The Face of Mental Illness


It’s me. It’s you. It’s your neighbor. Your mother, your brother, your best friend. It can be any of us and all of us.

I sit here today feeling somehow less of a person because of my challenges. Fighting against the seeming dark forces of depression, fatigue and a headache of unknown origin.  I feel somehow less valuable (at the moment) to the world, although I have so much to contribute. It’s part of the lie, the lie that we are told if we are labeled with a mental health issue or illness, the lie that we are less.

Not all days do I feel like this, if I did, I wouldn’t be smiling happily in the picture above. Most days I want to work for a greater good, help others, and create change. I want to let others know about the hope that I feel most of the time now. I want to educate, inspire, and help eradicate the stigma the seeps into all of our lives.

On Twitter this afternoon, an article was tweeted that reminds me of a vision I have for myself and I hope to achieve. This article speaks of  a woman who is creating change in the world by speaking to students about the realities of suicide and she speaks from her own experience, having lost her daughter to suicide just a few years ago. I have often envisioned speaking to students about suicide and depression, with the hope that my own experience with these issues can somehow help them to know they are not alone, to understand better what goes on in the mind of a person who is suicidal, and to provide hope for those who are struggling with depression.

The inner workings of the depressed mind can be so illusive and yet, so many experience it, they just don’t talk about it. This quote below describes the torment of living with this illness at it’s worst. From the book Darkness Visible by William Styron:

“For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devastation would be lying flat in bed. … However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations.”

Additionally, from the article cited above, this quote resonates so deeply with me:

“And it’s not pain you can look at. If I break my leg and it hurts, I can scream and scream and point at my twisted leg with maybe a femur or tibia poking out to help emphasize my point. But when your soul, your inner being, your mind, is hurt … you can’t scream and point.”

While we can’t point at it, we can bring attention to it. We can share it, we can tell others about it. I am working to organize a blogging event called, “Shatter Stigma with Your Story!” Let me know if you are interested in participating and watch the blog and the discussion linked above on WEGO Health for information about the date and “how-to’s” of the event.

I am one of the many faces of mental illness and I am not less. Let’s share this truth together, for all of those who are challenged by mental health issues.

Una Vita Bella – The Community

I have been wanting to find a way to bring  more community to my blog. Since I am unable to afford the creation of a brand new site, I decided to create a network on Ning. I called it, “Una Vita Bella”, of coarse, with the sole purpose of creating a community focused on living beautifully while challenged with chronic pain, chronic illness and mental health issues.

I am very excited about this opportunity to connect with others and to share my vision. Like I said in my inaugural discussion there, a community is formed by it’s members, but  my vision is the foundation, and what a privilege it is to lay that down!

I would love for  you to join me there, share your life, your experiences and your wisdom! The doors are open and you will find a handful of members already there to connect with!

Una Vita Bella – The Community


Remember to Breathe

I can feel it coming… the tension, the pressure, the mounting confusion.

And then it passes.

But before I know it, it is back again.

Stress. Tension. Confusion.

Deep breath.

Headaches, body aches, fatigue.

Deep breath.

Expectations. Broken promises. Unrealized dreams.

Deep breath.

Commitments. Engagements. Tasks.

Deep breath.

It begins to be difficult to breathe.

Guilt. Shame. Fear.

It suffocates me.

And then I breathe, and I remember who I am.

Let’s Talk Turkey, No Bull

A Turkey.
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not the first person to acknowledge this, nor will I be the last, but I think it’s important to say… I understand.

Holidays can be hard, difficult, they can downright suck for some people. While for the majority of us there is so much to be thankful for and great gratitude truly does fill our heart, there are so many who are unable to feel that or experience it, or even if they do, it’s still just hard.

Most Thanksgivings I am overwhelmed with exhaustion at some point during the day, often due to a combination of just being me with fibromyaglia and complete sensory overload (translate anxiety) due to the large amount of people and family gathered in one place. Large social gatherings are tough for me, even with family. There is so much preparation to do in advance as well as during the day, that it’s tiring, even for those who don’t have fibromyalgia.

I am happy that this year will be a very small and intimate Thanksgiving for the most part. I think it is going to be a lot of fun! My body is sore this morning and I am having a tough time getting in motion, but once I move, I’m sure it will be better.

I think of the many, many people who are dealing with a condition much more severe than mine at the moment, or who are in a great deal of pain today. I know that misery and I pray for no one to experience it, especially today. But, the reality is there are still many people in pain, in the hospital, in treatment facilities for mental health issues, facing all kinds of pain today. I am humbled and thankful that I am not in that spot, today. But there have been Thanksgivings where I have been “there”. I have been inpatient for depression during the Thanksgiving holiday once before. I have had holidays ruined by pain.

For those who are in that place of pain, I offer this…

I know it stinks. I know it’s horrible. I wish you comfort and relief and I pray that your pain will be lessened, that you will know you are not alone today.

Although I cannot offer, nor am I qualified in any remote manner to offer, medical advice of any kind, I can give you this “medicine”… you are loved and cared for. You may feel completely alone, but there are people who care and understand. I believe I am one of them. No bull.

Be good to you today, only do what you can, and perhaps you can look to the “little things” for big doses of thankfulness. That is where I often find it the most.

How About a #PainChat on Twitter?

So, as you know, I deal with pain, and many of you deal with pain, too. So how about we start a chat on Twitter for those dealing with chronic pain? I would call it #PainChat. I would love for it to have a sort of health activist tone about it, as well as being a resource and support.

You may know that I already have the #MHSM or Mental Health and Social Media Chat going on Tuesday evenings (with a huge amount of help from my partner Cindy @NAMIMass) and rarely am I able to moderate it personally any longer because of the time of day in addition to my obligations to my family. I would likely propose a morning or midday chat for this one. I would love to hear about any thoughts and interest.

Would you participate?