We are privileged to share blog postings from our Ambassador Jessie Close, Adrienne Gurman, Henry Boy Jenkins, and other guest bloggers. Please visit regularly as our content will be updated often.
I take my advocacy seriously. When I was invited to blog for Bring Change 2 Mind, I decided to share my story in such a way that others living with mental health issues might glean a kernel of hope. Maybe I could inspire them to find acceptance in a world filled with prejudice and shame. I would need to be courageous when I was afraid, and outspoken when I was shy.
I hoped that I could provide a fresh perspective on the subject of mental illness by being open and honest about my ups and downs. I wanted to offer the lawmakers, families, caregivers, and friends reading this blog an opportunity to see a bigger picture, one where the individual is not their diagnosis. I would need to offer data in lieu of opinion, and experience instead of conjecture.
Recently I had the honor of representing Bring Change 2 Mind at a press conference for philosophy’s Hope & Grace Initiative. I had been featured in a short film underscoring the realities of mental illness. The cosmetic company will be giving 1% of their proceeds to grass root organizations supporting and advocating for mental health awareness and wellness.
I was not born depressed. I have proof. The images of me in old photo albums show a normal, happy child. A wide grin appears on my face as I’m being passed around from my mom, to her mom, to my dad’s mom, to aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends. My smiles were real. I can tell. The yellowed tape that still barely adheres the pictures to the cardboard pages is a stark contrast to my bright, alert eyes and pearly-white smile. “Let’s see some teeth!” my dad, an orthodontist, used to say as he focused his camera lens and clicked away. It’s ironic that so many years later I’d be using these images as concrete evidence that I didn’t come into this world with anything close to the chronic depression I developed in adolescence.
Yes, I have the typical “medication belly”. I’ll never forget walking into a large conference room in Akron, Ohio and seeing a crowd of consumers, all with medication bellies. I felt vindicated, understood, and a part of something that those without bellies can’t even imagine. I got tears in my eyes and, on the small stage they had set up for Glenn and me, I could only put my hand on my heart.
There are days when I want to believe that I do not live with schizophrenia, that every professional evaluation is incorrect, and every diagnosis I’ve been given is wrong. There are days when everything that happens points me in a different direction, days when my compass is affected by solar flares and witchcraft. I feel myself being pulled apart while attempting to blend in, trying not to be a burden, and doing everything I can to appear normal.
I’ve always been fascinated by people. As a child I much preferred biographies, novels about relationships, movies where emotions ran high and the characters bared their souls and spoke thoughts and feelings I never dared to own. My favorite section of the newspaper was, of course, ‘Dear Abby’. It’s no wonder that I chose a career in social work.
Four months is a long time to be away from expressing myself through the written word. I’ve missed sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, using a keyboard to write about living with depression. I enjoy sharing my stories to connect with others who might be struggling and hiding in the shadows with their mental illness.