Though
I wasn't at the point of contem-
plating suicide when I was a D1
student-athlete at Penn, it was
during that time when depres-
sion had settled in and drench-
ing my demons in alcohol was at
an all-time high.
In 2011, the American College
Health Association - National
College Health Assessment
- a nationwide survey of col-
lege students at 2- and 4-year
institutions - found that about
30 percent of college students
reported feeling "so depressed
that it was difficult to function"

at some time in the past year.
More than 6 percent of college
students reported seriously
considering suicide, and about
1 percent reported attempting
suicide in the previous year. Sui-
cide is the third leading cause of
death for teens and young adults
ages 15 to 24.
Then just a little over three
days ago, I got some more world-
rocking news: Philip Seymour
Hoffman had died from a heroin
overdose. I'm a film major; I
write for the Daily's film section
and have always admired Hoff-
man as an incredibly talented
actor, but I failed to realize that
that this unmatched artistic
talent was also just a regular

human - a father of three chil-
dren - who battled a deadly
mental illness everyday of his
life. My empathy peaked when
I came across a 2006 interview
that he gave for "60 Minutes"
where he briefly spoke about his
sobriety. Not only had he gotten
sober, but he had done so at age
22 and had been in recovery for
23 years until he relapsed.
I will certainly remember
Philip Seymour Hoffman as
one of the greatest actors I've
ever witnessed, but I will, too,
remember him as a man who
fought valiantly to treat his ill-
ness ... to the best of his abilities.
This is the especially awful fact
about addiction and mental ill-
ness in general: Not only does
it require treatment, it requires
chronic treatment due to its
chronic nature, and so despite
more than two decades with-
out putting drugs or alcohol
in his system, Hoffman wasn't
cured. It's a sad yet important
reminder for me that despite
three years without alcohol in
my system, I'm certainly not
cured either.
In fact, 40 to 60 percent of
drug addicts in recovery will
eventually relapse, according to
the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, which calls relapse "not
only possible but also likely,"
and users of opioid drugs like
heroin have a much higher
relapse rate than other addicts
- as high as 80 percent or above.
I've learned that
my struggles
aren't unique.
A beautiful, gifted track-star
at an Ivy League school. One of
the greatest actors of all-time.
My roommate from treatment
who put a gun to her head. My
friend who overdosed on heroin.
Another friend who hung her-
self. Another friend who died
from choking on her own vomit
after an alcohol binge - they all
suffered from mental illness,
and I just wish they would have
shared their pain when they
needed to most.
Somewhere along the line we
learned that asking for help is a
sign of weakness and that shar-
ing our feelings is for wimps and
that goingto therapy is for crazy
people. But what's really crazy
is trying to recover from a men-
tal disorder alone and acting
like we're just fine, when we're
really struggling inside and let-
ting the misinformed opinions
of other people cause us to feel
shame and affect our decision to
stay silent about our pain.
Am I sorry about worrying
my friends and family with my
erratic and dangerous behav-
ior? Of course, I am. I'm end-
lessly sorry for what I put my
sister through that night when
I thought that death was not
only an option but the only one,
for the countless lives I endan-
gered while driving drunk, for
the copious wrongs I've done
to others, but I can't change the
past nor should I dwell upon it
too intently. I can only live in the
present and take care of myself
by overcoming the shame that's

been inappropriately attached
to mental health disorders and
sharing my pain by using pro-
ductive coping skills ... like this
So, to anyone and everyone
who struggles with a stigma-
tized mental disorder or has lost
someone you love far too soon to
addiction, suicide from depres-
sion, or from the devastating
consequences of any untreated
mental health disorder, have no
shame, share your pain and you
will always have my deepest
Keyes is leaving shame and
finding joy. To join her, e-mail

FYI: She's engulfing someone in flames.
AHS' wraps psychotic,
successful season three

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ByALEC STERN season. Besides being such an
Senior Arts Editor obvious, haplessly put together
gay rights allegory - witches are
erican Horror Story" has born witches - Cordelia's lacka-
ble to accomplish extraordi- daisical confession was com-
ings in its short, three-year pletely random, as if the world
. Ryan would suddenly accept witches
y's hor- B+ and not fear and torture them as
ies has had been done throughout their
failed American history. While thoughtless, it's
a truly also unsurprising, given "Coven"
1, truly Horror 's utter disregard for conse-
addic- Story: Coven quences. Many of its cliffhangers
light - existed merely for the gratuitous
while Season Finale shock of it all - no death, no
iating twist, no small detail ever stuck.
ed and FX And for what's been a great story,
anthol- it's unfortunate that a major part
nre. In its third season, of the finale highlighted one of
" continued to showcase "Coven" 's biggest flaws.
eries' signature, power- For the entire season, "Coven"
actors with intriguing flirted with the line between
al - a truly bewitching fun and profundity - embrac-
And while its conclusion, ing supernatural threesomes
riately titled "The Seven while also touching upon race,
rs," never quite matched rights and relationships with the
h standard it set for itself keen, surprising perceptiveness
outtheseason,"Coven"'srep- "American Horror Story" has
will nonetheless remain oftentimes presented. But where
one. was any of that during most of
king with tradition, "Coven" 's finale? For almost
" 's grand finale was the entirety of its running time,
ably low-stakes compared "The Seven Wonders" was forced
endings of "Asylum" and to catapult its B-plot (who is the
er House." With Madame next Supreme?) from its intrigu-
rie (Kathy Bates, "Mis- ing, lingering position as a sec-
nd Marie Laveau's (Ange- ondary mystery to the forefront
sset, "ER") converging - and in turn, a tepid, hollow
nes wrapped, the finale series of tests ensued, culminat-
ble to explore something ing in Cordelia's uneventful and
ncharacteristic of "Ameri- quick crowning.
orror Story:" a focused, Just as disappointment began
ar narrative. to creep in, and it seemed sure
mid-episode, Cordelia "The Seven Wonders" would put
Sarah Paulson, "12 Years a middling, unsatisfying cap on
e") was named the next "Coven"... enter Jessica Lange.
e - and in one of her first It's as if each part of the epi-
as leader, she confesses sode (pre-Lange and post-Lange)
:chcraft on television in an was a completely different entity
o reach out to witches all - a worrisome fact given Lange's
:e country (one of the epi- promise to leave the series after
multiple callbacks to "Asy- the upcoming, currently unti-
ending). tled, fourth season. When all
pite Paulson's consistently else is failing, leave it to Lange
ic performance, this was to bring substance, emotion,
btedly the weakest link of thrill and authority - the true
.y the finale, but the entire Supreme of "American Horror

Whereas the first half of "The
Seven Wonders" dragged on,
running around in the same cir-
cles the series had for twelve epi-
sodesthe confrontationbetween
Fiona and Cordelia slowed
things down, allowing for sub-
stance and depth to be restored.
Cordelia may have brought to
light one of "Coven"'s most egre-
gious missteps, but by the end
of the episode, Fiona had done
just the opposite. Her demise
was heartbreaking, and the
realization of deep regret over
the failed relationship with her
daughter solidified the true story
behind "Coven" - not one about
witches, but one about family,
about finding your pack.
A truly
And in the end, Fiona's Hell
is not being forced to drink Mai
Tais on a cabin porch, as the
"Axeiiias fries up some catfish
(his own personal Heaven). Hell
is living with her realization for
eternity ... and being powerless
to change it.
As "Coven" came to a close,
there was a refreshing open-end-
edness not seen before in "Amer-
ican Horror Story" - the only of
the three iterations that could
have organically continued into
a second season. Perhaps that's
what Ryan Murphy meant when
he described "Coven" as lighter
than its predecessors. In the
final minutes, Cordelia's Acad-
emy is whole again, marked by a
resilience, strength and excite-
ment not best represented by
"The Seven Wonders," but repre-
sentative of yet another success-
ful, psychotic year of "American
Horror Story."

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