How cool is that?!
The key word here is “peer”. I love it that I have been asked to speak to them as a peer and as a resource.
So many people deal with mental health issues every day, either for themselves or family members, or friends, but act like “mental health” issues and patients are something to not be discussed or acknowledged as a part of daily life. I think that’s wrong. Not that we all need to go around compulsively confessing our issues (as much as the ADHD part of my brain would LOVE to) but…if we felt more free to mention them in passing, in regular conversation, it might help normalize these topics.
When you mention that you’re diabetic nobody questions what kind of person you are. There is the person, and there is the illness. With mental health issues, because they are often based in the brain, and because they often affect people’s behavior toward others, mental illnesses are seen to totally define the person they inhabit. If there’s one thing I have learned from my ADHD journey it’s that there is my personality, and then there are the impulses of ADHD. Those impulses over the years have become part of the picture people think of when they think of me…but they are not my personality. They are not who I am. I had the revelation one day when thinking about what I liked and didn’t like about my medication. I decided that I liked that I still thought all the same things, but at a slower pace, which helped me to be more relaxed. Suddenly I was able to see the line between me and the medication. I was able to see that the urgency, he anxiousness and impulsivity was what had been getting in my way, where my creative ideas were actually mostly positive, and the task at hand was to take the time, now that I was able, to edit my actions, and what I did with all my creative ideas. It was like cleaning off a very cluttered tabletop. Move the clutter and you see how pretty the finish really is.
The struggle may be far more difficult for some, to see that line…for example, if someone is suffering from a wicked psychosis, it might be harder for them to see the line between their native thoughts and the psychotic ones at times…but that line is still there. That line is the whole point of mental health treatment. The mental illness is still not the whole definition of the person.
Because I am not visibly impaired, I have the luxury of choosing not to discuss ADHD. However, I am choosing to discuss it openly when the opportunity is presented. Not every chance I get. Not so often that it gets annoying (at least not in the estimation of my ADHD-monologuing self, haha). But enough that people notice…and I find that when I mention it people usually want to discuss it, or ask questions…or talk about a family member with a mental health issue. And for me, that makes it worth bringing up. Disclosure invites disclosure, and can also promote understanding.
Nobody would ever look at me and think “mental health patient”. That’s why I think it speak s loudly and effectively to the value of mental health patients, to present myself to the world as a fully integrated person…as a successful, intelligent person who happens to be a mental health patient.
Mental health patient can mean a lot of different things. It can mean someone who is struggling with persistent and difficult psychosis. It can mean someone like me who really is very functional but whose mental health journey is more geared to improving my own quality of life in a private way. It can also mean families or individuals in conflict who simply need guidance to move through difficult situations. But for any of the above examples, the common thread is that mental health is important, and people are more likely to seek help that will benefit themselves and those around them if they do not feel stigmatized, like they have something to feel bad about.
A supportive community can engender mental health for all by encouraging people to seek the help they need, and by being supportive of their efforts to become healthy.