It is ten minutes before I have to get up in front of a room full of people, and talk about my diagnosis of Bipolar II for the first time. I run into the bathroom, and vomit. I get up, wipe my face, reapply my lipstick and look in the mirror. I ask myself, “Why the hell are you doing this Hannah? You can live a good life without telling anyone.” Then I thought,”Because you are not ashamed anymore…”
This was the scene three years ago when I spoke about my diagnosis of Bipolar II for the first time at a mental health conference. People with mental illness, situational or long-term, are scared more of just uttering the sentence, “I have a mental illness,” then they are of skydiving. I have witnessed people wither away in their marriage, friendships and in daily life, due to this heavy weight on their shoulders and burning secret inside.
7 reasons why we should not feel ashamed about living with a mental illness…
1. …because I am not alone.
One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given year.-NAMI
It is evident that we are not alone in this fight. We should not be ashamed to admit something that is so present in society. Just because others choose to ignore it, does not mean that you are obligated to do so. The stigma isolates people with mental illness, and takes away the opportunity to truly understand your diagnosis.
2. …because I am strengthened by struggle.
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle”-Napoleon Hill
The effort it takes to smile, when you are crumbling inside is admirable, not shameful or embarassing. When we lift our heads from the ground, and walk with hope, our struggle becomes our strength. The bad experiences or hopeless moments in your past or present, are the building blocks for your future.
3. …because mental illness is real despite what you may think.
“The worst thing you can do to a person with an invisible illness is make them feel like they need to prove how sick they are”-Healthy Place
This game of tug of war between science and society causes people with mental illness to doubt themselves. If you can feel it, it is real. I have Bipolar II disorder, and it is very real. I can control it, but I cannot make it go away despite what society may think. People do not dictate the way I feel or what I know to be true. Now it is time You get over it!
4. …because emotions and pain make the best art.
“It is a gift and a curse…you get the pain much worse than anybody else, but you see a sunrise much more beautiful”-British Comedian Spike Milligan
We are ashamed, because we are constantly hearing how awful mental illness is. Although the struggle is unbearable at times, there is a gift within these deeply penetrating emotions. Awareness allows you to be in control, and control allows you to access your imagination in a positive way. Making art out of emotions or thinking outside of the box is not something to be ashamed of, but embraced and encouraged.
5. …because I am part of a positive movement.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”-Dr. Martin Luther King
The minute you utter those words, “I have a mental illness and I am not ashamed,” you are part of a movement. To give a voice to those who have been silenced by stigma is powerful, and an accomplishment to be proud of. The people who should be ashamed, are those who refuse to lend a helping hand, yet are eager to point the finger at others to blame for society’s problems.
6. …because my story is worth more than your opinion.
“Your life has a purpose. Your story is important. Your dreams count. Your voice matters. You were born to make an impact.”-C.S. Lewis
How many people can say, that by sacrificing their story they helped others survive? Not many! We can all form an opinion, but not all are brave enough to voice it. Sacrificing and sharing your story to help others takes an incredible amount of strength and courage.
7. …because I have the right to be honest and accepted for who I am, not for who you want me to be.
“Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.”-Ellen DeGeneres
You have the right to be honest about who you are, what you have and what you do. Mental illness does not define you, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
I am not ashamed of my biology. I am ashamed of society and stigma.-H2H