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I Don't Know What Being a Mental Health Advocate Means

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I get frustrated trying to describe what being a mental health advocate means. Who am I to say what exactly is mentally healthy? Do you have an idea? I mean I think I do. At least for me. But I’m just one guy. What appears to me as good mental health can and often is perceived as repulsive by others. Are they wrong? I don’t know! You see how frustrating this can be, right? Can I be an advocate for something that means so many different things to so many different people?

Why even bother, I find myself asking more and more lately.

But here is one major problem: I feel as if our community can become too fixated on an unrealistic target of what good mental health and recovery should look like that we end up not being inclusive enough. Personally, I’m at the point where I’d rather just shut up, and listen to people’s experiences from outside of a mental health advocate perspective. Take it all in without feeling like I’m supposed to help them. I don’t necessarily want to know their diagnosis or what their treatment plan is. I just want to be around cool people and it just so happens that the coolest people I’ve ever been around are those who feel immensely. I didn’t say people with bipolar disorder, or borderline or schizophrenia. Just people who feel. And that doesn’t always look pretty. So many people will never “recover” or (one of my faves) “get their lives back together” and that’s because, in some ways, there can be liberation in rejecting those narratives completely. Mind blowing, right?

I’m not writing this to tear down the mental health advocate community. I want to help make it better. We all have had some trauma in our life and we deal with it in our own ways. And not everyone deals with it in ways that will get them on magazine covers and giving speeches in front of hundreds of cheering fans. Not everyone needs to be inspirational, especially when the term inspirational is currently so narrowly defined. All I am saying is that we need to be a bit more open-minded. That’s enough to argue, right?

So am I, Rudy Caseres, a mental health advocate? Well, if by mental health you mean freedom to feel immensely and speak proudly about it. I can get down with that definition. All I really want is to help people feel safe enough to express their truth. Because then that’s when people can let their guard down, stop trying to keep up appearances and actually live a little. Because feel doesn’t just mean crying and complaining. It means living. Really living. And who wouldn’t want to advocate for that?

This is the first blog post of my month long contribution to #Blog4MH. Thank you Karen Copeland and Jasmine Rakhra for inviting me to be a part of this talented and passionate community. Please make sure to follow the #Blog4MH hashtag on social media for contributions from other writers.

 This piece was originally published on Rudy’s Facebook page.

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Thinkstock photos Grandfailure

Originally published: May 2, 2017
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