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Why I Speak Out About Mental Illness, Even When I'm Struggling

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When I began writing, it was for myself, for self-healing and to remind myself of my strength. When I first put my writing out there, I honestly did not think anyone would read it or relate. Admittedly, every single time someone reaches out to me to thank me for sharing my story, it is humbling beyond believe. I find myself moved to tears by their comments and letters.

People have called me brave for sharing what I have been through in life. I don’t see myself as brave. I have survived. I have endured. I am still alive. I don’t see the bravery in that. They have commended my strength. I honestly don’t feel very strong most days. I remind myself to stay strong because I forever feel like I am hanging on by a thread, ready to fall. They have thanked me for being an inspiration and giving them hope. I myself cling to hope, but I am still struggling every day.

I don’t write for praise or gratitude or accolades. I don’t write to paint a picture of a beautiful lie that someone might wake up one day miraculously cured because depression doesn’t work that way. I write about the ugly truth about living day to day  with mental illness because it has been the monster on my back for far too long and I am determined to pull this beast out into the light.

I write about hope because I need to remain hopeful to keep going. For me, it is honestly either fight or give up. Be hopeful or surrender. Live or die. I sometimes wonder if I’m the most positive depressed person in existence because I am forever reaching out, encouraging others to keep fighting, keep holding on, even when I feel like I am dying myself inside. I hold onto the hope that life will get easier or better over time because I need something to hold onto to pull myself up every day.

Why do I continue to write, to reach out and to encourage others even though I’m struggling myself? I do it because so many other people are struggling, too. So many people are sitting where I was months ago, feeling utterly hopeless and alone. They haven’t found their voices yet. They haven’t found their tribe. They feel no one could possibly understand. Nobody cares. I know that feeling. I have been there. I want to be that voice in the wind, whispering to them that they are not alone, not forgotten, not unlovable, not unwanted. I want to be the muse that inspires them to find their own voice and speak out.

There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness. People are afraid if they talk about their struggles, they will be labeled as “broken,” “damaged” or “crazy.” Society treats those with mental illness differently. We have become pariahs. People keep the mentally ill at arm’s length as if our “crazy” was contagious, joking about hiding all the weapons for everyone’s safety as if we’re likely to melt down and go on a killing spree at any moment. People who have hidden their diagnoses stand uncomfortably as friends, family and co-workers joke about people who are “unhinged” or “looney,” afraid to speak out and be painted with that same broad brush.

There is an inherent shame society places on people with mental illnesses. People suggest we should just try to be positive or happy. If only it were that simple. We get told we “don’t look sick” and are expected to justify that our pain is worthy of acknowledgement. We get accused of wanting attention and pity. No one would look at a cancer patient and ask them for proof of their pain or suggest someone with a broken leg try to walk. No one questions their emotions. There’s sympathy and validation when you can see the pain. When it is an invisible illness, you’re faced with ignorance and doubt.

There are people out there who have never experienced mental illness themselves who honestly have no idea what living with depression is like. They know the stigma and the jokes. They have seen the over-the-top portrayals in movies and on television. They have seen random headlines about violent crimes loosely linked to a person with a history of mental illness. They do not understand it. They are afraid of it. They need to put a face to it. They need to humanize it. They need to understand that we are not some boogeyman lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. We are everyday, average people who just happen to be struggling in life. We are their parents, siblings, children, co-workers and friends. They have known the faces of mental illness for years. We just hid it in the shadows out of fear of their reaction.

I honestly write and speak out because somebody has to do it. If not me, who? If not now, when? Nothing is ever going to change until people rise up as a united force to change it. I do not expect my voice alone to move mountains or change the world, but I will add it to the collective, hoping that together, we will be heard. Enough with the shame, the stigma and the fear. We need to begin to talk openly about mental illness so we can seek treatment and begin to heal.

I write because it has become my lifeblood, and healing has become my mission. Healing not only for myself but for everyone who has been struggling in silence. I write because I have seen it makes a difference. I don’t have much to offer the world, but if I can turn the worst moments of my life into something positive that helps others, it is worth doing. While it may not be on a global scale, if my words move one person today, convincing them that someone else understands and encouraging them to stay strong and keep fighting, then I have made the world a better place.

This blog was originally posted on Unlovable.

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Image via Image Source Pink.

Originally published: October 18, 2016
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