|Posted on July 15, 2018 at 1:00 AM|
What if you do happen to face stigma while advocating in your own community?
Regardless of anyone who may be considering whether to advocate for mental health awareness, all it takes is having heart and the courage to do the right thing. The most important advice I can give is DO NOT give up. Countless people out there need someone who is strong, outspoken, and capable to be their voice. They fear the risk of social ridicule from their friends, family, coworkers, or worse such as losing their job and being labeled as a threat to society. There have also been numerous times since starting my website when I haven't had enough motivation to continue writing. The site itself did not catch on, page views kept going down, fellow community volunteers haven't seemed to pay as much attention, or that my mental health is at its most challenging for me right now. I may even be stigmatized within my community too, which hurts and makes advocating here all the more difficult to accomplish. Yet, I haven't given up either and I won't.
You will likely encounter at least one member of your community, or an influential community leader, who will not support your advocacy no matter how admirable you conduct yourself. What do you do? What if the stigma against you targets your sexual orientation, race, gender identity, mental health symptoms, or your political views even if you keep them fairly private? As long as you respect those around you, remain determined to share your story, continue learning to be identifiable with more people, and persist to volunteer in your community, we as advocates can still succeed. My strength is still enduring as I learn and grow to become a better advocate each day I do this. Why? Because helping to pave the way for others to find their strength, their voice, or the courage to seek out professional help that they need is what matters most. Living with mental illness is possible just as advocating for awareness is too.
As for me...
I firmly believe my mental illness, and the formative experiences of my youth, strengthened my compassionate trait to the point that I can care about and endure more than the average person, or even a suicide attempt survivor, is able to. By also being a very perceptive and expressive individual, I humbly feel I have an important responsibility and a unique opportunity to advocate for this cause. If I can perceive the nuances of my mental illness and express it effectively, more people can relate to or understand what this is like. They will then be more empowered to seek the professional help needed to improve the quality of their lives, or to encourage their loved ones and fellow members of their community to do the same. Sharing my insight creates a true power to make a lasting positive difference. This is what matters. This is how mental health acceptance can be achieved. Besides, where am I right now?
In fact, during mid-July 2003, fifteen years ago this exact week, I had attempted to overdose. So, right now, I know where I was. Fifteen years is a very long time... And yet, where am I now?
I am still fighting the good fight, the right way. Not by oppressing those who are different than me. Not by demeaning others who may be richer or poorer, older or younger than I am. Not by thinking ill of someone because I am afraid of or do not understand them. And not by going out of my way to throw stones in the paths of others who probably already have a difficult life as it is. I do onto others as I would want others to do onto me. By using respect and mindfulness, I seek to target the very core of societal discord. The likes of peer pressure and bullying have gone far beyond high school, on into every part of our society, and have made mental health acceptance difficult to achieve. In fact, it will not happen in my life time. Unfortunately... On the other hand, this leads to one final question I want to ask You.
How long do I expect to fight this 'good' fight?
I don't get live a normal life. I have been at the emotional and psychological doorstep of my own demise more times than even I am probably aware of. For a number of years I have simply felt ready to go; worn out by years of internal suffering. My back is against the wall, negativity often gnawing at my heels every day, people I know and thought I could trust or droves of absolute strangers literally hate and fear me. Or they go out of their way to make life difficult for me...
In the words of Marvel's Cinematic Universe Steve Rogers/Captain America - and - a fitting six-word psychiatric rehab memoir:
"I can do this all day."
I own this moment same as either of you can too. Bring it on. Bring on the likes of Thanos and bring on the bullies, because I can still do life all day and advocate to help people like me. Not for fame, money, or glory. Certainly not for me...
For all of you.
And for the person who reached out to me seeking guidance as well as to express her respect for my mental health advocacy efforts, this is for You. What you have done and learned so far in your experiences with mental illness have molded you into a remarkable person. Not to mention your creativity and experiences with music. I wish you the very best and brightest with your endeavors to advocate for mental health awareness.
Let us both, and with others like us, stand our ground against stigma to help change the world's perception and acceptance of mental health.