One in four Americans are living with mental illness. Many refuse to seek help because of the stigma associated with mental health. Look at the way mental health is portrayed on TV and in the media. Chances are it won’t be in a positive light. In fact, mental illness is often trademarked as a character flaw rather than a health issue. The truth is that bodies get sick. Brains get sick too. Depression doesn’t care how old you are, what you look like, where you are from or the color of your skin. Depression doesn’t discriminate, it just takes your soul.
In a classroom of 30, three people will be hiding their cuts and/or scars. Self-harm is a real, serious epidemic. People who self-harm don’t do it for attention. For them it is a coping mechanism, to which they are dealing with a much larger pain. Untreated or undiagnosed, mental illness can lead to suicide or a suicide attempt, after which you are never the same. In 2012, 483,596 people visited hospitals for self-harm injuries. That same year one person committed suicide every 16 minutes.
If you are suffering, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you know someone who is hurting, REACH OUT. If you need help there are so many ways to seek it, and you are STRONG AND BEAUTIFUL for finding the courage to stand up. If you are bullying and judging someone, PLEASE STOP. One day it could be you. Depression don’t judge. Remember, we are all someone’s baby, someone’s brother or sister, a mother perhaps, a wife, a father, a lover, or even a son.
I struggled with depression, ED and self-harm through adolescence. I jumped from doctor to doctor with no proper diagnosis ever given. Writing through the pain was my savior. I found solace through pen and paper. It wasn’t until my first real psychotic break where I was hospitalized in 2008. My diagnosis was Bipolar One. I was 24 years old.
Since then I have endured my own hero’s journey. I have learned to accept my demons instead of trying to outrun them. I embrace my illness as part of me, a character trait instead of a tragic flaw. I also never gave up on my writing. I can channel my racing thoughts into character streams of consciousness. My rage became the voice of my villains. When the world I was living in made me feel like an outcast, I dreamt up fantasies and new places to venture in. I created characters with quirks and flaws that were relateable. I put them on journeys and set them out on tasks of self discovery.
Writing has always been therapeutic to me. I was born with an active imagination and the need to tell people stories. Curiosity about the world around me made me ask questions of everything. Stories are the ways we explain the extraordinary or become the answers to questions which we do not understand. The myth and the legend were born this way. Our ancestors used storytelling s a way of teaching their young about how to survive in their world.
This was, and still is my outlet. I still struggle with SH. You have to stay proactive in your individual treatment. Educate yourself about what ails you. Empowerment of self slays demons. It also helps reassure that you are NOT ALONE. Ask for help when you need it. Give back to others when you are able. Stand up for those who may not have a voice yet, because we are all going through something. Find your voice.
Smile often, even through the hard times. Smiling takes less facial muscles than frowning does. (Learned that in cosmetology school!) I’m not saying I’m healed, Bipolar is a lifelong journey. But now I struggle less, and smile more.
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