I feel guilty for having a mental illness. I understand that it’s likely a genetic disorder, but rational thought is hard to come by. The internalized guilt I feel is the very definition of self-stigma. That’s how I choose to see it. If I’m going to advocate against stigmatizing mentally ill people, then I guess I’d better start with me.
I see that it is my obligation to speak. To shed light. To dispel fear. That is my clarion call to you: join me in pursuit of a better world for those of us who are different. We have been woefully remiss, we are responsible, they are ours. All of them. All of us.
In grade school, I was treated like an outsider. As an art student it was hip to be vague, so no one seemed to notice my inability to interface. I was simply considered aloof. In truth, I was dying inside for the wish of connection. It wasn’t meant to be. The voices in my head dictated my actions, often compelling me to behave irrationally.
Wellness is not a singular phenomenon; there’s a whole world out there that needs healing. If I take care of myself first and learn as much as I can about my illness, then I’m able to share my information with others. I can present my experience with hospitalization and medication to caring and curious people.
I knew then that Jackie deserved to feel her best—at least, the best that’s possible. I knew then that it was my place as her friend to always speak up when she sways from her true personality. I knew then that I was in the right to hold onto who Jackie was before she became ill, and to try to always believe she deserves to get back to that place.
I have very little power over things in my life, except for how I choose to perceive things. I can’t control other people’s actions or words, or any circumstance that comes my way from out in left field, or the frequency that my bipolar challenges run on. But I can choose to surround myself with positive energy, including music.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of managing my side effects is the maintenance of communication. I have to keep up my perspective or I’ll lose the ground I’ve gained since my last hospitalization. I don’t want that to happen. It’s all about being personally proactive.
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.