A Mental Health New Year's Resolution
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People are scared to share their stories of their struggles with mental health issues and what we need to do to persuade others to speak out and join the movement of speaking out to change the stigma in 2015. I am a twenty three year old woman who went to school in Colorado for the first two and a half years of her college education and then was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Many of my Colorado friends no longer talk to me, which in a way is understandable because of what I ended up doing to save my life. I became a liar to cater to my mood swings to deal with my everyday suicidal tendencies that had started when I was in elementary school. I used online profiles to trick friends and family into believing I was certain characters that I had made up in my own mind, and I am well aware my thought processes were so called crazy, but I know many others in the world have done the same or worse simply to save their life because society is not fit to listen to someone who is worried about their psychological status.
The first time I wanted to share my story was a time that I am sure happy my parents said 'HELL NO'. It was a time when I just wanted to basically scream to the world my problems and why I had them, and why I wanted to basically punch every American in the face for not providing a welcoming environment to a disorder that I was slowly but surely beginning to understand was not entirely looked highly upon by the people around me. I wrote a book, got it published, but it wasn't a huge money maker and I didn't expect it to be...In fact I am sure happy it didn't succeed because when I look back, the book was CRAP. I complained and included facts that I now think definitely could have been left out of the book to make the book speak for others in the world that have gone through a fight with mental illness or have been affected by it.
For some reason I have never really been scared to share my story or write about it. I never was worried about sharing my diagnosis because I truly had made as many mistakes as one can make when I was undiagnosed, that I never have seen fit to hold back a diagnosis that would get the same response as what I had gotten when everyone learned that I basically had been a uncontrolled liar only because it was the only way to deal with my mood changes. My family has not been too supportive of me 'coming out' with my story because they don't want me to get hurt more, but the thing is, is that I would be getting hurt more if I was holding back my story.
Once my parents told me I did not have a story to tell and that inflamed me. I knew I had a story to tell, but all of the books that my parents and myself had been reading to educate ourselves were books of prominent professionals in the field of psychology, movie stars, diplomats, and inspirational young people and their parents that seemed to be at a level that my parents and myself could only imagine ourselves as being. The thing was, was that I knew I could share my story and reach listeners and readers, but I kept comparing my third year college drop out self to people that seemed educated and inspirational. We all have stories to share because we have all fought our own battles, even individuals without a mental illness. You are not human if you have not battled something. The thing that is hard about sharing our story about the impact that mental illness has had on ourselves is that we need to write or speak to an audience, and that is easier said than done. I know, because I have experienced it. At first my voice was nothing. I would send some pieces of writing out to local writers and institutions with replies that suggested that I was a kind young woman, but my writing couldn't reach their audience. It was then that I looked into advocacy and the only times I found myself getting the will to apply to become a mental health advocate was when my family was hounding me or I would loose friends over my illness. It was then that I realized the reason why I had never been scared to share my story.
I was a person just like everyone else, and there I was, loosing friends and family members because of a diagnosis that I did not choose to have. A diagnosis that had made me do things that would have been my fault if I had sanely made the decisions to do them, but in my case the things I did that were the reasons why friends and family left me as a friend were things that only happened because my brain had gradually begun to become sicker and as I got older. Mental illness is like waking up from a dream and realizing you are in the Arctic naked and a captain of a boat discovering other passengers are dead because you fell asleep and have hit an iceberg. You realize that you are going to freeze to death and your life would have been saved if someone had woken you up after you had dozed off or if you had not fallen asleep in the first place.
I understand many are in environments that prevent them from voicing their story or opinion when it comes to mental health. Some people are in positions where people will disown them if they voice anything about a mental illness. Mental illness is debilitating to many but more are willing to be debilitated than get help. Many also I have a feeling want to speak out but are scared to and the thing is, is that I completely understand why, but we all deserve to live a life that we deserve and want to live before we die. We deserve to follow our dreams and to show the world that we our diagnoses do not prevent us from contributing to the world. In fact by having this stigma around mental illness as well as people with disabilities we are loosing beautiful lives that could have contributed innovative, creative, loving, and unheard contributions to this world that could be saving the whole human population in the long run. We won’t find out because we are gradually killing off a group of individuals that I know, if we had given them time to breathe, to speak, and to see what life had to over, would show more people how beautiful life truly is.
People who are putting the mentally ill down are making perfectly amazing people to hunker down in the dark aiming to never be seen by the public. We are taking away the best in people simply because of a diagnosis. If you are reading this and know society is taking the best away from you because of the stigma around mental illness, I persuade you to become an advocate or write a local newspaper/magazine under a pseudo name and share your opinion. There are millions out in the world, probably billions that could benefit from your voice. I have found this, and I hope voices come out of the woodwork in 2015 to be heard and not hide. 2015 is a year for us to ban together and speak up about this reality. Sometimes we have to do things for ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves even if it means betraying others that love us. I know that sounds horrible, but I have found that true and I have found that speaking out has been the answer to my search for happiness.
- Susan Page
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