Mental Health, mental illness

Finding My Niche, Breaking the Stigma

 

break the stigma
break the stigma

Today I am inviting those friends who I feel may be interested in this blog to like this page and read it. I’m not inviting my entire friend’s list, though truthfully that may occur at some point. Someday, I’d love to publish a memoir (or many), and I am aware that some memoir-only authors were “discovered” via blog. So here is my millionth (slight exaggeration) attempt at a blog – my first truly public. I want to keep up with it.

To write a memoir, I wanted to find my niche – that interesting thing about me that some can relate to. I wrote and wrote in many Word documents, but I think my mental illness might be that niche. Weird, huh? The thing that rocked my world, turned it upside down so many times is that special, relatable quality that I want to explore. Now that I’m in a better place thanks to medication, years of therapy and learning coping skills, I don’t view my illness as an all-bad thing. I have been given the gift of empathy, and for that, I am grateful. I obviously would not wish mental turmoil/illness on anyone, but I do think we could all use a little more empathy.

I have an amazing sister-in-law. I have always thought so, since I met her years ago. She has given me two lovely nieces and a sweet nephew. My nephew has autism. My niece, his older sister, is already so considerate and caring. She is only eight years old and accepts him because she loves him. She is wonderful, and I believe she would be regardless of her brother’s diagnosis, but she has more tolerance and acceptance than many adults because she’s had the opportunity.

Also, semi-relatedly, I grew up believing homosexuality was wrong and a sin. That was that, I thought. It was not until I met some people who I truly loved and cared about, who I found out were not straight, that I realized we are all humans – who you love does not make you wrong. I had to personally experience it, sort of, to break my own stigma. From the bottom of my heart, I am thankful to my friend M for starting the journey helping me to find love in my heart for all people.

One day in middle school my friend and neighbor Katie asked me what I thought about homosexuality. I responded as conditioned: It’s a sin. “Why?” she asked.

“It says so in the Bible,” I thought. At least I’d been told that over and over my whole life.

With tears in her eyes, my friend told me her brother is gay, and it is not his choice. He spent his life being told he is wrong and bad by our culture – why would anyone choose that? It was a good point. It was my bus stop, and I had to leave my emotional friend. I’ve never forgot that conversation. It was the rocky, slow start of my acceptance and love for all of God’s children, something I am now extremely passionate about.

Sometimes it has to hit home. Maybe mental illness doesn’t directly affect your person, but I guarantee it affects someone you know – probably someone you love. If you were personally invited to read this post by me, its author, I wanted you to know it affects ME. I am not “crazy”. I’m certainly not “bad”. My brain works differently than some. Maybe yours does too, and you are so far from alone.

Until a few years ago, many of my friends (and all of my acquaintances) knew nothing of my struggles with mental health. I made it known via a social media post for a sole reason: not to ask for pity, but to break stigma and hope to initiate acceptance. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

Sometimes it has to hit close to home for people – myself included! – to realize the widespread nature of things, and the normalcy. I’m trying to hit it close to you right now. If you are struggling, you are not alone. If you’re not, someone you love is or has (me, but not only me!) and I want you to care. This is important. Start accepting. Start loving. #breakthestigma

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