My entire life, I didn’t think I had a voice. I didn’t think I could speak my truth, and I didn’t think I could ever speak up about the things I didn’t agree with. I fell victim to the stigma around mental illness.
Sometimes I get so perplexed as to why the stigma around mental illness even exists. Our brain is a part of our body and it does so much for our bodies. If we are physically able, we can tell our brain to walk, and we walk. We can tell our brain to type on a computer, and we type. We can tell our brain to not blink during a staring contest, and we can keep our eyes open for a pretty long time. The brain is an incredibly powerful organ. So why do we criticize those who are struggling mentally, but sympathize with those who are struggling physically? When you really think about it, the stigma shouldn’t even exist. But it does, and it exists all around us.
And I will be completely real with you, I believed that stigma. I believed that people with mental illness were weak and crazy, because everyone around me told me that people with mental illness were weak and crazy. I believed the stigma so much that I couldn’t even recognize how deeply I had been struggling my entire life. Once I finally sought out help, the walls of stigma broke down for me, and I finally found my voice, I finally found the value in sharing my story to help others and continue to shatter this wall of stigma. And once I started this mental health advocacy work, I realized there are so many layers to this wall of stigma that has been standing for centuries. We have to focus on the individual and helping the individual, but then we also have to remember the influences of family, friends, school, sports, and even strangers. The wall is so thick, but I have hope. I am incredibly hopeful that together we can break down those layers and make this wall of stigma less thick and hopefully one day, non-existent. I hope in my lifetime, I get to see that wall shatter to the ground.
Scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post of someone outwardly speaking about their current struggle with depression. In the past, I would have just scrolled right by that post, because in my mind, that person was weak. But now because I can relate so much to that person’s struggle, I never want them to feel alone like I felt alone. I never want them to feel like they don’t have a person to lean on in times of darkness. I am far from a licensed professional, but I can listen, and I know that there is light on the other side of our struggle. And I also feel like now I can use my voice not only to help that person who is struggling, but to begin to break down these layers of this wall. A comment was made that God was missing from this person’s life and that medicine or therapy wasn’t needed, just God. And although I fully believe that God is powerful and amazing, I also fully believe in the power of therapy, because therapy truly saved my life. I read the comment a few times, and decided to keep scrolling because I didn’t feel like starting a fight, but there was a tugging in my soul that brought me back and led me to leave a reply. A reply that informed this person of the power of therapy and how much it helped me and that both God and help from a trained professional, can save lives and provide the necessary help. Now I know I put myself in a place that raises a lot of controversy, but for me this is just a reminder that there are so many layers we have to work through. We have to educate and we have to empower and we have to listen. And I know as humans, we all have that power, to listen and to care and to be there for those around us. I am not sure if my reply will begin to break down the wall that person has, but I can have hope that they hear what I have to say, and they digest it and know how much strength there is in seeking help.
I truly believe that I went through my struggle in order to do the work that I am doing now, and be part of the movement to break down this wall. I am realizing that mental health advocacy is raw and incredibly messy, but if I am going to do this work, this work that means so much to me, I have to speak up. And if speaking up causes me to lose friends, or cause some issues, I believe it is worth it, because I will stand tall in my truth, knowing there is no weakness in struggling, there is no failure in struggling, and that there is so much strength in speaking your truth and seeking help. I will stand firm in my opinion that therapy can save lives and I will continue to speak up about my journey with my mental health and with therapy. Because if I can impact one person and let them know they are not alone, or if I can change one person’s view on mental health, then that person can go and make an impact too. And it becomes a beautiful ripple effect. I have hope. So much hope. My father who was against therapy, now sees the benefit of therapy because he sees how much it has helped me. And therefore, I will never forget that I have a voice again.
And if you are struggling to find your voice, know that I have been there. If there are people around you telling you that you are crazy, stupid or weak for how you feel, I know how that feels. If you have family and friend dynamics that are only making the wall of stigma thicker for you, I have been there. You are not alone. Remember that your voice is powerful, that you are powerful. It takes a village to break down this wall. So if you haven’t yet found your voice, that is completely okay, I know that it is in there and one day you will share your story and heal your soul, but for now, know that I am advocating for you. That I will spend the rest of my life, however long I am granted to stay on this earth, advocating for you, advocating for me, and advocating for the help we all deserve.
I am screaming it from the rooftops, you matter, mental health matters! I will never, ever forget I have a voice, ever again.
Be Beautifully Simply You