“I found it much easier to stand up for other people who may not be able to advocate for themselves than allowing others to help me. When I finally reached rock bottom and I said those words to my sister, “Help me. Please help me.” It was the most vulnerable moment of my adult life.” Montana Jail Journal- January 18, 2013
In my opinion mental wellness has a lot to do with personal growth. I know it sounds trite to say, but I was on an expedited train of personal growth while I sat in a small jail cell in Montana because of an under-treated mental illness. I just didn’t know it. Sometimes when the only thing one can do is think, read and write personal growth opportunities are abundant.
I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s most recent book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”. I’ve been fascinated with her work and all the many lessons I’m gaining as I read and digest each chapter. I was pleased with myself that I had actually been practicing some of what she suggested. Having been in pure survival mode from bipolar disorder for many years to finally being well enough to embark upon self-reflection and personal growth is making me very happy.
She writes a great deal about belonging. It seems like a paradox to talk about standing alone, braving a wilderness and belonging. But this quote kind of sums it up–
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
This statement rang so loud to me. All the people who live with a mental illness who are living in shame at this very moment came to my mind. I’ve been there, I know what that’s like to not have self-acceptance, and therefore not belong. I’ve felt like an outcast with the people who were closest to me. When you blame yourself for having a mental illness it’s kind of hard to experience a deep level of self-acceptance.
As I’m blessed to experience a time of peaceful knowing, I keep thinking about all the people who need to hear, “you have a mental illness and it’s not your fault.” When I sat in an Idaho psychiatric hospital and I let those words resonate inside of me, I could feel the shift in me emotionally.
Self-acceptance is something people pay a lot of money to get. But it’s really not anything you can buy. It comes from within. It’s an internal, quiet voice of strength that tells you you’re okay. It also means that we accept all of who we are–all our life experiences.
This is something very difficult to do when handed the additional challenge of having a mental health condition. Think about it-if you’re fighting depression the last thing on your mind is accepting yourself. But here’s the catch, when we accept our experience for what it is it can actually help us to heal faster. And certainly if not to heal, than to have the energy to fight depression.
Funny thing is…I can read Brene Brown’s quote and smile. I have experienced it and believe it is true.
Reading her book prompted me to watch her Ted Talk on Vulnerability. I could probably watch it 100 times and still learn something. But this whole idea of vulnerability peaked my interest. Because as much I hated jail, it was a time in my life when I asked for help. I was extremely vulnerable.
Yet, though I had a long journey ahead of me, those three weeks in jail changed my life. I was learning to embrace vulnerability.
There is much of Brene Brown’s research that can really be applied to understanding why it’s so difficult to eliminate the self-stigma of mental illness. I hope to take a deeper look at that and write about it on a future blog. Until then, check out Brene Brown’s work. It’s very enlightening.