Dear Mental Illness

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In just a few days it will be May.  Along with flowers and budding trees and the enrichment of the landscape, May is Mental Health Month; a time to reflect and act on what we know is necessary for everyone to enjoy positive health.

May is also when NAMI will kick-off its “Why Care?” effort to promote awareness of mental health needs among the one in five individuals affected and to demonstrate why it is that we should all care about mental health.  We are stewards of the mental health of others; we can make such a difference if we care.  

The WhyCare? campaign demonstrates the power of care to make a life-changing impact on those affected by mental health conditions. Through our own words and actions, we can shift the social and systemic barriers that prevent people from building better lives. The campaign reminds us that each person has the power to make a difference. 

The month of May can also be used to share individual thoughts and words of people living with mental health conditions.  We are pleased to be able to publish here a poem that illustrates the power of one person’s voice to tell her story and build awareness. 

 

Dear Mental Illness

You were like a cold that wouldn't go away

I lived in fear of you everyday

I felt like my mind was slowly slipping away

You made me feel like I was lost and out of touch

Like I didn't know which way was up

You tried to control me everyday

I would isolate myself from family and friends

Living in fear and shame

Wondering if the pain would ever go away

And if I would ever be the same

You may have knocked me down

But I got up Standing Tall and Strong

Beating the odds and all

You don't Define me in anyway

I'm so proud of who I am today

I know I'm not in this Walk Alone

Thank you to all of the unsung heroes

Family and friends

And Advocates fighting the fight

until the very end

Dear Mental Illness

We Rise Up!

We Will Stay Strong!

And We Will Conquer You!

Once And For All!

By Samantha Burton 

Love Will Defeat Stigma

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By Diane Frost, MSW

Social isolation is unhealthy. I hope in my lifetime, that stigma surrounding mental illness will dissipate. People need to realize shame costs society too dearly. Thankfully, society has evolved to know mental illness as not one of contagion. Today’s ignorance contradicts incredible capacity for love and compassion. People who have gifts as well as illness, need robust conversation. The talking I envision embraces all people.

This is especially true since we really don’t know much about mental illnesses.  What we know today is that mental illnesses are a variety of brain conditions caused by a number of different factors.   Most often neither a lay person nor the person living with the condition knows what the beginning event was that initiated distressed behavior.  We should all be curious of the science, even if an answer is neither concrete, nor definitive.  

Many caregivers take on the role of helping their loved one to function in daily activity. They do this, even if they never get a concrete answer about what is going on with their loved one.

I know this to be true; I function with bipolar and severe anxiety, with medical support and love from family and friends. I also know that being a family member and a caregiver cannot be easy.

Family is built of people loving and caring for one another. However, even in family, brutally honest, loving, and informing conversations about mental health often don’t happen. All we need to do is talk. Yet, we don’t, because we fear the awkwardness of discourse.

Today, I am happy to say that I am honest in stating my needs and asking what is needed from me. A long period of silence and misunderstanding preceded this. I’ve become comfortable sharing in mental health conversations; in breaking down stigma.

I look for new people with whom to be happy. The stigma-informed cautiousness of others is demoralizing. Then I risk not finding acceptance or love. I compare it to the trepidation of a would-be marriage proposal to anyone’s beloved. Upon extending lifetime love, a refusal would be esteem shattering and shame-inducing. The primal yearning for family and friends is consistent with intimacy.

The beginning of the conversation is ripe for anytime.  Wait too long and the stigma becomes a voice so loud, it is a crisis!

Communicate with patience, kind words, and incredible honesty, warding off a crisis pitch. All we need do is talk to one another out of love!

Diane Frost is a NAMI member and a person with lived experience in long term recovery.  We thank her for her thoughts and contribution.

If you or anyone you know is seeking more information on mental health, check out the NAMI Connecticut website, www.namict.org for written materials and information on our many community courses for family members and people with lived experience of a mental health condition.

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Connecticut Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices. Contact Kate at namicted@namict.org if you’re interested in submitting to the Blog.