The last few days have been exhausting in good and hard ways. Between the publication of the LDS Living article and comments positive and harsh regarding that, General Conference, and a book signing event, it’s been a physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally tiring weekend.
Let’s Talk About It
But during one of our many discussions this weekend, my husband mentioned something about how great it was that even with the critiques or negative comments, people were talking about mental illness. They were talking about their experiences and sharing their struggles and frustrations. And it was true, and is true, and it is all amazing.
So often, we feel like we shouldn’t or can’t talk about our mental health struggles. We feel secluded and alone, like we are fighting a battle that no one else can or ever will understand. This can lead to bitterness, solitude, and low self esteem. It can lead to resignation and frustration. But at the same time, it makes sense. I understand why people don’t talk about their mental illnesses. It is hard for others to understand. Those who haven’t struggled and dealt with a mental health crisis can’t empathize. They can try, but they often judge or simply can’t fully comprehend what it feels like. And it’s important for us to remember that their not being to comprehend is not their fault.
One amazing thing I’ve experienced as I’ve done just two book signings is the sharing of stories. I’ve been blessed to hear men and women of different ages and social status tell me about their stories with mental illness or stories of their children or relatives or friends. Because they know I can understand and empathize, they feel comfortable and able to be open with their struggles. We can commiserate and find community and support in each other.
So often mental illness leaves us feeling alone. It tries to separate and take us apart from each other. But we are not alone. I write that in many of the books I sign—you are not alone. You are never alone. Someone else can understand what you are dealing with—of course not perfectly but enough to let you know that what you are feeling and experiencing isn’t your fault or something that cannot be overcome. We can support each other. And when we are ready, we can talk about it together.
Not everyone is going to feel able to talk about their experiences or want to do so, and that is fine. But I hope that this blog and the book at least give them hope and the courage to fight their battle and maybe think about supporting others or finding support for themselves.
We shouldn’t feel like we can’t talk about our mental illnesses. My hope is that as we talk about them more, stigma and negative perceptions of mental illness will weaken. Others will hopefully find courage to get help and be open and accepting with themselves about their mental health.
Starting dialogue is so important. Participating in and supporting it are also key. Mental illness can create raw feelings in our hearts and souls. It is painful. But we are not alone, and hiding those feelings and stories from ourselves and others often doesn’t help them to heal.
I support you. You are not alone.