This is a copy of the story I wrote for the group I volunteer for, "Horizons of Jefferson County". Horizons is a peer support group that I was lucky enough to become a part of. Here is part of my story...
September is “National Recovery Month” in fact it is SAMHSA’s 25th National Recovery Month. For those of you that may not know SAMHSA stands for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out.” So I would like to Speak Up while Reaching Out, to the reality of my recovery and recovery experiences with you.
Many of you do not know who I am; I tend to stand back in the shadows whenever possible. But for many reasons I want to “Come Out of the Closet” about my mental illness, which is depression.
I put together the Horizons newsletters each month, writing stories, researching educational material that I place in the newsletter (and online daily on Horizons Facebook page). I do this because it helps me in my own recovery with depression, PTSD, and social anxiety. But with all the advice I so freely write about I have troubles with my own recovery with depression.
Each day is a new battle; I wake up wondering “what battles will I go through today?” With depression I tend to dwell on the negative side of things. Not because I want to, but more because that is how I was raised to think. To survive situations that people should never be put in. But I have survived more than fifty years on this earth. But I do battle with many thoughts of not being worthy, not being good enough, and not being kind to myself like I am to others.
You would think that I would be able to take my own advice and love myself. But the message, does not stick in my own brain. I have good things about me people say, but I can’t believe. The negative messages inside my brain are just too strong to remove . So each day I fight with myself to even put my feet on the ground, it is easier to simply hide in the shadows of depression.
Many people lose their battles with depression, for example Robin Williams fight with depression was lost ending in his suicide. He also fought substance abuse (the two usually go hands in hand) with his depression. His depression won, when he committed suicide a couple weeks ago. Many unknown people commit suicide each day losing their own battles with depression. But with Robin Williams’s death, his talent being lost, and him being so well known, this has put the talk about mental health in the lime light. This, in my opinion, is where it needs to be, so that more and more people realize just how terrible our plight is. How hard we fight every day, to wear our masks to hide how we are truly feeling deep down inside.
Robin Williams was a true talent in making us smile and laugh. Like the Smokey Robinson song “Tears of a Clown” released in 1967 “…I try to keep my sadness hid, smiling in the public eye, but in my lonely room cry the tears of a clown, when there’s no one around.” Mr. Williams wore a mask to the world showing us a side of him that he chose to show, hiding the true fact that he suffered in silence.
I wear a mask daily, often hiding my true feeling and sadness. People comment that I should smile more, I try, but the smile doesn’t stay for long. That is depression. In a way I can relate to the actions that are often taken to end the fight. But I strongly continue to fight my battle with my own mental health recovery.
Recovery month is about spreading the positive message that we don’t have to fight this battle alone. There are options out there for us with mental health or substance use disorders. That is why I got involved with Horizons of Jefferson County to help my own recovery. Putting together this newsletter and working on the Facebook page helps me in a positive way. It helps me spread the word about mental illness and how people with mental illness are not any different from famous people or any other kind of people.
It is important to talk about mental health, to bring it out of the closet. Mental health has been a part of my family for many generations, however it was always referred to as “IT.” We talked in quiet family circles of how grandma had it, mom had it, or another relative had it, well now I am talking about how I have IT; mental health issues.
I want to come out of the closet and let people know that we don’t have to speak in hushed tones or refer to mental illness as “it”. We need to talk about mental illness and substance abuse so that it can be properly understand by others who may judge us.
Mental illness, it, also needs to be talked about for ourselves; so that we can obtain proper tools in taking care of ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves not only physically but behaviorally as well. I am not a licensed counselor or peer certified specialist, I am just me a person that suffers from mental illness and I want to stand up and talk about it.
I am tired of being labeled such things as dumb, or incompetent or just plain weak. I am none of the above. I am a strong woman with my own individual thoughts and as far as I am concerned I am not dumb. I do however make dumb decision; we all do at times that is part of learning. We are even labeled by the people that help us; consumers. I just want to be a happy person, which is what I want for me and all others that suffer.
To achieve this I have to promote ways in my own life to be positive. This is why I chose to be a part of Horizons, the people in this group help promote positive ways for me to grow and participate in my own recovery. Horizons have many activities for me to be an active part of the Jefferson County community, like coffee outings, bingo, lunches, and trips. All while I am not judged, because others in Horizons understand what it is like to suffer from a mental illness.
So with this article I am coming out of the closet and talk about my recovery with my mental illness and how being a part of the mental health community is not a bad thing. I am proud to be able to help others with their own journeys with their mental health or substance abuse issues. We all need to stand up and speak out; talk about mental health and substance abuse problems and how we can get a positive outcome when we talk about benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery.
So let’s not let all of those who have lost their battles have died in vain, let’s talk about RECOVERY and hopefully save lives’ from being lost. I Stand Up and have Come Out of the Closet about my mental health issues. I don’t want to hear about more people dying but would rather hear about more people’s recovery from their battles. Treatment works, there are many tools out there, we just have to be willing to talk about it and reach out.