On the day after I turned 47, my psychiatrist listened as I described for the 2nd time in three weeks struggling under the weight of “too big” emotions. If your gifting is empathy, you have a fair grasp on what that feels like; couple it with bipolar, depression, and anxiety and it’s utterly exhausting – completely consuming and totally exhausting.
The month of May is already a lot for me. On top of Mother’s Day, my birthday and the unreal amount of stuff we cram into the last month of the school year, it’s also Mental Health Month. I spend the month trying to be a consummate advocate and about two-thirds into the month, I move toward being a rather ineffective advocate simply because it begins to eat at my soul. I start having the recurring dream where your legs are a million pounds and you are screaming but no sound comes out. Sometimes, I have more than one a night. I have a crazy, short fuse. My Fave, J and C bear the brunt of the most of it, which feeds the lie in my head of “your illness makes suck as a Mama and wife”.
So my psych shut me down. No writing, blogging, advocate-type activities. I was permitted social media but it was monitored by someone who loves and would hold me accountable. I loved and hated her all at the same time.
At our last visit, she thought it was okay to tiptoe back in. I knew I’d jump back into blogging when the time was right. I’ve spent the last month figuring out how to process my emotions so I can own them rather than them owning me, which also lets me be effective in my speaking and writing about the stuff I identify as my mountains (aka, the hills I’m willing to die on). This morning gave rise to “It’s time.”
I, as a general practice, try to steer clear of getting political on my blog and on social media. I simply don’t believe that we’re helping the landscape of our country by acting as keyboard warriors. So please don’t read this as a political, picking sides statement. It’s anything but because this crap is happening on both sides of the aisle and by celebrities and people across the world. And I’m sick of it. These words won’t reach far and wide but I’ll feel better for writing them; this blog post isn’t likely to change the minds of those that really need to hear it anyway.
To Whom It May Concern:
I’ve wanted to speak out against you all using mental illness in your attacks on each other for quite some time. Fear stopped me. At the moment, fear is losing so don’t read that I’m taking sides one way or the other. You all suck. All of you. I just happened to come across a statement that made me finally say “Enough!”.
Mental illness should never, ever, ever be used in any way to insult someone you despise politically. Ever. Stop it. We’re literally dying and yet, there you are, using the very illnesses killing us to slam your political enemies. I’m from Ohio and advocates failed in our efforts to beg the Ohio State Senate to reinstate $36M in funding for suicide prevention and mental health treatment. We’re begging for treatment/support/resources so “I need help.” doesn’t get a response of “You’re so brave to speak up. We can see you in 10 weeks.”
How, when this is the reality of mental healthcare in our country, do we have “leaders”, both elected and self-appointed, using mental illness diagnoses as insults? I’m not talking about calling someone “crazy” or “nuts”. I’m talking using bipolar, schizophrenia and “joking” about someone being “off their meds” as insults, all of which, and more, claim the lives of more than 120 Americans each day – more than 45,000 per year.
So don’t you dare. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare use the illnesses millions of Americans battle daily as a way to score political points, to spread contempt for your political enemies and to drum up support for your base. Don’t you dare. Don’t you freakin’ dare. I’m really blessed to be able to afford the twice a month visits at a $180 out of pocket cost per visit to a psychiatrist that doesn’t take insurance. So many aren’t as fortunate.
This morning, I came across a Tweet from Saturday honoring Anthony Bourdain on the anniversary of his suicide. It was kind and thoughtful and, for me, screamed inauthentic. See, earlier last week, this same person used a Tweet to share a poem about included using a mental illness diagnosis to describe a political enemy and, within the same 240 characters, joked about a woman eluding sexual advances. (FYI, as you can imagine, sexual assault ravages a woman’s mental health long after the attack; for some a lifetime.)
So don’t you dare. Don’t you dare. Don’t advocate for us and yet use the illnesses that try to kill us as insults. Language experts vary in their answer to “How many words are in the English language?” so let’s just leave it at “A lot.” You’re intelligent people who’ve accomplished so very much in this life. Find another word. Seriously, find another word. You garner the ears of millions of people. Imagine if you used your reach to do good; if you used less energy and spotlight sowing hatred for each other, instead putting thoughtful energy into causes you feel a passion for.
You all claim to want to improve our country; your methods differ but you claim to want the same thing. Let me assure you that you are actually destroying the country for millions of Americans. We need less of your brand of “help”. I might even go so far as saying, “Just stop ‘helping’!” Just stop. We don’t need it. Each time you use our illnesses to attack each other, you might as well bury another Warrior. Sit for a moment with the truth that said Warriors you might be burying are under 10 years old. Yes, under 10. They are also gay, bi, straight, trans, married, single, divorced, abused, loved, rich, poor, homeless, hungry, Veterans, conservative, liberal, independent, socialists, capitalists, unemployed, employed, executives, low-wage earners, women, men, young, old, disabled, fully-abled, single parents, dads, moms, sons, daughters, refugees, citizens, immigrants, etc. Quite literally every group you claim to support, and claim your enemies don’t support, are struggling under a war their own brain wages on them daily.
So breaking news: You’re not helping. I believe you want to. I really do. I know you somehow think that if you can get enough people to hate the people you hate, all the things you want for our country can happen. We simply can’t be the casualties of your brand of war. So stop. Stop “helping”. We’ll figure it out on our own or die trying. You can then mourn us for a month and claim, “We must do more.” Then forget until the anniversary of our death rolls around, providing an opportunity to honor us for a moment and then return to your agenda. We don’t have the luxury to move one, nor do our families, but why would that be your concern? You have bigger things to get back to like using the very thing killing us to sling your hate.
We’re not your political pawns. We’re not the subject of empty promises used in stump speeches. We’re most certainly not be a method you use to spread your contempt. If that’s your best form of “help”, save it. It’s anything but helpful and we’ve got our hands full battling a war within ourselves.
Keep us out of yours.