We need you to be proud.
We need you to replace the word “sufferer” with the word “survivor”. We need you to avoid speaking of yourself as a mental illness sufferer. We need to tell people that you are a mental illness survivor.
We need you to tell the world “I’m a survivor”.
We need you to say to the world, “You’ve heard of cancer survivors? You’ve heard of heart attack survivors? Well, I’m a Mental Illness Survivor and I’m proud of that.”
We need you to remind others that this is an illness, not dissimilar from other illnesses and that, like those, this too can and does kill. We need you to inform those who don’t know that. We need you to be a proud example of someone who has survived. We need you to get a bit puffed-up about the fact that you fight the Piggyback Guy every damn day and that you win. That each next breath is proof of what a badass you are. We need you to do this for those that can’t. Those that are not quite there yet. We need you to give them hope.
We need you to own it.
We need you to speak about your experience openly, honestly, and without shame. When people ask questions, no matter how stupid, we need you to reply with the best answers you can give. We need you to help others who don’t understand what it means to live with a mental illness. To live each day with your brain often, actively, trying to get you to die. We need you to let them know that not everyone is the same and it’s different for everyone but that one thing is the same and that is, if it is left unchecked, it can and does kill.
We need you to get help when you need it.
We need you to tell people it’s OK to need to talk to someone about this. That it’s OK to need to take medication. That sometimes you may need to pick up the phone and call a hotline, or phone a friend who gets it. That, maybe, you might need to spend some time at a hospital or in a care facility. That this is what people who have an illness sometimes have to do. That this is how they get better.
We need you to take care of yourself.
We need you to be kind to yourself. We need you to follow the “life mask rule” (put yours on before assisting others). We need you to take it easy on the hard days and to be a symbol of hope for others on the good ones. We need you to be OK with not being OK and OK with being OK when you are OK. Because being OK takes a bit of extra work for many of us. Be happy that you are.
We need you to be there for the others that aren’t.
We need you to show others they can beat this. That it does not have to kill you. Because, here’s the deal. When folks like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain die because of this illness, many of us who are deep in it ourselves say, “Damn. If they can’t beat it then how can I?”. We need you to be a living shining example of one who has survived. Who continues to survive. Who continues to thrive.
We need you to be an ambassador.
We need you to tell the world that mental health is everyone’s issue. That if they have a brain then mental health matters to them personally. That this is why it is important to support mental health research and mental health organizations and mental health causes. Not just for the survivors they know, but for themselves too. Let people know that everyone — everyone — has some mental health crisis at some point in their lives. Let them know that they may not have an illness but may need a bit of extra support during such times. Let them know that this is OK to and that there is no shame in it and that this is why supporting mental health as a cause benefits everyone.
We need you to know that you matter.
That every single Mental Illness Survivor is proof that we can beat this. That it can and does get better. That there is hope. That there is dignity. That they are deserving of our respect.
I’m a mental illness survivor. And, no matter who or where or how you are, I need you with me on this.