I survive by rote. I have medicine and therapy. I educate myself. I talk to professionals and peers alike. Had I been diagnosed when my symptoms first appeared, life might have turned out differently. Challenges might have been lessened, opportunities more available. I’ll never know. This is how it is now, and I work towards accepting that. It’s a lonely struggle, one the public doesn’t see.
Mean people suck. In my first draft of this blog, that bumper sticker sentiment was all I could type. It’s a natural response to an emotional situation, but I know better. Responding in anger only fuels more intolerance. I have enough to deal with just managing my mental illness. Advocacy is not a license to bully. Leave that to the narrow-minded. Then help them change their mind through peaceful interaction.
Allies have a habit of showing up at precisely the moment one needs them. The key to noticing support is being open to the possibility that it exists. This challenges the self-stigma many of us find ourselves caught up in, unwittingly or through influence. So we set aside our preconceptions and learn to trust, even when it seems impossible.
Schizophrenia has taken me to places which, thankfully, few will ever have to know. I tell my story that others might be encouraged to share their own. And somehow, in a way I don’t yet fully understand, I find myself thankful for the loneliness which teaches me daily the values of humanity and love.
I take my advocacy seriously. When I was invited to blog for Bring Change 2 Mind, I decided to share my story in such a way that others living with mental health issues might glean a kernel of hope. Maybe I could inspire them to find acceptance in a world filled with prejudice and shame. I would need to be courageous when I was afraid, and outspoken when I was shy.
I hoped that I could provide a fresh perspective on the subject of mental illness by being open and honest about my ups and downs. I wanted to offer the lawmakers, families, caregivers, and friends reading this blog an opportunity to see a bigger picture, one where the individual is not their diagnosis. I would need to offer data in lieu of opinion, and experience instead of conjecture.