It’s been a little over 365 days since I first published those words. Since I decided to make my private life an open book. To start a blog with a story about wanting to commit suicide for the umpteenth time. You know, really bland stuff. Super low key.
Welcome to the freak show, everybody.
The minute I chose to share my ugly little secret of being one of the wackadoodle folk with the world, was the day I became the victor. The boss. I finally had control. And suddenly, all those words were just that; words. tiny. little. invisible. weak words.
Instead I’ve become a wrecking ball in the fight against the stigma towards mental illness. I’ve had my meds altered twice this year and even my diagnosis changed. I still struggle daily, but for the first time in my life, I am ahead of this disease.
The attached picture is the corresponding day to the title of this blog. A day that changed everything for me. A hike my husband and I took last year along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. An hour later we were standing on the edge of a very steep cliff when the lie came calling, “It would be better for everyone if I just jumped.” Great. Excellent. Totally normal.
That's how quickly it happens. How sly and cunning it is. All that it takes to turn a normal day into a virtual hell. Destroy a family. End a life.
How does one survive when death is always this close?
And how does one broach that one with the spouse? “Say honey, do you think we could head back to the cabin now? The bad voice is back again. By the way, you look really good in green.” Ugh. Seriously.
It's a lonely existence. A dark one. A frightening one.
I turned and immediately made my way back to the car like a rabid hyena. He had no idea what was happening. I just asked for some alone time and took my journal. Ended up with what was a very raw and honest admission of my disease and what ultimately became my first blog.
And suddenly I had a new kind of freedom. Like a huge weight had been lifted. And I knew it. I was on to something. Big. In an instant I realized that it had just been a thought. A thought. Not to oversimplify something that is so incredibly complicated. But the truth came to me that those thoughts were part of my disease. And my disease did not make me who I was. The two things were mutually exclusive. And if I could learn to separate the two. If I could learn to recognize and control the thoughts, I could learn to control the disease.
Similar to my faith, I was not going to allow fear to lead the charge. I was not going to live in darkness for one more second. I was going to drag my junk right out into the light for the world to see. Where it could heal. Not decompose. Give hope. Not stagnate. Otherwise the darkness wins.
I didn’t even have a website. I hadn’t even published yet. Nothing was set in motion. But the simple act of getting those words out of myself and making the decision to start sharing my journey with the world was one of the most freeing things I had ever done.
I had no idea that within a year I would love myself so much more. Love the people of my tribe with such a deep passion. Be so much more educated about what it means to LIVE WITH and not just suffer from mental illness. To champion this life, speak for those who have lost their voice.
To quite literally have ZERO shame about the fact that I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety or having survived two suicide attempts. That just the simple act of leaving the house is a major victory for me. High fives all around. Some days just a shower or brushing the teeth qualifies. I’m not even going to begin to talk about my difficulty with pants. Not exaggerating. I wish I was. We like to say that the bar in our house is not necessarily low. It’s just different than other people’s.
Instead I celebrate each day as a SURVIVOR.
To be able to own it like it’s talking about my hair or eye color. My shoe size. I did not choose it. So why in the hell would I spend one single solitary second of my life being anything but proud of the person that I am. I am a mother. A wife. A warrior. A survivor: of many, many things. This is simply one aspect of my life. And my children will see and know this about me. When they are grown, my diagnosis will not be the most memorable thing about who I was to them. Unless it has to do with changing the world.
I have even spent time studying some of those most influential individuals that have graced planet earth that lived or are living with mental illness. They are a phenomenon, to say the least. Van Gogh. Churchill. Hemingway. Ellen Degeneres. John Adams. Sylvia Plath. Mozart. Robin Williams. Bob Dylan. Emily Dickinson.
And I decided that I would make it my mission to spend the rest of my life becoming one of them. One of the beautiful ones. And not just in death. But in life. I don’t believe it has to be one or the other. I am learning to find the beauty in this diagnosis. Living and dying in great company.
What incredible wonder this world would be without if it weren’t for the unmatchable beauty that is born out of the creative genius of the crazy ones. The mentally ill. My tribe.
That on the flip side of every seemingly cursed family member that we have; that person that inevitably gets the cops called at Every Single Thanksgiving before the pie has even been served, there is a tremendous blessing. A beautiful gifting just waiting to be unearthed. Most of us just don’t know it yet because we unfortunately live in a world that has chosen to accept just about anything, but not the wackos. The sane world just can’t tolerate sickness of the mind. Because it makes them uncomfortable. And it’s too easy to blame everything on.
And so the mentally ill or those suffering from any form of anxiety become the scapegoat. Relegated to dark corners and certainly not allowed to be heard. And so we hide it. And we lie about it. And our value diminishes with every episode we have. Every pill we take. Regardless of what we may actually accomplish in life. An inhaler for an asthma attack, insulin for diabetes, no problem. Looney meds? Forget it.
This must stop.
These individuals could ultimately cure cancer. Solve world hunger. Create peace treaties. But it wouldn’t matter if their resume disclosed their disease. They would not get the job. When they do not have or do not get the resources they need to embrace their diagnosis and a healthy life. The chance to learn how to LIVE WITH their disease instead of SUFFERING FROM it or even worse, dying from it. The ultimate fallout that comes in the wake of an undiagnosed, unmedicated existence.
Imagine a world where mental illness were treated like cancer, MS, AIDS, etc... What would our prisons look like? What would our homeless shelters look like? What would our veteran suicide statistics look like?
So for all my people who are struggling. Having the thoughts. Little thoughts. Big thoughts.
Your dark thoughts do not make you who you are.
I see you. And I am so so proud of you. You are here. And that is a pretty big deal in and of itself. Be proud of that. Please don’t be afraid to ask someone, anyone, for help. It’s NOT something to be ashamed of. Or something you did wrong. It is a badge of honor. You are in amazing company.
Find the thing you love and are passionate about and rock the hell out of it. Literally. Because not a single sane person on this planet can fill the space that you fill. Can accomplish the calling that you are here to accomplish. Only you can paint that painting. Write that book. Make that movie. Record that album. Become that politician. And can I just say, we need better politicians. So (all the bad words) badly.
Think of the world like a puzzle. And you are a unique piece.
NO ONE BUT YOU CAN FILL YOUR SPACE.
WE NEED YOU.
And the world needs to hear this message. For yourself. And for every person who has been made to stay silent. Their voice taken by this disease. Let’s end the silence. PLEASE SHARE THIS STORY.