Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer … so many illnesses and each with a voice. An ear from the masses. A shoulder to cry on. Awareness is raised by colored ribbons marketed on everything from bumper stickers to tank tops. These illnesses are mainstream. They are discussed … openly. They can be detected by blood work, MRI, CT Scan, etc.
Mental illness is invisible. It can’t be found in any medical laboratory or cultured on a Petri dish. It attacks my brain, the control center of my entire physical being. An organ, just like all the others, but my symptoms are not visible. There’s no bleeding, no fever, no detectable organisms to study. The voice of mental illness is drowned out by shame. Awareness brings scrutiny. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, we are urged to bury our struggle. To silence our shouts. We are even told, without intended pun, that it’s all just in our head.
Yet this imbalanced chemistry called Bipolar Disorder has affected every aspect of my life. My type of illness finds its way to the driver’s seat, overthrows my God-given judgments, and installs itself as ruler over my world. I’ve endured countless hospitalizations. Ultra-radical treatments. And then I’m told I can’t reach out for support. I can’t reach out to support others. How could I? We are silenced. I don’t know who they are. They are the nameless. They are the voiceless.
But I have found victory. I have found my voice. I’ve found God’s hand and never let go. I’ve found love, prayer, understanding, and acceptance in His arms. Because of Him, I have people in my life who have stood by me, watched me push for my wildest dreams and reach them. Now, I am DETERMINED to overcome any lingering shame and to help others do the same. To help them say, loudly, “I HAVE a mental illness, but I AM NOT that illness!” Mental illness does not define us.
I will show them how, after years of struggle, I can proudly and unashamedly say, I have a mental illness; mental illness DOES NOT have me.
And now I live The Sweet Life!!
Boycott the stigma.