We Get Better — a guest column for Mental Health Awareness Week
Greetings to my fellow peers and punk rockers. October 6th through the 12th is Mental Health Awareness Week. This reminds me of the fact that for me and for many other people out there, every week, day and hour that we live and exist in this world requires a healthy degree of “mental health awareness” for us to get by in one piece. Thank goodness there are people out there who want to help make things a little bit easier for those of us who experience the twisted distress and pain of living with a mental health condition. With that said, for those of us who deal with these difficulties on a daily basis, having allies who are supportive and empathetic is crucial to our mental wellness, happiness and stability.
This is where you come in, the allies and supporters… Let me state here that without any hesitation, I am not crazy. Yet, this terrible word “crazy” has been used to describe me for decades. Calling me crazy because of the mental health struggles I experience is hateful and degrading. When we call someone crazy we are reducing them to a subspecies; something less than human and undeserving of basic common decency and respect. Calling a person “crazy” is something that people do to discredit someone who is struggling and often when someone is being abused or messed with. This is just as demeaning and reprehensible as insulting a person due to their skin color, country of origin, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and the list goes on.
You may disagree with me, and that is fine. I am not here to control you or what you do, think or say. What I am here to do is convey that real damage is done to our peers and our friends when we identify them as a less important and less valued human being. What I am asking of you is to be conscious of how you talk to us.
But wait there is more to discuss… how we talk about ourselves! As people who live with mental health struggles we must stop insulting ourselves. You are not crazy! You are a human being with some tough stuff to deal with. Life has been hard, unfair and painful; this does not make you crazy. It makes you a unique and interesting human being with a complex life and this means you have value, just like everyone else. Please stop hating yourself.
There are better ways to describe our experiences. You are not a mental illness. I am not bipolar. She is not schizophrenic. We are human beings with endless interesting and unique parts that make up who we are. Having a mental health condition does not define you. It sure as hell does not define me. Heck, I will not allow it to! Having a mental health condition is one small part of who we are. We are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, cousins, uncles, aunts, students, teachers, writers, artists, musicians, music fans, scholars, photographers, florists, bus drivers, bicyclists, doctors, lovers, cat lovers (I love you Max and JB), visionaries, healers, supporters, athletes, chefs, peer counselors, volunteers, leaders, creators, phlebotomists and the list goes on. We all have value and we are all complex, interesting, unique individuals. Having a mental health condition is a tiny part of who I am and who you are. We must be liberated and we must be free!
Now keep this in mind: We get better! Every week must be Mental Health Awareness week and we must make this so. We get better! With hard work and dedication, we can all get a better handle on our lives and be happier and healthier people. We are the Punx and we get better! Love yourself, honor yourself and please, I am begging of all of you, peers, allies, supporters, everyone, please be good to us and please be good to each other. Support your friends. Help your friends find out about what they can do to help themselves. Do your research. Ask around. If you don’t get helpful information the first or second time, then keep asking. Search the internet. Don’t pass judgment. Don’t discourage. There are people everywhere working hard to get better. Join this community of wellness. Join this powerful force for dignity, liberation, self-love and recovery. Do it for you because you are worth it. Do it for your friend because they are worth it. Fight for your better life and never ever give up. We get better!
Perhaps it is a bit of self-promotion, but screw that, I have something to offer you and I know that it works and I know it will help you. There is a new book that was just recently published and yes, I am the author. I have lived the life of a horrendously sick person for decades on end and now I am living the life of a tremendously healthy person. I have been through hell and come out the other end in much better shape then I ever was in before. Also, I work professionally as a mental health peer counselor and I work on developing my helping skills every single day. I am the real deal and I wrote this book and I know that it works. The book is called Better Days and you can find out more about it and order it HERE.
Thank you to MRR for this wonderful opportunity to reach thousands of our punk rock peers and friends with these healing and empowering messages. Thank you to all of you for reading this column. Thank you to all allies and supporters who do their best to be good to us and thank you to all of us who struggle day in and day out to live a better life. You are all inspirations to me. Peace and tofu grease!
Sincerely and with non-possessive love,