We talk about “mental illness” as though it is something that happens to other people. The phrase itself can sound so clinical, so distancing. But the truth is that problems with mental health happen to us. To our friends. To family members. Even to our children.
I look at my extended family – an amazingly supportive, loving, well-functioning group of people of which I am so incredibly proud to be a part – and I know that in addition to all of our wonderful strengths there is also depression, anxiety, psychosis, addiction, and attention issues (just to name a few). But a stigma still exists and so we too often shun those not-so-pretty parts, trying our best to keep them out of sight, hoping no one will know, hush-hush…and in doing so we let mental illness continue to be something that happens to “them,” not us, when that isn’t the truth at all.
In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to introduce you to several writers who have had the courage and willingness to open up about their personal struggles on-line. These women pull down the veil of secrecy and stigma and instead offer honesty, support, and inspiration. Each one shares a unique perspective and voice, some writing about their own mental health and others writing about how mental illness impacts their families. The beauty in these posts is that they make it clear that behind every diagnosis is a person, a story, and that these women are, really, all of us. ~Ellie, Family Room Editor
Kimberly from All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something: For me, I am inspired to give hope to those who need it most and to put a face to mental illness. Some may not grasp that we are not our diagnosis and see us as crazy, nuts, deranged, etc. Taking my readers on my journey to wellness in a way which they can better understand breaks down the damaging barriers that stigma creates. It shows them that we fight so hard every day against our illnesses and we are just like them. My piece, The Downside Of Up, details my mercurial moods. More specifically, it is about the glorious high of hypomania and the crash that soon follows. Read Kimberly’s post,”The Downside of Up,” and her insights into Bipolar 2 Disorder.
Katie from Sluiter Nation: I’ve had many people tell me that my descriptions of what it feels like to go through depression helps them to understand what their loved ones are facing. This post is a letter I wrote to a student who has shared her struggles with me because she knows I go through them too. She has been battling for a long time and is trying hard to be stronger than her sickness. My hope is that this not only gives her hope, but helps everyone who has someone like her and me in their life to know that there is a mixture of control and chaos to our illness; in order to survive we must master the balance. We must focus on the light. Read Katie’s post, “A Letter to the Depressed.”
Michelle of They Call Me Mummy: Someone asked me to explain what ADHD feels like, and after I explained my memory lapses, my time-distortion issues, my struggles with organizational anything, she replied, “Oh, I could never live like that…” and shook her head. As if my ADHD is a choice. As if I have the power to just ‘grow up and get over’ all the symptoms with a little elbow grease and discipline. As though the physical make-up of my brain (the fact that my frontal lobe is smaller than a neurotypical one and is also under-stimulated) is somehow a character flaw. Read Michelle’s post, “Insensitive Things That People Say When You Have An Invisible Condition.” Then check out her piece “ADHD Explained,” where she explains what it feels like to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary: The shame and stigma around mental illness and addiction have always been enemies of mine. I write openly about anxiety, depression and recovery from alcoholism to combat how misunderstood the alcoholic mother is in our society. We are mothers, who for one reason or another, struggle in a way that can leave us behaving not as who we really are, but as someone in the throes of a disease. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate, but judgment does. I hope my story reduces ignorance and inspires other mothers in my shoes to believe they too can stop. Read Heather’s post, “Hi, My Name Is Heather,” in which she first acknowledges her struggle with alcohol and commits to quitting. And be sure to also take a look at her recent and thought-provoking post, “Am I An Alcoholic? 10 Red Flags.”
Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda: Relationships between mothers and daughters are historically complicated (especially during adolescence). My relationship with my daughter did not escape the typical push-pull of these years, only our situation is complicated further by a multitude of ongoing mental health issues. The first time I had to put my child into the hospital for “crisis stabilization,” she was 13. Two-and-a-half years and countless crises later, the celebration of her 16th birthday is a truly bittersweet milestone, reminding me that no matter what we think has been gained or lost in this time, I am always grateful that we still have each other. Read Mir’s letter to her daughter, “Sweets for My Sweet.”
Kelly of My Twice Baked Potato: My son presents as a child with autism; however, his neurologist says he is not autistic. My precious boy is twice-exceptional which means he has a very high IQ and extremely immature social skills. He has sensory processing difficulties and is often overwhelmed by his environment. Although I adore my son, it is challenging to parent a child that is nowhere close to the middle of the bell curve for anything. Read Kelly’s post, “Worry…Another Piece of the Puzzle,” about her son’s school-related anxiety.
For a list of mental health related resources, see Where To Go For Help And Support.
Now find these amazing ladies…