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Be the voice they don't have.

Me, mental illness, stigma and speaking out.

This is my experience as I know mental illness, stigma and speaking out. I have a very unique journey, from both sides of the world, one being the “special needs” community, and the other being the isolated world of “mental illness”. Because for some reason God chose to let my children live with a variety of challenges, whether you consider them, “invisible disabilities, high functioning, special needs, intellectual disabilities, mentally challenged, developmentally delayed, etc” the list goes on and on and I am so used to it, that those are just words now. I could care less. I use them myself because that’s how some can identify with what I’m explaining. I do however care when it comes to offensive derogatory words or stigma!

As a caregiver & mom of children who are living with mental health challenges, and developmental delays and when my world became flipped upside down and torn to shreds in those intense “Never would have imagined this could happen to me” moments, I went thru various stages of emotions.

First, was the “why” phase. When I ask God why is this happening to my child? Second, was the “anger” phase. When I grew angry at the fact that life as I once knew It, became a stranger to me and there was nothing that could be done to change what was standing and existing right in front of me. Then came the “what, how, when, why” phase. This is where things seemed like it was going to remain stuck in turmoil and all the questions came into play. What if they never bounce back to their normal self? What if they will never be able to overcome this? What if I have lost the child I once knew before? What will their future look like? What if others find out what they’ve went through, will they be treated different? What if I lose friends myself? How did this happen? When did things change? Did I miss something? Why did it happen? Who do I turn to for help? Who can I talk to about such personal and scary stuff without being stigmatized? These were just some of my concerns and questions when my world flipped upside down the first time, during my son’s 8th grade year.

Now, nearly 6 years later. After having educated my own self about mental health and mental illnesses, and becoming involved with advocacy. My questions and concerns, and feelings have shifted. Now I ask. Why don’t people want to learn more about mental illnesses, and symptoms and how to identify a person in crisis? When will others realize that mental illnesses are brain disorders and they are caused by something medical, yet it’s mostly always labeled as “mental” so it’s dismissed that bipolar, schizophrenia are medicaly related? What if it was YOU, what if this happened to you, how would you want others to treat you? Why does the media continue to make every person living with mental illness look like a evil person? When are we going to see the people who are living successfully with mental illness? When are we going to see the commercials that someone with bipolar 1 disorder, overcame and graduated college? What would you do if your own brain had some thing similar to a heart attack? Why does there seem to be a separation between a person who has Autism, versus a person who has both Autism and Bipolar 1? Or has one but not the other? How would you feel if you were stigmatized because your child became diagnosed with Autism or Bipolar? And people said you must be cursed because your kids have issues? Why is it even okay that the media is allowed to portray false representations of mental illness?How can we eradicate stigma? What’s it going to take to eradicate stigma? Why isn’t it mandatory to be educated to the student body in high schools nationwide and staff? When will ER staff learn how to respond and what to do effectively in a mental health crisis? When will others learn that mental illness isn’t like a cold that you can catch? When will others see that NOT every individual who has a mental illness also has a drug addiction? When will people realize that NO one, NOT one person is exempt from becoming mentally ill? I say that to drive home a point, and some can disagree and maybe this is my angry phase once again, but when are people going to realize that just as much and as “normal” as my son was prior to his mental break, and as healthy as he ate and athletic as he is, and intelligent as he is, IT still wasn’t enough to keep bipolar from blowing our way and impacting his life. He was born on time, no complications, met every milestone on time or early in his development. Smart as a whip. So it doesn’t matter who you are, how healthy you eat, how active you are, what your age is, because for us, it was like one day this, and the following day literally EVERYTHING CHANGED! So learn about mental health, educate yourself. What happened to my family, can very well at any time happen to yours. Just as similar as a person who has a sudden cardiac arrest after sailing along thru life just fine, this is how I felt my son was suffering from a sudden misfire in his brain. And I truly hope and pray that one day we can find prevention, that mental illness can be detected early in children, instead of waiting until 18 to get a diagnosis. I hope that EEG’s or blood tests one day will be able to identify specifics of what looks like bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, borderline. I pray for everyone to become better informed. Especially those who are in uniforms and in a first responder role, so they can help people receive appropriate and effective treatment. I pray that mental health laws would enforced with better outcomes for both the individual and the caregiver. I pray that there would be a better more efficient way to identify someone in a mental health crisis, rather than ALWAYS having to treat them as if their on drugs or high off of them just because some symptoms are presently the same. Yet every second is crucial for a persons brain and the trauma it is going thru. I pray for better science and medical treatment.

When will the media begin showing the positive successes of individuals who live with mental illness as college graduates, high school honor students, successful engineers, game developers? Instead of always portraying the few that have had not so good outcomes. Yet the media always shows the person who commits a violent crime, and quick to mention their “mentally ill” but fails to often mention the other facts that they’ve stopped taking their medication and began self medicating.

Mental illnesses aren’t what causes evil. Evil meditations cause people to become evil, not the mental illness. I’m just saying from experience, not all people who have a mental illness are evil. Yes its possible for an evil person to have a mental illness, but again its not the mental illness that drives evil.

Mental illness often times gets the blame for heinous crimes. This is why stigma continues. Because we’re missing all the facts people! It seems like whenever a heinous crime is in the media, and Mental illness is mentioned, that alone overshadows all the remaining components to that person’s character and choices which influenced their decision to commit a heinous crime.

Mental illness is often depicted in movies as something “crazy”, “psycho”, or “dark”, “evil” because they take a character, write that he has a Mental illness and portray him as such horrific things. And this is what we support people. To those who like those horror flicks, or killer movies, which in my opinion feeds the stigma. You’ll NEVER get it, until or unless someone near and dear to you becomes sick with a mental illness. Then and only then will you view things in a different light, will you then become a little more sensitive to things you never were before. Anyways, I know what I know and so it doesn’t and will not matter what others opinions are to my own facts as I have lived them. There’s an old saying, just keep on living and after while…….

I guess I can’t expect everyone to get it! Especially those who haven’t lived a similat journey. And btw, no it’s not all peaches and cream. It’s a lot of sleepless nights, walking on eggshells, and alot of effort goes into continual caregiving and giving a care. But when you’ve walked a similar path to that of mine, then and only then will you get it. If you have questions, please contact me privately, don’t post a long comment.

Anyways….

The people I have met are very inspiring. They are some of the most kind-hearted, fragile, soft spoken, upbeat, funny, energetic, loving, compassionate individuals I have ever met.

I have had a very unique opportunity to meet individuals who are battling everyday with their mental health, yet because their mental illness is “invisible” to others, their mixed in and combined within the general pool of applicants, students, interns, positions, classes, etc. And to their credit, it is no ones business unless they choose to share that they battle depression, Anxiety, bipolar, etc. Yet these same individuals are just as successful, have graduated with honors, have went onto college, have become famous athletes, have became well known in society, but only few have chose to break their silence and share their journey of how they have not allowed their mental illness to cripple them. I wish anyone who has a respectable platform who has fought tooth and nail, would share to inspire others, educate the general public, and give hope to family members.

I am like Martin Luther King Jr, and I too have a dream. I dream that one day every person will be educated about mental illness and eradicate stigma that continues to exist due to ignorance and false representations. I dream that one day there will be a medical procedure to quickly and accurately identify people who are in mental health decline, rather than treating them as a drug addict or violent aggressor. I dream that we will find a cure for mental illness. I dream for a better future for individuals who live with bipolar, schizophrenia, ptsd, ADHD, autism, aspergers, borderline personality, and all others. I dream that I will live long too see change for the better. I dream that there would be equal compassion for every one who battles an illness, cancer, disease or life impacting, debilitating sickness. I dream that individuals who battle with mental illness will receive just as much compassion as individuals who battle cancer or autism or other life altering ailments.

If you’ve read this and are out of touch, uninformed or misinformed please take and make time to become in touch, informed and accurately educated about how to help someone in crisis. You could save a life!

To those who follow the articles I write, once again, thank you for being here. I know it’s been awhile. I appreciate your support and don’t take it lightly. And thank you to those who share my articles on their social platforms and outlets.

Blessings to all! – E. Brooks

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