“You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth & raging courage.” Alex Elle
Okay. So it’s been a little over a year since I’ve been talking and writing and blogging and video-ing about my own mental health, which includes by association my own mental illnesses, and I’ve gotten my fair share of those who love it and those who hate it. Yes, as shocking as it is, there truly is an other side of the spectrum- regardless of how steadfastly you stand on yours.
There’s those who have found they feel less alone when they find my words. Then there’s those who truly realize for the first time they have some control and some choices when it comes to their own mental health. There’s some who simply need motivation to keep going, keep trying, keep fighting, keep living. And out of all these different people, there’s so many of them who have come forth to make sure I know they love that I speak out; they respect that I speak out and even grasp my words as if their own courage depends upon it. (Side note: “come forth” sounds so fancy, like mental health gods and goddesses covered in golden bling sending me messages from behind their computer screens. I’ll take it.)
But there’s also those who believe some things, in this case, the things being mental health and mental illness, should be kept private. There’s those who ask how I’ll ever keep a serious job when my employer can Google me and easily find out I have a mental illness. And to them I say, I truly don’t know. I do know any action would be discrimination. Also, shame on them. And there’s some who believe I should be ashamed and embarrassed of my mental illness, and therefore should certainly not be talking and writing and blogging and video-ing about it on the internet, my word! Good GOD, what am I thinking?
For all of these people, those who support me and those who do not (because hi, so many of you read my words anyway), for all of you who have already found my words and for all of those who will find them in the future, I finally, after over a year, feel a need to defend why I speak about mental health and mental illness in the first place and further more, why I speak about my own mental health and mental illnesses- the first and probably most important reason being…
And there are so, so many hundreds of thousands of hurting, confused, overwhelmed humans who do not have the support that I do. If we choose to not speak out, where are they to find that support? In a system so incredibly broken it takes months, if not years, to receive treatment? In a society so full of stigma we lose an average of 121 people daily to suicide? (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/) In speaking out, I choose to provide as much support as I, one little tiny speck of a person in the world, can to those who need it. “To the world you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world.”
Anyone living with mental illness knows there is no simply “feeling alone.” There is only the whirlwind spiral combination of feeling alone/unneeded/unnecessary/unloved/a burden/underwhelmed/overwhelmed/incapable/unlovable/desolate/too much/not enough/unworthy and 193,591,583 other things that come along with these thoughts and emotions. Alone is a horrible place to be; alone compounded by mental illness is a lethal place to be. Alone is the place which allows decisions to be made under the guise of the voices of mental illness with no counter of reality, the type of counter that comes from realizing you are NOT alone. The type of counter that comes from someone speaking out and being present, the type of counter that so many times has come from my therapist, my parents, my sister, my friends, my doctor. In speaking out, I choose to pay it forward.
No. 3. STIGMA IS NOT A GAME.
Stigma is real.
Stigma keeps people in pain.
Stigma keeps people from reaching out.
Stigma keeps therapy couches from being sat on.
Stigma keeps necessary medications out of the lips of those struggling.
Stigma kept me personally unmedicated for almost a decade because ‘I could do it on my own.’
Shame, embarrassment and fear kept me quiet for years that I could’ve been getting help had I spoken up about how bad things had truly gotten for me. How much I was struggling. How dark life had become. We are taught by society to think we must close our mouths about shameful, embarrassing things AND we are simultaneously taught by society that mental illness is shameful and embarrassing. We are given an equation that leads hundreds of thousands of people globally to suicide per year. Which leads me directly into number 5…
I hear and see mental disorders so, so, so incredibly often referred to as “silent illnesses.” Let me ask you this: if a silent illness is something that has even the smallest potential of leading to death, as mental disorders do, how in the hell do we have any right to call it silent? And how do we have any right to be silent about it? Isn’t it our duty to do all we can to save our family members? Our spouses and our children and our friends and our parents? Our colleagues? Our future generations?
I choose to speak up so that maybe even one person will choose life.