Doing a weekly post for GMP is certainly a great opportunity to share my journey and at times my personal opinions on mental health. I have discussed stigma/discrimination, dating and recovery among many other topics. I am grateful to the good people at GMP for my use of their stage.
Since I started writing for GMP and as I have always striven to do as I have written for other websites, I consider how to raise certain topics as well as I consider the structure of the post.
I tend to try to share stories from my journey through mental illness and the subsequent years as I’ve healed in order to connect with people. I want to explain what happened to me, how I felt, what the challenges were in seeking recovery. I am not an expert. I don’t profess to have the “best post.” I am simply a person who was ill, and now I am healthy. Sure, there were 16 years of darkness, lots of troubling times to share, but I am still only a person. I will never belittle my depression, one cannot dismiss such a devastating illness.
Noting the idea of “best posts” to read, I understand the need to promote, but at the same time, who determines what is the best? I can accept the “most read posts,” those that are popular. But, I have trouble with the concept of “best posts” given the subject topics. We are not competing. We are discussing real people with real challenges.
Mind you, based on what I have been told, I consider the sharing of my journey to be important and helpful. As the “special one” told me last year, I write like I speak, but I speak better than I write.
I don’t lecture in my writings or in my speeches.
I find the lists that seem to appear on many sites attempting to rationalize health under a roster of what to do or not do. I even tried my hand at a listicle in a previous GMP post, where I provided a list of what not to do. I didn’t like writing it. I wondered who am I to dilute such a serious topic into such a short format?
I came from a world where checklists and structure were essential. I lived according to lists, one for work and even a personal to-do list. Now however, I find myself in a different place dealing with deeply personal topics. It seems inappropriate to put health matters into the form of a list.
I find some list articles to be too set or structured to even address mental illness in an honest manner. A list is meant to be a reminder, not the substance. I can accept health lists predicated on this understanding.
I do appreciate and recognize that the list posts are quite popular and have a role in the overall conversation. It seems most websites offer them. I fully respect the writers and their contribution. I am merely stating my view that topics on health, in particular mental health, where we are trying to explain and educate people on what mental illness does to people, also requires stories.
Seems there’s no better time for a pertinent story then.
A few years ago, I was invited to serve on a Nova Scotia Provincial Advisory Committee on Recreation for Mental Health project. It was Recreation Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University’s and the Canadian Mental Health Association’s initiative.
I tend to be quiet at a meeting until I understand the topics people want to discuss and the logistics involved with a group of people sitting around a boardroom table. I did the same when I practiced law. Then I get vocal. This group didn’t really understand the impact of mental illness on the daily lives of people. Few had heard stories from people with lived experience. I readily shared my mine. I have lots. The “special one” enjoyed my ramblings.
Jumping ahead to this past spring, at a Provincial Symposium organized by this Recreation project, half of the presentations were from people with lived experience telling their stories. I launched the Symposium with my own.
The Dalhousie University research team of the project concluded the most important item to include in any event or in their research reports were the stories of people who live with mental illness. We are important!
I know I don’t have all the answers to assist others. I simply tell my story, explain what happened to me and what steps I took to get healthy. If my sharing can help even one person who is struggling, then my day is complete.
I know people with mental illness are weary of being told what we need to do to get healthy. Some assistance is essential. Yes, even a list can be helpful. We need to play a role though, we need to be part of the recovery process.
We don’t want special treatment, we want respectful treatment. We want to be part of society, no longer dismissed, our stories not reduced to a list.
“I got something in motion
Something you can’t see
It requires devotion
From those who truly believe
This is something you can’t touch
This is something you feel
For some people its too much
For some people it heals”
~Gary Clarke Jr.
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