Parental guidance is suggested, because I use some VERY strong language for shock value in this post.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Last night, I gave a speech to my to my toastmasters group. I’m very proud of it!
I want to tell you the dirtiest of dirty words.
Its a dirty dirty dirty word.
When I tell you this word, you’re going to be embarrassed! You’re going to blush. It’s really bad.
You’re going to have flashbacks of personal experiences. Relationships.
This word is going to shake you up and disturb you.
It’s the dirtiest of all subjects. The one we can never EVER talk about.
The one that we even have trouble divulging, to our closest, most intimate friends and lovers.
It’s so dirty, that it’s found it’s way into the dark alleys of our minds, where even WE OURSELVES are afraid to say it.
You’ll never be ready for it, so I might as well just say it…
You weren’t ready for it were you.
It’s right here in THIS room. Right now as you listen to my speech.
I AM MENTALLY ILL.
I have struggled with mental illness ALL of my adult life. I am dealing with it RIGHT NOW. And this SPEECH you are hearing right now is part of that.
MY STRUGGLE began at age 18. I was a freshman in college, FAR AWAY from my family. My grandfather was fading away in his bedroom over 400 miles away. My parents thought it best to keep me from this difficult life event, to PROTECT me from the sadness.
I began having nocturnal breathing problems. I would wake up unable to catch my breath, CERTAIN that I was going to die. I couldn’t breath until I was fully conscious. Every night I would fall asleep FEARFUL of these night attacks.
During a trip home to NC, I finally went to my family doctor to tell him the problem and to hear from him the devastating news, that I have CANCER.
But that news never came. Instead a worse diagnosis came. A socially UNACCEPTABLE diagnosis came. A MENTAL DISORDER.
I was so ASHAMED when the doctor told me there was nothing PHYSICALLY wrong with me. I was so ASHAMED that it was “ALL IN MY HEAD” as SOME people say.
I cried until my eyes were swollen and red, in my childhood home on my living room couch.
I cried and cried. I moaned and wept. I waited for my parents to come home from work. A pile of dirty tissues growing beside me.
My father came home from work. “Snooch! What’s wrong?” DEEP concern in his voice.
My eyes welled FRESH with more tears, and I burst out, “I have a mental illness!”
My father took in my pathetic state, cocked his head thoughtfully to the side, and smiled, “Come here my little one!”
And THAT my friends was THE BEGINNING of THE END of the stigma for me.
My father looked his own daughter in her eyes and saw her for more than her illness. He knew that those four words from a doctor could NEVER diminish the beautiful personality that he had grown to love, in his own flesh and blood.
Mental illness is a POWERFUL, DIRTY word.
But the more we use it,
the more we talk about it,
the more we deal with it,
THE LESS POWER IT HOLDS.
Panic disorder was only ONE of a handful of mental disorders that I struggle with every day of my life.
I’M NOT ALONE. Not by any means. But sometimes I can FEEL alone. Sometimes we can all FEEL alone.
But as many of you ALREADY know, yell out the word “CIPRALEX” in a crowded street…20 heads will turn.
We ALLOW these mental illnesses to to have power, because we SHY AWAY from talking about them.
I don’t shy away from talking about it! I’m not afraid to share this with friends, family, colleagues, and even parents of the children entrusted in my care.
Some people warned me not to jeopardize my reputation, and to especially keep this from the parents of my students.
If someone is going to JUDGE me, they need to have all of the facts. And if they don’t want their child in the care of an IMPERFECT human being, they need to send their kid somewhere else.
I hear there’s a PERECT teacher, who lives SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW, with NO health problems, rides to school on a unicorn and lives in a castle made of candy.
THIS human being is real. And I talk about my mental illness EVERY CHANCE I GET!
I talk about it, because I remember how IMPORTANT it was when I was feeling ALONE, DIFFERENT, SICK, DESPERATE…
I needed someone to tell me THAT THEY’VE BEEN THERE.
That they felt this way.
THAT THEY GOT OVER IT.
I’m not going to HIDE the fact that I am on medication.
I’m not going to AVOID telling people that I can’t make plans on Friday mornings because I have a weekly appointment with my therapist.
I’d much rather give HOPE to that young man or woman, sitting quietly in the corner, feeling lost and scared.
I’d much rather spend this SHORT LIFE OF MINE, combating the stigma of the DIRTIEST of DIRTY words: