photo's courtesy of my 7yr. old nephew photog :) Thanks, E.
I hate the words "mental illness". They somehow say to me that my brain is sick, my brain is less than your brain, and as such isn't good enough – is defective. So no, because I have struggle in emotional or mental areas of my life to the point where acting on suicide was a reality of my past does not give anyone the right to label me as mentally ill. To me I am just a human being who is alive and struggling, dealing, learning, and growing. To the individual who called me fragile today, I love you … yet you sparked a fire in me … this is about to get real:
Don't you dare call me "fragile" … I am not some little bird whose wings are broken and need fixing; I am not Tennessee William's Glass Menagerie; I am not fine china that you only bring out during special occasions so that you minimize the risk of damage; and more than anything, I am not something you put in a box and on the outside stamp "Handle with Care" …
I wasn't handled with care when I was in grade school and kids made fun of me because my mom "talked funny" and looked darker and different than other moms;
I wasn't handled with care when the words 1-800-Jenny-Craig were written on my desk in fifth grade and everyone laughed when I saw it;
I wasn't handled with care when I was sexually abused at the age of eleven and threatened and bullied with what would happen to me if I told;
I wasn't handled with care when I was asked out by a guy a few years ago only to have him drive a mile from my house, tell me he "made a mistake" and didn't want to date me and drove me back to my house;
I wasn't handled with care by the police when I tried to end my life a few years ago and they yelled at me in my car and told me to get out or they would force me out;
I wasn't handle with care when the arrogant psychiatrist at the hospital told me I am lucky the cops didn't charge me with driving under the influence because I tried to end my life in my PARKED car with the keys not even in it and that he felt I needed to stay in his facility to "learn my lesson" …
If ever there was a time when I needed to be handled with care it's already been mentioned so don't put me in your box and label me "fragile". I am not fragile. I am the type of strong you wouldn't even know what to do with. I am the kind of strength that was able to live more than fifteen years with a secret that ate at my soul through demons in memory and words so horrific that I still face the consequences today. I am the kind of strength that didn't allow myself to hurt others like I had been hurt; the kind of strength that held onto a belief in God and a hope to one day fully understand that he can love me and that His loving me isn't manifested in fulfilling my every wish or want. I am the kind of strength that has faced hours, days, weeks, and years alone at the end of every night when I wanted anything but to be alone.
When was the last time it took you three hours to get out of your house because anxiety crippled your every muscle even as you screamed within your mind that there was nothing to be afraid of in walking out your door and facing the world? I have lived a life where that was an almost daily occurrence and to face that is strength in my eyes, not fragility …
I have sat in a psych ward of a hospital, stripped of my humanity and treated like nothing while doing math problems in my head as a last ditch effort to hold it together; so I wouldn't lose my cool, so I wouldn't let them see me panic, so there wouldn't be something else for them to hold against me.
I am privileged to work with children and parents who have gone through some of the most horrible things imaginable and what you would see as fragile and what society would sometimes see as "mentally ill" I see and know as power, as strength. They wake up, and most days they go to school or work, and they come to therapy to get help facing fear, embarrassment, sadness, humiliation, anger, panic, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares of the sleeping or waking variety; sometimes they fail but that's ok. Failure doesn't minimize their strength in my eyes, it makes me want to be there with them even more – to let them know that I see them, I am with them.
If my life, as well as working with others who have faced trauma, pain, and anguish of the mental and emotional type, has taught me anything - it is that vulnerability and fragility are not the same thing and the mistaking of the two needs to stop. When you saw me sharing who I was and being real about the struggles I have had, continue to have, and know I will have for years to come, that has been me finally understanding that vulnerability is power and strength. The only way I am going to make it through this life is by harnessing that strength and stepping out of the shadows that have been my home for far too long.
I am far from fragile - and the billions of other people who wake up around the world each and every day, even and most especially when they don't understand how to or want to, aren't fragile either, they are stronger than they know. So ... the next time you feel the need to handle me with care ... please don't. I got this.
Boom. Drop the mic.
** or gingerly set it down ... one can never be too careful :) **