*Although the last thing I would ever want to do is trigger traumatic emotions for another person, the contents of today’s blog share truths about my own mental health struggles, so please don’t read any further if you feel in a fragile state yourself.*
I want to talk about some sad shit today – like depression, and other psychological struggles.
And I won’t pretend like I’m not significantly scared to do it.
‘Cause it’s KINDA intimidating to just lay it all out there, you know?
While I’m hoping you don’t know, John Hopkins Medical Research says you more than likely do, “as an estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”
And according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “In late June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use.”
So, what gives?
Why are so many people struggling with what’s going on in their head?
What’s up with our world’s current mental health crisis?
And, most importantly, where can we start to step up as a society to STOP it?
Although I don’t have all of the answers for you, today’s post is intended to continue the conversation of containing this crisis, as I share both my personal and professional ties to the issue at large.
But today’s post isn’t all me.
It’s also inspired by two mental wellness industry experts and a Revolutionary team that mean SO much to me.
You may have seen that I was honored with the opportunity to host the Brain Revolution Summit on Saturday, where I interviewed brain experts, Dr. Daniel Amen and Joseph McClendon III, on both the profound purpose and possibilities their partnership program works to inspire with a new wave of results-based wellness.
As you can imagine, it was an incredibly emotional event who’s topics ranged from tough conversations to transformational techniques taught by the experts.
If you can’t imagine, this might help!
Joseph McClendon III, myself, and Dr. Daniel Amen at the event:
Joseph, McClendon III, myself, and Dr. Daniel Amen at the event:
HECKA emotions, huh?
Honestly, I think the toughest part for me was holding it together through the stories – some of which I will share with you shortly.
On a happier note, one of my highlights had to be seeing the thousands of viewers who colored the chat with their commitment to #DropTheStigma.
Which leads us into today’s post!
As I was debating what I wanted to share with you this week, I was again inspired by this hashtag from one of our team executives, and a human I am lucky enough to call a role model, mentor, and soul-sister.
Kay Salerno’s powerful post includes her sharing her own struggles with mental health, paired with a compassionate call to #DropTheStigma, and put a stop to the threatening stereotypes surrounding mental illness.
So let’s start there.
What’s wrong with the stigma?
When asked to share a small piece of my mental health story at Saturday’s Summit, I spoke about my personal struggles with severe depression.
(Which, if you don’t know anything about – you can read a bit more of my story right here.)
I was in my late teens, and traveling to therapists and psychiatrists in search of a “cure.”
Although, admittedly, it was all my parents – as 16-year-old me was SURE I would be stuck that way forever.
Insane, unlovable, and unattached from everything other than the darkness I felt both around and within me.
The diagnoses didn’t help either.
Especially when, after only 15 minutes of speaking with me, multiple therapists were ready to write me off as an at-risk individual, and return me back into the world with a freshly laminated Rx prescription – a label for both the bottle of pills, and my “mentally ill” identity.
I was one of the lucky ones though.
I had parents who persevered past my refusals and rebuttals, determined to help me get healthy in a holistic way.
I realize not everyone can say the same.
So many people NEVER take that step to seek help.
And I think you’ll agree it’s in large part because of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
. . .
A stigma is defined as something: marked as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
In this case, the stigma surrounding mental struggles stands to scare people away from seeking help, because they feel like they’ll be looked at differently if they do.
As Joseph McClendon said at the Summit, “No one likes to think of themselves as being sick.”
And (to take that one step further) NO ONE wants to think they’re crazy, point-blank.
The stigma scares people into thinking they can’t share their stories.
Because, if they do, they may end up on the island of isolation us humans often use to ostracize anyone who’s dubbed an “other,” or outside of the norm.
Maybe you’ve felt this too?
Like, if your boss knew that you struggled with mental health they might rethink whether they could rely on you in the same way?
Or, if you shared your sadness with a friend they might dub you a “debby downer” and attempt to avoid you at all costs the next time you called them up?
The stigma starts out in compromising people in their path towards healing, and stands to serve the most severe threat of all – suicide.
Which, in the U.S., suicide rates are the highest they’ve been since WWII. 
In addition, the stigma seeps into our subconscious, so that we become both scared of a world we feel disconnected from, and, maybe most importantly, scared of ourselves.
I remember how terrified of myself I used to be.
Like a storm of self-sabotage just waiting to wipe me out completely.
It was as if I was a prisoner to the devil on my shoulder, and couldn’t shut my inner satanic voice OFF.
What’s worse is not only would I sense it, but I would state it to myself, on repeat.
My internal dialogue sounding something like:
You are absolutely insane, you will never be normal, and you will never be happy.
Or, on a bad day:
Look at you and what you do…no one could ever love you…you’re worthless and would be better off not existing.
Although I hope to the higher powers you can’t relate, maybe you can?
And maybe, like me, you’ll agree:
I simply do NOT want to carry that self-loathing side of myself around anymore.
THE STRENGTH A STIGMA CAN’T SILENCE
Besides, it’s not ALL bad.
I mean, the most creative artists in the world are all “mad”!
While I don’t necessarily think a piece of art or music makes a mentally-unstable mindset “worth it,” I am a firm believer that our struggles can ALSO allow us an opportunity to uncover, and embrace, our strengths.
Because, guess what?
You’ve got to be strong as hell to stick through something that intimately affects your state of being as deeply as mental health struggles do.
It’s for this very same reason I wouldn’t change my own experiences for anything.
My scars signify what I’m capable of, and resilient enough to rise above.
My struggles have served me in some of my most creative moments, in addition to empowering me with the gift of compassion, which connects me to others in a way I never thought capable.
It’s part of the reason I believe I was born to be a writer, and can come to my readers with subjects that are raw, real, and relatable.
Because I’ve seen the spectrum within my own life, and have learned how to understand, utilize and embrace both sides of the black and white – darkness and light.
Maybe you feel the same?
Like you’ve found strength in your struggle, or a lesson amidst your loss?
Because, (believe it or not!), remember my inner Satin, mentioned earlier?
STILL HAVE HER!
The only difference is, I don’t allow her crappy songs to play on cyclical repeat on the CD within my cranium.
Which leads us back to WHY the stigma needs to stop:
Our only option shouldn’t have to be feeling scared of our struggles, because there’s also an opportunity to perceive them as part of our pathway to progress and personal GROWTH.
To see struggle as a stepping stone to becoming more completely and uniquely us.
Whether we have to intentionally stand up against our “dark side” everyday or not.
Because although the stigma seems to signify that there is something weird or wrong about those who experience mental instability, we have the opportunity to challenge that dichotomy by revealing our ability to rise again for what we believe to be right – our chance at living a holistic, beautiful life.
Suffering with mental health doesn’t make you a part of the minority, SO many of us do, and it’s okay if you struggle with it too.
In fact, I want to encourage you to share and be open, (even if it’s starting with just one person), because I’ll bet you’ll find you’re not as alone as you once thought, and hopefully inspire another fellow human to feel a little less alone too.
More than that, the more people you tell- the more this movement circulates to comfort everyone in its wake.
Don’t forget to #DropTheStigma.
Because when we do, I believe less people will be scared to seek help, and our systems for support will be better able to address those in need of assistance with openness, educated honesty and integrity.
But dropping the stigma doesn’t mean mental health struggles go away completely, and if you are feeling suicidal, scared, or at risk in any way, please seek help immediately.
If you’re at a point where you are feeling ready and secure enough to explore alternate avenues to improving your state of being, let me put a word in for the Brain Revolution, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Joseph McClendon.
Because, although my most profound holistic healing journey happened well before this year, in just the few short months I’ve worked with these industry experts, they’ve transformed my thoughts about mental health on an exponential level.
However you decide to move forward from here, know that:
1. You have me – SERIOUSLY.
2. You deserve to be proud of ALL of what makes you YOU, even and especially including the tougher things life’s served up for you to work through.
3. I love you. <3