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Why ‘Bravery Beads’ Can Help You, No Matter Your Age or Illness

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I first encountered “Bravery Beads” when my nephew was hospitalized as a toddler. He would receive a bead for every procedure, poke, setback and triumph. During his four-month stay in the hospital, he received enough beads to create a necklace to wrap around him twice. He is proud of these beads that show the long battle he has fought.

I was so inspired by the hope and strength we all saw in these beads that I decided to look for a place that made beads for adults and/or anyone with mental illness. To my dismay, no such place existed. I could not find anywhere to buy beads specially made for mental health struggles, or even a list of what different kinds of beads might mean for adults or mental health struggles. I decided I would have to make it up myself. I made my own beads (and salvaged others from broken jewelry) and made a list of what each bead meant to me on my mental health journey.

Bravery beads should be available to everyone experiencing health challenges, no matter their age or illness. Some may see it as childish, but bravery beads give you a way to visually see your journey, your challenges and triumphs. Adults’ struggles may be somewhat different than a child’s, but they are no less difficult. Adults may be better able to hide their discomfort but they feel the same pain. 

Bravery beads give you something to be proud of in the face of a highly stigmatized battle. Showing off beads is a way of showing the battle scars that can only be seen on the inside and may help others to understand your daunting journey just a little bit more. When I am having a down day or feeling fed up with myself for being “weak,” I take out my beads, roll them between my fingers and remind myself of everything I have already overcome. I can see how all the little steps add up to a long, arduous journey where I have had to prove my strength over and over again. I keep a small box of beads that I might “earn” in the future, reminding me my journey is not over yet. This brings me the strength to carry on in the face of depression.

If anyone else would like to make their own bravery bead necklace, here is my list of challenges and triumphs that I “receive” a bead for:

Doctor appointment;
New psychiatrist;
Psychiatrist appointment;
New medication;
New therapist;
New type of therapy;
Blood test;
Medication withdrawal;
More than a one month wait for an appointment;
More than a six month wait for an appointment;
New official diagnosis;
Each year;
Serious side effects;
Medication for a medication side effect.

And hopefully one day, remission.

Everyone’s beads may differ and what they mean to you may differ, but having a string to show your personal journey helps you to understand how far you have come and look forward to all the triumphs and positive beads in the future.

Photo by Alexey Demidov on Unsplash

Originally published: July 18, 2019
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