My dear friend Josie (wife to Danny, mama to the NERD herd) is being brave and courageous. She is deciding to speak out and be loud and honest, vulnerable and transparent about the reality of mental illness. Her family has been plagued with it for generations. She has found little support or information/blogs online about it, probably due to the fact that it is uncomfortable. But she is taking a stand and talking about it. Thank you, Josie, for being brave in things you wish didn't need bravery...for things that are hard, painful, and real.
Writer's note: My family has been haunted by mental illness for generations. This writing comes after some of the more recent and gut wrenching struggles my family has endured. The feelings expressed might make you uncomfortable, that's okay, they make me uncomfortable too. I've been amazed at the lack of writing done by family members of the mentally ill and am trying to be brave enough to change that. I now know why there is so little out there, it's hard to write about. I hope this writing can perhaps encourage others out there with similar struggles.
Occasionally I'll learn something about myself that is startling and uncomfortable. Generally it's something that flies in the face of my stated values, the beliefs I hold about myself and the world I want to create around me. Then up will pop a thought or a line of thinking that is deeply rooted and contrary to what I believed. Every time I contemplate really getting out there with my experience with the mental health world, the hold it has on my family and more probably the hold it has or will have on me I encounter a pit in my stomach. A darkness. Resistance. When I am really honest with myself I find that I don't want to be part of that world. I don't want to be associated with it. My name linked to the twisty-turny upside-down land that those with mental illness and their families inhabit. It's in these moments that I realize the hold of the stigma surrounding mental health. I believe I am a person that is accepting of those with mental illness. I believe that they can and should be treated like everyone else, not different, not shunned. These are my beliefs.
Why then do I not want to be associated with this group of people? Why do I resist my world and theirs becoming more visibly linked? Fear. I fear mental illness. I fear what it will do to me. I fear what else it will do to my mom. I fear what it may someday do to my children.
I feel a tug. A gentle whisper to pull out these memories and examine them. Cherish the good ones. Shine light on the dark ones. Tell the story to anyone who will listen. Tell them about the person behind the mental illness. That there is always a person. Those people wish, just as much as you do, that they could control the disease that often ruins their life. To celebrate the talent and beauty that is who they are under the shadow.
I hope I am brave. I hope I take courage and tell this story. Breathing in the pain in order to find some sense of freedom, or connection. I didn't want to be part of this story. I don't know how to overcome the fear. But often it seems that fear is what keeps us from the best life has to offer. It keeps us in the dark. Fear wins when we stay silent and look away from the task we've been given. I don't know if writing about this will give me power over the fear. I am not sure it's even possible to win the War on Fear. All I can do is try.
Follow Josie on INSTAGRAM or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a beautiful human and would be honored to hear from you.