It’s 2:57 a.m. and I’ve been tossing and turning in bed. I really should quit that late afternoon coffee. I’m so tempted to grab my favorite Maasai blanket and turn on the TV, but on second thought, I grab a glass of water and turn to my blog and emails.
I love reading travel posts for inspiration. But on this particular morning, I somehow I stumble upon a sad post. I’m not a fan of reading long posts—especially one without photos—but I couldn’t stop myself from reading this one. And then the next. One story leads to 10 others, and truth after truth hit me hard: Mental illness is real! Depression is real! Panic attacks are real! Anxiety is real! People do cut their wrists! Unfortunately, while most of us, myself included, often hear about depression and other mental health illnesses and the people they affect, we haven’t fully understood the depth of its impact.
People out there are fighting for their health everyday in a way that most of us don’t understand. They’re battling with their own mind everyday, trying to survive, and struggling to swim through storms. Some wake up each day wishing they died in their sleep. And sadly, some lose the internal battle and end their lives.
Most of the time we seek to hang around friends that are always happy and positive, isolating those that always seem sad, distant, and negative. It just occurred to me that maybe—just maybe—these are the people we need to stay close to and to sit with more often. Listen to the demons that live in their heads. Love them a little louder. Support them. Be the shoulder they can cry on. Reassure them that they are not alone. That they are bigger than the pain they feel. That they are not their illness. That they are not weak. Be their safe space. In your own little way, help them survive another day.
But please don’t disregard your happy and positive friends, too. Sometimes, the biggest laughs can conceal the greatest pain.
You are so brave and quiet, I forgot you were suffering.
Now, more than ever, we need to keep the conversation going on mental health, mental illnesses, and what it means in our lives. We need to unite to save each other. It’s never too late to increase our knowledge and to raise awareness. Let’s do our part to stop the stigma.
Never give up on someone with mental illness. When ”I” is replaced by ”WE”, ILLNESS becomes WELLNESS.
-Shannon L. Alder-
Love and light.