Managing My Mental Illness Has Not Made Me Weak, but Stronger
My mental illness gives me strength.
Let me be clear about one thing. When I say “my mental illness gives me strength,” what I mean is, the skills I have gained from years of managing a chronic illness have not made me weak, but stronger.
Gun violence has hit far too close to home lately. Most of my career has been spent on school campus; I was working in a San Bernardino County facility less than a mile away during the December 2 shootings. Finally, as a member of the LGBT community, the attack in Orlando hit me hard.
Because of my mental illness, I knew…
- to stay calm while on lockdown, making sure we stayed safe and organized
- that I needed to turn off all forms of media because I would fall down that rabbit hole too quickly
- that all of my feelings are OK and normal
When a person who has dealt with chronic mental illness is put into a crisis, they can have unique tools to manage the situation.
Are we doing everything we can to make certain people with chronic mental illness can utilize these tools? No, we are not, especially in the LGBT community.
Stigma around mental illness in the LGBT community is out of control. I have had coffee dates end with the slightest hint of my mental illness. I no longer worry about being fired for being gay (I work in California, one of the few places in the world I get the protection), but I have to worry about my mental illness being revealed.
When people do find out that I have chronic mental illness, they either run away or treat me like I’m breakable. I am, but my mental illness gives me strength.
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