The journey of life can be a difficult challenge for any of us, but living with a mental illness presents other major challenges that can make the road even more arduous.
The one thing I have come to learn is that recovery is possible. But so often to get to recovery we have to face some of our biggest fears.
As I was preparing for a Mental Illness Awareness presentation I was reminded of how much I have personally been impacted by Stigma. I remember those days when I first heard those words “you have bipolar disorder and it’s pretty serious.” It was as if the doctor’s were giving me news about a terminal illness. I really thought my life was over.
The truth was I was so darn caught up in what people would think that I resisted the much needed treatment I needed. As you can imagine it only made my illness worse and it took far longer to recover than was necessary.
As I embark upon this journey to raise awareness and take a bite out of stigma I can’t help but imagine there are people out there who think I am “crazy” for publicly sharing the fact that I live with bipolar disorder. It’s not that I don’t care what people think, after all I am human, but I feel even more passionate about knowing I can help a lot more people if I am honest.
There are millions of people who live with mental illness. We not only have to fight our illness but we also have to confront our biggest fears. Learning to speak more openly and honestly about my illness has actually been freeing for me. It’s as if I have been carrying around this huge secret and have to tell half-truths to explain how I ended up where I am.
In many ways I believe living with a mental illness has taught me to be a more compassionate person. It’s funny how sometimes our biggest struggles can serve as life’s greatest lessons.
Some people say that “God works in mysterious ways,” and tonight I feel like I witnessed that before my very eyes.
I was invited to an event at The Experience Church and heard a very faithful woman talk about her struggles with bipolar disorder. Before I went I had no idea she was going to be there and less of an idea of what to expect from the evening.
Before the guest speaker spoke Pastor Linda delivered an amazing talk. She talked about how there is power in our past and that we can reach back and use those painful experiences and help other people. I was listening intently as I have embarked on a journey to use my past pains to help raise awareness for mental illness.
God knows for sure how much I have suffered with bipolar disorder and I have stayed away from church because quite honestly I have been angry with God. But I remembered tonight that in my darkest moments and most painful times in my life I always prayed for God to get me through it.
When I found myself in terrifying places all alone I prayed. In one tragic experience during a bipolar episode I almost lost my life. Lost and all alone with my life at risk I prayed. If I had not of done that I really don’t know what would have happened to me.
As I began to recover I faced disappointment and struggled with grief so much that I became angry with God for letting me have a mental illness. I needed someone to blame right?
So tonight when I listened to the music and heard the guest speaker talk about her challenges with bipolar disorder it became clear to me that I was supposed to be there and hear the messages. It was divine intervention that brought me there.
“There is power in your past” and past pain does not have to haunt you. Healing has definitely taken place and I humbly thank God for that and plan to allow myself to live a more inspired life.
Today I attended a Mental Health Conference hosted by NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania. One of the most amazing things to me was the attendance for this event was a capacity crowd of over two hundred people. This reinforced to me how much people want to talk about and learn about Mental Illness.
The Keynote Speaker was NFL All-pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder. He is a charming man with a passion for raising awareness for Mental Illness.
Brandon encouraged all of us to use the platform we have to tell our stories and raise Mental Health Awareness. No platform is to small to share how Mental Illness has affected our lives! He stressed how important it is to focus on making an impact one person at a time.
It takes a great deal of courage to talk about one of society’s last major “taboo” topics and to do this as a public figure like Brandon Marshall really inspired me. If Brandon can do this so can each of you reading.
We also heard from a speaker who talked about STIGMA. Interestingly enough one of the ways to combat stigma is through education and sharing personal stories. So there it is again…”share your story.”
On the ride home I felt energized and motivated to continue to disclose my bipolar disorder to various audiences. It is empowering to know I can affect change, even if the change takes place one person at a time.
Talk about Mental Illness openly, honestly, and courageously. You will have an impact too!