I had a visit yesterday with my dear friend Dee. Since we moved away I haven’t seen her often.
That being said, we have the kind of friendship that transcends face to face visits, phone conversations or even email contact. We know that the other is thinking of us and we are always there for each other whether it be for a laugh, a cry, a chance to vent, or a prayer. Our visit was all of the above.
With it being “Bell Let’s Talk Day” to boost awareness and kill the stigma of Mental Illness, we talked about how far I have come. I mentioned how when I first decided I was going to be open and honest about my conditions (for example at our church), it was met with mixed reviews. Some people embraced me for my honesty and others became guarded or avoided me.
Dee said something that I hadn’t thought of. That was a few years ago and the times were different than they are now. That if I did the same thing now it would be received more positively. I thought about it for a minute and I said that I would like to think I was part of the change.
So I wrote the following on my Facebook status:
#Bellletstalk 26 years ago a manic high combined with a reaction to new medication caused me to believe voices in my head telling me to go jump off a bridge. I was not wanting to take my life that time but had made attempts previously. The resulting injuries have left me with several physical chronic conditions but I am alive and living the best life I can. I am not cured of my bipolar, OCD, anxiety and other mental conditions but I have taken control back from them. How? Partly by being open about it, seeking help when I need it, and eliminating factors in my life that threaten to pull me back in. Please get help when you need it and if you want to talk, I will definitely listen.
The response was not what I was expecting, but I don’t really know what I expected to be honest. Several people said I was strong, or amazing, or courageous. I don’t feel any of those things.
I feel blessed to have gone through, and survived, a myriad of challenges which have equipped me to help others going through the same things. I thank God every day for all that He has allowed to happen in my life. Why, because He felt confident that I could come through it and be there for His glory.
So what is the answer to the title Question?
It is a curse in that it hurts not only the person afflicted but those who care about them as well. Also, the stigma surrounding mental illness of any kind makes the sufferer feel isolated and alone a lot of the time.
For me, I also see it as a blessing for those who can rise above it and regain control over their lives. This is how I feel every day. I know that there are probably very few who feel the same; however, with initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk I hope and pray that this will change.
The next step for me is to officially become an advocate or patient leader to assist others and help facilitate change in society. I could choose from any of my long list of physical, mental and emotional conditions but I feel strongly that the area I could do the most good in is Mental Health.
You will be hearing more on this in the coming months as I proceed. I feel very strongly that this is what I have meant to do all along – the timing just had to be right.
It will be exciting to see where this takes me.
I have included a performance from the 2018 Grammys by Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid, “1-800-273-8255”. This is the Suicide Prevention Line and the people who join them on stage are suicide survivors and family members. Warning, there is some profanity at the end but it is used to prove his point 😉