Today marks the halfway point of this challenge and also the end of a busy weekend. Yesterday was spent in town all day, first at a poetry workshop and then volunteering for the Pink Ribbon Street Appeal, an annual collection for the Breast Cancer Foundation. Today was filled with Nerf Gun wars with Zombie bro and a Zombie neice, which was a lot of fun and then a poetry slam where I didn’t have the guts to read anything out.
Speaking of guts, I used to think that I didn’t have any. I was scared of everything. Courage was not in my vocabulary. I was good at pretending to be brave, talking the talk so that I didn’t have to walk the walk, but inside I was trembling with fear, even with simple things like asking for favours.
The biggest fear that I have overcome, is the fear of my mental health. I no longer hide my issues for fear of being judged, because I have learned that it says more about them than it does about me. I spent years putting on a face, pretending everything was okay, pretending that I was just a little bit weird and that there was nothing wrong with me. I avoided social situations that didn’t involve alcohol so that I didn’t have to hide the fact that I didn’t know how to socialize without booze. I was terrified of being treated even more differently than I already was.
There is a stigma with mental illness. It’s not as big as it used to be, there is a lot more education, understanding and acceptance towards people who suffer from mental illness, which is where I found my courage, but it’s like any stigma; there is a long way to go before all people with depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder, body dismorphic disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia and all other forms of mental illness can live without the fear of being looked down on and treated differently because of their struggles.
In being open about my depression and anxiety I have also made new friends, new connections and even given others the courage to reach out. I’m not saying that everyone should be out and proud like me, it’s a scary thing and I have to admit I have been incredibly lucky and am grateful for all the positive support I have received and I know that it’s not the experience that rings true for everyone.
I have found some courage now. I am still scared of a lot of things, but for the most part I don’t let them control me. I still have my moments, for example talking in front of an audience and I imagine that will be scary for a long time, but I will continue to put myself in positions where I have to challenge my fears. It’s a good way to grow and hopefully will help with the change to wider acceptance of people and their differences.
Smiles and Sunshine