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.
One thing I wish society would look at is how our perception of people with mental health issues impacts their reality in defining years. In high school, you get left out for wearing different shoes, can you imagine what happens when you have a different brain. The law I wish could be passed, is that school must be an inclusive environment, the one team, no one gets left out mentality.
The staff on our wing had their work cut out for them, with twenty-four patients to attend to. Community therapy concentrated on setting and achieving goals. Occupational therapy focused on creatively integrating right- and left-brained processes. Twenty-four individual viewpoints on life; twenty-four souls needing to communicate, each in their own unique way. A microcosm of the very world we longed to be a part of, treating one another with respect when someone went off the rails, supporting one another when life’s lessons got too hard to shoulder alone.
“I focus on creating now, instead of destroying myself. My stitching gives me a reason to keep going, to keep fighting. I have to finish so many portraits,” she says of the benefits the stitching process provides for her mental health. “I start something to bring comfort to someone else and it ends up bringing comfort to myself. It’s like a circle. By helping others I’m helping myself.”“I focus on creating now, instead of destroying myself. My stitching gives me a reason to keep going, to keep fighting. I have to finish so many portraits,” she says of the benefits the stitching process provides for her mental health. “I start something to bring comfort to someone else and it ends up bringing comfort to myself. It’s like a circle. By helping others I’m helping myself.”
Years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and gaining the tools and support to manage that disease, on some unconscious level, I stilled fundamentally believed that losing weight would “fix” me. The fly in that ointment was that whenever food was restricted, the underlying issues were still bubbling, just below the surface.
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 now remind myself that my strength and courage are miracles and it’s okay to let myself shine. Overcoming shame took at least a lifetime’s worth of recovery work. I wonder how long it would have taken to find peace if stigma didn’t exist. Maybe someday someone managing a mental illness will know.