May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I thought this post would be fitting.
I’ve struggled with bouts of depression and was diagnosed a few years back with PTSD caused by my abusive ex-husband. I’ve known numerous people who struggle with depression, as well as manic episodes. I’ve known people who have committed suicide because they saw no other way out of the situation they were in.
The more I look around these days, the more mental well-being seems to be declining. Mass shootings and suicides are plastered all over the news. Over prescribing pain meds and antidepressants are on the rise. It’s almost become a way of life. We have to stop fighting over gun laws and not engage each other in, “I’m right, you’re wrong” fights and start fighting the unrelenting monster called mental illness.
Why are there so many school shootings? Why are more than one out of three Americans on painkillers? Why is it that one out of six Americans is on antidepressants? These percentages far surpass those in other countries. I don’t have the answers, but believe we have to find them.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:28
You know… the look you get when you don’t know if you’ve just over shared. I’m at a place in life where I can be open about my OCD. It’s my hope that by doing so I can help someone else get over the stigma of saying they have a silent illness.
I’ve been taking a training this week about how to initiate “critical conversations.” Those types of conversations that are uncomfortable but often necessary to have. Communicating correctly is a skill dying in this digital age. After being in this training for awhile, I shared a thought with my workshop partner a total stranger until this class. We were speaking on how personalities can get in the way of conversations and brainstorming strategies to overcome that roadblock. I shared that I’ve been told by friends that when they first met me I seemed… cold. Once they came to know me though, they shared they were happy to find I was the complete opposite.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.~Psalm 34:4-5
What they didn’t know with their first glance is that I have a mental illness. My aloofness is nothing more than finding a safe place for me to be. I have to study people and new situations to make sure I’m comfortable. Last thing I want is to be triggered into a state that has me in tears and a cycle of obsession. My workshop partner looked on me as if to say, “you’re mentally ill?” I could tell by his expression and body language that he was trying to figure out how he didn’t know that from day one.
If anyone has the honor of ever meeting Linda, you’d know from the start that she has cerebral palsy. It’s evident in her left arm and hand, her limp and her speech. These are cues anyone can take to deduct that she has a story to tell. It’s not that way with the silent diseases. It’s not always comfortable to be candid and admit, when appropriate, that I’ve OCD. But I think it’s vital. Here’s why…
Later my partner asked if I thought the seating assignments would be rearranged for the next class. I said I hoped not… it messes with me. I’d have to get used to the change, and spend time getting comfortable all over again.
He laughed and said, “I hate it too. Things like that are what really stirs up my–,”
…. and it’s that pause that is so essential. The odds are he was going to say “his OCD” for it looked like he had it perched on his lips. If I had a dime for every time someone used OCD as a designer term for a quirk or a preference, I’d be a millionaire. Only on a rare few occasions have I met someone who legitimately shared my struggle. Instead, he stopped and said it “bugs” him.
I’m left to wonder…. was he one of the millions out there suffering with OCD and unable to trust their vulnerability enough to share it? Or was he one of the few to learn that this is a serious illness and deserves respect? If it’s the former, I hope my vulnerability helps him find courage to speak his story. If the latter, kudos and thanks for rephrasing.
I show my vulnerability to helps others. I’ve seen the power speaking out can have in helping others find their path to healing. Linda bears her soul to prove what abilities hide in the weaknesses we THINK we have. Shame can be turned to a strength if all trust and faith is placed in God. I think I speak for both of us when I admit that in each of our struggles came a healthy dose of feeling shame. Stepping outside of that prison and sharing a story, can open doors. We need to be in authentic relationships with our neighbors and we hope we can spread that awareness.
Jennifer stepping in here. Linda knows me as Jenny or more commonly by my nickname, Goose, but that’s a story for another post. I’m the silent partner here, the behind the scenes “quiet” one, the “bad influence” (if you ask her mother ) and right now…. I am peeved.
When I spoke to Linda this morning and told her I was taking over the blog for this topic, her reply was, “Oh no. You have a tongue like a whip!”
Well when it comes to stigma, yes I do! I promised her I’d behave. If I was over on my website… not so much.
Newsflash folks:Linda. Is. Not. Retarded.
I stumbled on a blog on Birth Injury Newswhile spreading the word about The Power Project (that’s the name of our little blog here, we’d appreciate you spreading the word too). It was about a young lady who is being discriminated against because of her cerebral palsy. She is being labeled retarded by Child Protective Services, and CPS is threatening to remove her children from her and her husband due to their assumptions of her mental capability. Frankly, that pisses me off. She has cerebral palsy–she is not mentally retarded!
That post…. was personal for me.
I have witnessed people look at Linda like she is stupid. I have heard people slow down their speech when they talk to her as if she is a two year old. She has a speech impediment due to her CP–that does not make her slow or stupid!
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.~Proverbs 18:2
When I first met Linda in 1989 I had no formal introduction. I had no idea she had cerebral palsy. She looked at me and said whatever it was she said and my first thought was, “Make direct eye-contact, she could be deaf.” That was an innocent and natural first reaction for that is how she sounded to me, like she’d been deaf since birth. I have no clue when I learned about her CP but never assumed she was retarded.
Linda once told me a story about a man in a grocery store who looked at her and said “are you stupid or something?” In true Linda style she looked him right in the eye and said “No, are you?” If only everyone had the self-confidence to do that.
Stigmas like this have GOT to end. Ignorance and fear are what causes them to perpetuate. I see it all the time with my Pure-O, that’s a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that manifests in pure mental obsessions. I believe that it is the fear of asking questions that causes assumptions towards those who are different. I have yet to meet someone with a disability unwilling to explain, if asked, what afflicts them. When did we stop teaching children, or ourselves, how to interact with others with compassion?
Due to things I have experienced in my life I am an advocate for empathy and empathy is not easy to be willing to share. You have to reach into yourself and find a similar hurt or hang-up and be willing to bevulnerable.
Help us stop stigma wherever you can. Speak up and out when you see it being spread and help me keep from having to pull out the Angry Goose posts.