Google “mental health awareness” or “mental illness awareness” and you’ll get a mishmash of well intentioned sites with no traction. For either search, three of the first page listings will reference “stigma.”
I’m sick of the stigma. Depending on the study, somewhere around 25% of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. It sucks to have cancer, MS, arthritis, or a myriad of other illnesses. We have walks and celebrity endorsements for those. A quarter of our population suffers from an illness we don’t even want to acknowledge? I happen to also have a degenerative disease. Given my choice between it and depression, I’d take the degenerative disease and all the pain associated with it.
Look around. If there are three other people in the room, the odds are one of you suffers from mental illness. Are we going to bury our heads in the sand and wait for another Newtown? I am not saying all mental illnesses result in mass murder. I offered the extreme example to illustrate the importance of burying the stigma.
Several months ago, I tried to kill myself….again. One of the conclusions I reached while locked in the nuthouse was I wasn’t going to hide it any more. I decided to own it. I have blogged about it regularly here. I informed my boss. He was amazingly understanding and supportive. Were there ramifications? Of course. My youngest daughter won’t speak to me, and many at work question my capacity.
I said “again” earlier. I decided that to avoid another “again” I could no longer hide in the shadows. I accept the ramifications and say fuck you. I’m doing the best I can based on the assumption that I’m more useful alive than dead. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is debilitating and crippling. When I say that, people want to bring me a pot roast. I suffer from depression. It is debilitating and crippling. When I say that, people don’t want to talk to me.
So, for my arthritis, I watch what I eat, take my meds when I can afford them, and am cautious with physical activity. For my depression, I try to apply the same reasonining of doing what I can to minimize the effects. I’ve quit my job because the stress of it put me in a bathtub, jacked up on narcotics, and bleeding from my wrists. I’m going to take a long walk and consider the scars I’ll carry for the rest of my life.
I know that I’ll say, fuck you stigma. I have scars on my wrist. Get over it. I’ll pay penalties for saying I tried to kill myself. I already am. Do you think just maybe the penalties are less than the pain that drove me to stick a knife in my arm over and over? Do you think just maybe acknowledging my illness is more beneficial to me than it is repulsive to you?
I’m Darren. I have a mental illness, I tried to kill myself, and I’m doing the best I can.