The stigma is there. It is real. It is absolute. It leave families at a loss of words of how to explain away the stigma. No way to cope. Plain and simple, it is time to break the stigma please. Break the mental health stigma. Let it be erased that it is no longer a part of our every day lives.
We make no jokes about mental health in our house. People are not crazy. Ideas are. People aren’t loony. Our experiences can definitely be loony. There isn’t something wrong with people either. As a special needs parent, I experience feelings from isolation, hopelessness, lost to proud, accomplished, and peaceful. Through it all a therapist has helped us along our journey. We go to therapy weekly to talk about goals, skills, emotions, experiences, and life in general. Sometimes, I take up most of the session if it has been particularly trying week. Other times we share the session, family style. Other times, P, uses the sessions because on some days it is nice to have a friendly face to talk to other than dear old mom.
The other day while sitting in the therapist’s office another family came in for their appointment. The family’s conversation centered around the little sister’s insistence on knowing why the big sister had to talk to a therapist. Not once, but twice the little sister was told, “Never mind, she’s just crazy.” I was not mad nor offended. My heart truly hurt for the entire family. They weren’t able to talk openly about mental health or the role therapists can play in our lives. The mental health stigma was being perpetuated over and over for them in their own family circle.
And that is why I advocate for self-care and mental health resources. I will be the first to tell friends, family, co-workers to take care of themselves. If I hear co-workers say, things like F*&$ my life or I’d rather die than, even jokingly, I let them know that how it can sound and if they need someone talk to I am here to listen with no judgement or I can give them a name of a person. I talk openly about mental health. I am continuously educating myself about mental health issues. I am conscience of the language I use. I treat mental health with the same regard as physical health. There is so much we can do together to eliminate the shame and blame of mental illness.
So, I say to the parents who are holding it together, to the big sister in the waiting room, to the little sister filled with concern, to the teens flooding hallways at school, to the kids who stay on the sidelines of the playgrounds, to those who wonder why should I get out of bed in the mornings, and to young people struggling find their place in this world–you will have good days. You will have bad days. You will have awesome days. You will have I can’t go on days. You will have too tired days. You will have overwhelming days. Yet, each everyday you will still show up. Remember you are not crazy. You have never been and you never will be crazy. The end.
All my best to you,