May: Mental Health Month
Did you know that May is Mental Health Month? One non-profit organization that is leading a campaign for awareness in May is NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Health. I haven't - or I hope I haven't - made any secret here about the fact that I have depression. It's pretty severe. It's pretty chronic. It interferes with my life off and on even with 10+ years of stable meds and therapy. It sucks.
It sucks in a way for which I really have no words. If I had my deepest heart's desire, it would be that I didn't have depression.
When I was in high school I was the only person I knew who had something wrong up there (tap forehead). That was oh, 25-ish years ago. Nobody wants to admit to being a wacko, right? And anything that can't be seen really MUST be all in your head.
Honestly, the stigma is part of the pain.
Now, a couple decades and many thousands of conversations later, I know that I'm not the only one. I'm far from the only person I know: NAMI says that 1 in 5 Americans is affected by a mental health condition. Also I love Mayim Bialik, so be sure to watch this little clip here:
So you and I are in charge of whether or not it's ok to tell people out loud that you have depression. Or bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, without stigma. Or that your husband or son or daughter does. That it's ok to be brave and say "I have this struggle that you can't see, but it's a struggle all the same." And then, if you hear that from some courageous person, to give that person the respect they deserve, not only for the day-in-day-out struggle, but for their bravery, too.
On May 2, NAMI organized to have the Empire State building lit up in green in honor of National Mental Health Month.
My Story: Through the Deep Waters
I wrote a pretty grueling blog post right after the death of Robin Williams, in August of 2014. It talks in pretty detailed ways about my own struggle, some of the lowest points I've had, and some of the strategies I use (and keep using) to keep myself in a place where I can forge ahead.
You can find that blog post here: Through the Deep Waters
What You Can Do
There are several ways you can actively participate.
- You can read this beautiful letter to those who love someone with mental illness. It's a thank-you in ways that I feel so strongly.
- You can visit or send someone to NAMI.org, whether it's to learn more, or search for help, or to read the stories of others
- You can check out their Tumblr, filled with stories and artwork from others affected by mental illness.
- You can submit your story of mental illness, how it has affected you or those around you.
- You can take the #stigmafree pledge
Since it's May and we're talking about Mental Health, what do you think should change about the conversations we have concerning those who struggle? What about access to or the stigma around getting mental health care? Or maybe you're interested in alternative or integrated therapies? Mental health insurance? Specific ways we can all fight the "aloneness" that everyone with mental illness feels? What else?
Looking forward to hearing from you.