When everything is going lovely in life, you don't have to work your butt off. You can whistle a happy tune and skip down the street sucking a rainbow lollipop. La, la, la... CRASH!
When you run into trouble, though, the work gets done. I used to be ashamed that I fell apart... embarrassed that I had to find and reassemble the pieces of myself. I painted on a shiny, new coat of paint and didn't tell anyone about the cracks underneath.
Later I saw the value in having to rebuild of myself. Struggle sucked (don't get me wrong!) but from it I gained so much wisdom, compassion and strength. The new version I built of myself was a better version. Pain that was my enemy became my ally... my beauty and my strength. As Rumi said, "The wound is the place where the light enters you."
I also used to say things like, "I wish I was strong enough to beat this on my own." We often believe our thoughts, and don't question if they are valid claims. A psychiatrist once said to me, "What if you are strong for staying in treatment? What if you are strong for getting help?" I know now that she was right.
Society often gives the message that displaying emotions or asking for help is weak. Well, society's message is just plain wrong and ridiculous. Society needs some therapy. It is incredibly brave to get help. Some of the most courageous, inspiring, badass people I know have mental health conditions, got treatment and rock at their lives. Here are six reasons why people with mental illnesses (you, if that applies) are strong, not weak:
1. You've had to struggle. Struggle makes people grow in strength. Oprah said, "Where there is no struggle, there is no strength" and she's Oprah... so she's right.
2. You've had to deal with the illness and, on top of it, the stigma, misconceptions and ignorance that surrounds it. Your illness is invisible, so people are less compassionate and understanding. Their skeptical about it's validity. Joe Jenkins broken his leg and he's so brave. Everyone is bringing him flowers, signing his cast, and making him homemade apple pie. Everyone is ignoring you whispering behind your back. You get the weird McDonalds apple pie. People tell you about their friend Mary who cured her depression by eliminating gluten because she has amazing willpower. People recommend positive thinking. "OMG. I never thought of that!" (sarcasm) They don't get it. You've have constantly re-educate people.
3. You keep showing up. Showing up to waiting rooms and reading magazines from 1998, showing up to tell your story for the millionth time, showing up to groups, therapy, doctors, psychiatrists... It's strong to show up... especially when your care is inadequate and you're telling your story to a resident who will only be there for three months. "Here are your scripts, Debbie... Donna... I mean, what was your name? Oh, Stacy." You've had to advocate and fight for care that should be excellent and easy to access.
4. You've had to carry your intense emotions, other people's emotions, and perhaps the world on your shoulders as well. You're empathetic. You're a sponge. It's way easier not to care. You've sat with people who are struggling and really listened. Others have turned away because they are afraid of vulnerable emotions and real conversations. You've know darkness, so you're not afraid to go back into it for someone else. That's compassion. When others run from the woods, you get two flashlights and run into the woods to help.
5. You've had to figure out treatment which can feel like endless trial and error. You can't just put a cast on your brain. There's not one magical therapy method or pill. You've tried acupuncture, exercise, affirmations, talking about your dog fluffy running away when you were six-year-old, CBT, DBT, and other latest-acronym-therapies. You've colored a cornucopia like there's no tomorrow. You've tried medication with weird side effects and medication for the weird side-effects of the first medication. It takes strength to keep trying to figure out a treatment plan that works.
6. Your own mind has felt like it's turned against you. You're like, "I'm going to fight today and get through this" and you're mind's like, "No you're not! You can't do anything! You suck! Loser!" Your mind has been relentless in it's pursuit to keep you paralyzed and you've kept moving. That takes tremendous strength. You're amazing.
You're so strong and should be so proud. I'm proud of you. Hope to see you on our Twitter movement #imnotashamed because you have nothing to be ashamed of! You are so. strong. Keep fighting!