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Lessons from the Mental Hospital – Glennon Doyle Melton

By Tricia Andor, Licensed Professional Counselor

I stumbled upon this gem while watching TED Talks. I’d intended to watch “just one” but emerged over an hour later, having been captivated by other TED options on the right of my screen.

Each one, so interesting. And thank my lucky stars for all those options, because Lessons from the Mental Hospital was one of them.

With that title, how could I resist?

Although Glennon Doyle Melton is talking about addiction in specific (bulimia, alcoholism, and drug addiction), what she’s saying seems so applicable for anyone who’s been hurt in life. Or for those ragged from trying to keep pace in a world that rarely says “enough.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes Melton says in the talk:

“When I was eight years old, I started to feel exposed, and I started to feel very very awkward. Every day I would push 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, overworking, snarkiness, apathy…they’re all superhero capes. And 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.”


“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 that 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?'”


Describing her inpatient stay:

“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.”