|Posted on February 1, 2017 at 1:00 AM|
After attending my third ever local National Alliance on Mental Illness committee meeting on the 27th of last month, I couldn't resist writing a blog post about the energy and anticipation I've been feeling for the April 20th "Find Your Voice" Mental Health Conference. Just the energy I've been generating since I started blogging here, declaring to advocate for mental health, has given me a spark I haven't felt in a long time. It just seems like it's been so long, which is why I quickly jumped on starting my box-ercising routine to take advantage of it. For once I'm not as depressed about how stagnant my life has become, but I know all too well that a lot of people suffering from mental health conditions are not feeling much to be positive about.
Never have I felt so much hopeful energy that I don't know what to do with. The biggest reason I believe is because I have finally found my voice, as the Conference theme I suggested was chosen for. What started with simple reflection during 2012 on what I could remember from my past, combined with my community service volunteering with the Penn State Altoona, now has transformed into this advocacy. Advocating for mental health and awareness, which I have no training or professional experience for or to do. In the coming weeks thanks to the local NAMI chapter, I will be pursuing helpful trainings and potential opportunities. I can't help but think back to the conference planning committee meetings since November of last year, with how meek and shy I felt.
I was muted reluctant to speak at first because of social anxiety disorder. Yet, I've met some of the nicest and most dedicated people same as I had when I was on the PSU Altoona Alumni Society Board. A newcomer who started attending the meetings the month after I had, in December, continues to show up and offers refreshing feedback each time she is there. She also serves as a positive reminder that people are out there who want to help. The Conference in April feels like an eternity from now, and the urgency to find some form of gainful employment in the mental health field is constantly challenging my ability to keep myself balanced. There are too many times when people with mental illnesses become overwhelmed either by what they feel or from physical symptoms. The worse it gets, the harder it is for a person to push function.
I can sit here and type away until my heart's content, sharing as much about my own experiences with mental health conditions. But I don't lose sight of the people I am fighting for. I don't get so absorbed by the hope I am discovering without thinking about the people I can't save in time, or those of you struggling in your lives right now. I recently heard that there was a suicide at my former high school; a bully apparently described by classmates as being someone that few people would miss. I was stunned... Young teens being mercilessly picked on and bullies who have problems of their own both deserve to live their lives and be free from other people mistreating them. I don't care where it comes from. I will miss that bully very much, because everyone deserves not to be left behind or forgotten in such a manner.
Make no mistake that the fight against social stigma, bullying, peer pressure, and opposition to mental health is a constant battle. Kids will be kids, adults will be adults, and people like me will be advocates for change. I was raised by my parents not to forget my roots. I now know why I am here and I will never forget where I came from. I came from below average, non-privileged, hard-working, tough and determined, never quitting people. I came from amongst all of you. The growing energy I've been generating from my blogging, I've been feeling with my advocacy, and talking about at the local NAMI committee meetings, is a force I intend to use to benefit this cause. Social stigma is the bull, and right now I am grabbing it by the horns and hanging on for your lives.
I sound so fired up because this energy is just getting pretty intense, especially when talking to other like-minded people committed to helping improve mental health. For too long have I seen school students suffer; one after the other slipping away into oblivion and losing their only chance to find their places in this life. Bullies who suffer themselves, or the ones who don't grow out of their ways and push around adults. Parents who have to bury their children and are faced with crippling depression. Children who have to consider themselves buried, because they can't find the hope they need in time. Their walls closing in on them, from all sides. Parents and children who endure sometimes lifelong struggles to treat mental illness symptoms day in and day out by medications, as well as constant and often times long-distance contact.
And this is only February... All of this emotional adversity combined with a rapidly growing source of intense hope, gives me courage that this year will be the chance to finally begin making a difference many people can look forward to. This energy will not be ignored or wasted. This energy will not be disregarded or discarded. I, as one of more to come, have a responsibility to help as many of you as I can muster. I will not lose sight of that duty for as long as I can go to sleep at night and wake up the next day. As I will remind the committee members, this energy feels fairly strong now then wait until April. We will be bursting from the inside out.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is just the beginning. I am merely a humbled, broken yet resilient person who has dealt with mental illness for two thirds of my life. A person who once gave up, who once contemplated giving up again, yet here I am forging ahead with the courage to do something about it. Not just to save myself, but to save all of you first.
Take this energy you feel, hold it high above your heels.
Grip it real tight, until your knuckles turn white.
Lift it high above your head, over depression and dread.
Unaffected by anxiety, out of reach from society.
Doesn't matter who you are, together we can go far.
This energy you now see, will get you there with me.
Just a little rhyme I randomly wrote, for all of you who love it in their music too.