Since it is Mental Health Awareness Week, I am sure we will hear all the ways to fight stigma and about the most vocal stigma fighters. And I believe, rightfully so, these people deserve their recognition. However they are not my focus for this post. I want to recognize and thank the silent fighters. I want to recognize those who live day to day beyond the stigma.
So what does a Silent Stigma Fighter look like? Well (s)he looks like an everyday person or “normal”. These are the people who hold 9-5 jobs. They show up to work every day and put in their best despite what they are going through on the inside. A silent fighter sees their therapist on a regular schedule according to their treatment plan. And the things is they don’t just show up, they participate. They take what their therapist is saying into actual consideration and applying it to their daily lives. These are the ones who take their medications as they are prescribed. Yet you won’t see them blasting their emotional roller coaster on social media. Chances are that most of their social network has no idea what they go through on a day to day basis. These are the champions who struggle out their bed every day to take care of their loved ones. Even when the blanket of depression may have them wrapped so very tight, they find the strength to carry out another day. They may struggle with the urge to give into mania and blow their whole paycheck on complete nonsense. Yet, they always seem to have the power to do the right thing.
The title of a Silent Stigma Fighter is not limited to those with mental illness. This title can belong to the husbands, wives, partners, aunts, mothers, fathers, or any other caretakers of those with a mental illness. If you have never personally taken care of someone with a mental illness, you need a heart of steel to do it. Life with someone with mental illness is a commitment. It is not checking in on a girlfriend after she has broken up with this month’s “love of her life”. It is making sure that they are following their treatment plan. Keeping them away from triggers. It is finding the strength to keep your loved one from giving up. It is tiring and taxing. I have met many people who wished they had the heart to be able to walk away. These are the ones who put all the weight on themselves because trying to get an outsider to understand it just too much. So silently, day by day, they care for their loved ones no different than if they didn’t have a mental illness. Because in their eyes, mental illness or not, that person is worth fighting for.
Some may say that they are not helping fight the stigma. I say to you, why not? They are not ashamed of their own illness. They just chose not to shout it off of the roof tops. I mean in the end isn’t the whole point of fighting stigma is some we can live our lives and be viewed as normal people. I think that there are plenty of voices for fighting stigma. I am sure if you looked for a blog trying to dispel mental health stigma, you would come across at least a thousand, including my own. We need more silent fighters proving to the world they have no idea what mental illness truly looks like. My favorite thing in the world is when someone claims that so-so is bipolar. I will look them in the face and say so am I. Then the look of shock will slowly overtake their face. And when they say, “You can’t be serious. I had no idea.” I glow on the inside because I know that I have changed one more mind by being a silent fighter. It is these little victories in which the world of mental health really needs. It only takes one person.
So to all of the Silent Fighters keep making a difference. Even when you think you aren’t because you aren’t shouting from the rooftops, know that you are. You are at the forefront of this battle showing the world the true face of mental health. And on behalf of the mental health community, I thank you. I know what strength it takes to make it day by day. I admire you wholly for that. Please never lose faith in yourself. Keep going one day at a time. One silent fight at a time.