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.
My voice is not only that of a survivor, but also one of a medical provider, as a nurse practitioner. I utilize my journey to help others and to advocate for them. Mental illness and suicide do not have to be invisible. They are topics that need voices and I am one of those voices.
Mental health disorders are difficult. They are journeys with long paths, paths that curve in many directions. The greatest gifts my journey brought me were true loved ones, strength, my voice, and the honor of working beside Veterans (they take me under their wings and treat me like one of their own). So now I give you the opportunity to speak up. Speak loudly and without shame.
We now are seeing this open conversation take place about sexual assault. We are seeing things like #metoo. More people are talking. This is important. I will tell you one way I flourished among the chaos. You see for sixteen years I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, but then one day I entered a phase of post-traumatic enlightenment. All those years of pain and darkness opened at first to a small glimmer and then a bright light.
Emotions are real. Just because we cannot see them, does not mean they do not exist. So, I challenge you all. Start saying “I am not okay” if you really are not. Go to your social media and ask the question “How are you” and encourage people to be honest. Create an emotion embracing environment, one where all emotions are welcome. I am not okay. Are you?
I never stood up for myself though, instead I let the secret words that were spoken sink into my soul and feed my self-hate. That is how PTSD and depression are, they like a good meal. The main entrée was my hate towards myself and then the sides were the words of others, my plate became pretty full.
I am not ashamed of my past journeys with mental illness or the paths it took me on. I am grateful to those who stood by me and believed in me. To those I brought pain and pushed away, I am sorry. In the end, we are all on this journey through life together. Let us start holding hands and learning from one another. Let us stop the stigma.
Mental health disorders are truly hidden diseases at times because those of us with them become experts at placing them under a table where only a few know they exist. My daughter, during that time, was no different. We had known about the bullying taking place at her school, and had been advocates for her, but we had thought it was getting better when she stopped talking about it. We were wrong.