It is human to offer support. It teaches us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, to let go of ego and give meaning to life. We learn about borders and boundaries, as opposed to fences and defenses. Caring for one another is our collective responsibility. It is a defining component of wellness.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I hope to reveal my mental illness to strangers more than usual this month. I’ll start the conversation by saying, “Do you know that this month is Mental Health Awareness Month? I have a mental illness and I’m so very grateful that we can at least talk about it this month, aren’t you?” Or, if you want to be more brazen, ask “Is there mental illness in your family? There is in mine…”
Let’s get out there and start the conversation. Begin by talking to neighbors, taxi drivers, store clerks, EVERYONE!!!!
We are on the receiving end of the misconceptions and the bullying, not only from without, but from within. To reverse this, it is imperative that we speak up, not act out. First, we need to understand who we are and what our disorders mean to the quality of our lives. The next step is to address the misconceptions responsible for public prejudice. This begins with education, not hearsay. Caricatures of the mentally ill are the shorthand of the weak.
I nervously explained my diagnosis to her, and she listened without judgement. I told her that I needed help navigating their system, and that logistics were not my forte. After pushing through my expectations and past the annoyance of my constant self-stigma, a miracle of sorts occurred. We were talking. Really talking.
A visual and tangible scene of life has been played out for my family. Baby being born, and all the drama of that scene and her great-grandmother, nearing the end, reminiscing to whoever wants to sit and listen, about her long and adventurous life. We took a bundle of photos when Phoenix met her great-grandmother.
It’s up to us to speak our truths and become a part of something bigger. We need to be seen and we want to be heard. We are not ciphers, cute off-the- wall characters in a situation comedy, or newspaper buzzwords when reporters get hasty. We are not punchlines. Mental illness is no laughing matter.