There has been a lot of news coverage about us lately. Everyone is talking about us. Everyone is putting us at the forefront of their programs and claiming they know us. We’re pretty popular right now. We’re trending as I write this. We are the 1 in 5. We are the sufferers and survivors of mental illness.
Yet with all of the discussion surrounding mental health in recent weeks, my fear is that it will fade just like any other trending topic.
I don’t want us to be the forgotten.
I don’t want us to only come to light and be the top news story when a big name succumbs to this illness, this disease, this monster. We are beating hearts that need you. We need you to keep talking. We need to continue to be the breaking news story day in and day out so the conversation continues. Without this conversation our strength diminishes and this is one area where the term, “strength in numbers” is profound.
My name is Michele and I am 1 in 5.
My journey with mental illness stems back farther than my memory serves me however it had always been manageable, that is until life’s greatest honor, life’s greatest blessing and life’s greatest joy brought with it one of my greatest hurdles. I’m sure you thought that I was going to write “nightmares” instead of “hurdles” but I don’t think that would be giving this illness its due. After my boys were born the anxiety and depression hit me like the peak of a horrific nightmare that jolts you awake in the middle of the night taking your breath away. It came on quick and it came on strong. For the past two years I have been on and off medication and in and out of counseling. I have committed to spiritual practices and exercise to help battle the beast in my head. I have read books, articles and have taken advantage of every resource possible to even out my thoughts. Needless to say I work tirelessly every day at my mental health.
For the past two years I have battled fears, both rational and irrational, and panic to where I have found myself on the floor of my kitchen hysterically crying, screaming for help, as my boys slept soundly upstairs. I know what it is like to look in the mirror and pray that you could transform into someone else just like in the movies. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning and not want to get out of bed and face a day where you feel complete dissociation and numbness. I know what it is like to look at that bed and cry because all you want to do is jump back in and close out the world around you. I know what it is like to get so dark and in the trenches that you feel the light is gone forever. There is not one part of this journey that I would choose. In fact, I’m confident that I can speak up on behalf of most of us and say none of us would however with that said I do throw some pretty intense gratitude it’s way because of all of the strength it has given me. I’m a stronger person because of my mental illness and truly live in gratitude because of it. I have found that living in gratitude is one of the greatest tools to battle all of the tides of me. Like the ocean this illness is very unpredictable at times.
Our journey is intense. It’s a lifelong commitment full of some of the hardest work we will ever do. While I know the dark far more than I would like I’m proud to say I know the light just as much and if not more so. And I have to tell you it is a glorious light. It’s a light that envelopes you in clarity, peace and a sense of self. While I have come face to face with this beast and looked it in the eyes and conquered it, I know it will always try to get me. It’s the monster under my bed and the ghost of the past lingering in my home. It is the blind spot of my life.
I’m scared. In fact I’m terrified. I’m terrified that we are not doing enough; that we are not talking about this enough. I’m scared for the new mom who is reading this who is saying to herself, “this is me,” but can’t get the words out to the world because she feels paralyzed by her own thoughts, scared of the uncertainty and feels ashamed. I’m scared for those screaming on their floors like I was feeling as if they are trapped in a square, doorless room, and anytime they get up to get out being met with another wall. I’m scared for the many others we look up to who seemingly “have it all,” yet who are crying out in silence. We talk so much about shattering stigma but we can only do that if we keep talking and keep asking questions. Social media is such an incredible avenue these days and I am so grateful for its platform but it’s more than posting hotline and texting numbers. It’s deeper than that. Oh it is far deeper than that.
I ask that you grab our hand, walk with us and please don’t let go. We can’t get the chains off without you. Be ruthless. Get in our face time and time again. We will push you away but please keep coming back. Give us our space to grow but pay attention to when we wilt for we will need to be watered time and time again. Know that our smile doesn’t indicate our happiness and our laughter doesn’t indicate our internal freedom.
Please do not stop talking about me.
Please do not stop talking about us.
We are not the forgotten.