Seems like just yesterday I was a little girl running in my backyard with my aluminum foil wrist cuffs, yellow yarn lasso, and infamous invisible jet. I wonder if the new owners of my childhood home ever found that jet. Did they know Wonder Woman once lived there?
The funny thing is it was not until 11 years ago, at the age of 32, that I began to feel like Wonder Woman and embrace my strengths. Until that time I had hid in the shadows, embarrassed by the fact I struggled with PTSD and depression from rape trauma. I felt that talking about my past struggles, including my suicide attempts made me “crazy”. There were many times I did try to talk about it and was given “the look” or heard the whispers behind my back, sometimes more so because I worked in healthcare.
My husband was the first person I shared my struggles with on a first date, that was back in 2000. I remember it was a moment that made me feel slightly more empowered and when I first learned to look at the term “crazy” as something that was not dirty. We sat at a table eating dinner and I said to him “Listen I need you to know something”, then went on to tell him about my past rape and that I was not in a good state of mind. I gave him the option to stay or go, letting him know I was struggling, and I may try to push him away.
Here we are 19 years later, and he is still by my side. That one moment was a what made me begin to feel empowered by the word “crazy”. You see, it is all about perspective. If you look at a word as bad, then it becomes bad, but if you look at a word as powerful…..well then everything changes.
Since the age of 32 I have been out there telling my story, as a way to help others and to show them that there is power in words. My past has allowed me to become a strong nurse practitioner, one who is able to sit across from a patient or family and truly listen without judgement. I remember how it felt to be judged, even by my healthcare colleagues, when I talked about my story.
To this day I talk about my story and insert “don’t be freaked out, I am comfortable talking about this, so you don’t need to be uncomfortable”. I find when I say that people become more at ease and they are less likely to give me “the look”. Those who struggle with, or have struggled with, mental illness know “the look”. It is the one someone gives you when you share your story and their eyes are saying “oh dear, they should not be talking about this, are they crazy”.
Crazy has multiple definitions though and we can choose to allow the word to empower us. So, yes, I am crazy. Crazy in the sense I am passionate about sharing my story to help end the stigma. Crazy in that I am enthusiastic as a healthcare provider to have a bold voice and speak at the political level to encourage that more funding be provided to mental healthcare resources. Crazy in that I fiercely use my voice to help others feel less alone and to change the discussion around mental health issues, including suicide. Crazy in that I energetically create evidence-based education for other healthcare providers on how to care for those with PTSD, including the veteran population.
My past gave me strength to move forward and be a voice for mental health discussions. There were many difficult times along my journey and days I thought I would not survive, but I did. Instead of letting the words people say to you bring you down, let them empower you. For each of you is a warrior and a voice, together we can change to discussions surrounding mental health disorders. What is your story?
Great piece. I really resonate with feeling judged around sharing my story – yes, sometimes especially by past healthcare colleagues. Appreciative of your framing statement advice – “I’m comfortable with this, so it’s OK for you to feel comfortable too”. Will definitely use that in both personal and professional conversations. Thanks for sharing! PS, I’m crazy too. 🙂