One of the nice things about having voices across the spectrum, people who have roles in all walks of life – personal and professional – is that we can really get some different input and perspective on the question about being open with our mental health diagnoses. Is it so wrong to hide it from people? Does that silence ultimately contribute to misunderstanding and stigma? If you want to be an advocate, are you in any position to be one if you will speak and discuss it anonymously online, but will not fight the fight and “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in your daily life, amongst people whom you face every day?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life for his beliefs. Would you? What about for your children? In case you haven’t heard, if you are diagnosed with a mental health issue the odds of your child having one increase quite considerably. What will you say to your child when you tell them that depression is not anything they should be ashamed of, and they look at you and ask, “Then why did you hide it from people, Mom?”
Of course there’s the right now to be considered. Holding down a job so that you can feed and clothe and give your child everything they need to grow successfully into adults. But what does your child need more, the expensive brand name top, or a strong, positive role model who stands up to what society says and refuses to kowtow to what is considered normal?
This doesn’t just speak to them having a model for dealing with mental health issues, either. This addresses everything from wearing the latest fad to sex to drug use to sexual identity. How can you tell your child to stand up to their peers on the one hand, and be afraid to do the same yourself?
I’m very fortunate. My work allows me the freedom to be completely honest about myself and my diagnoses with my employers and not only retain my job, but be loved and respected for what I do. Would you like to know what that is?
I work with children. In a one-on-one, unsupervised environment. Sometimes for long hours, frequently during hectic days (are there any other kind, with kids). My parents have told me repeatedly that they would rather have their children in my care than the care of someone who does not carry a diagnosis. The kids have seen me snap before, but what caregiver hasn’t? The kids have wanted me to go outside and chase them around, and I’ve been too exhausted so I pop in a video. Raise your hand if you’re a parent and you have never done that.
The kids have also experienced magical days when we paint and bake cookies and make tents in the living room and I clean it all up after they have gone down for their naps. I color with them and sing while I make lunch and never forget the necessaries when we’re running errands.
Do you know what they see most of all? Balance. Strength and frailty and humanity. I am not a mess, and I am not Superwoman. But we talk a lot about things that most kids don’t get to discuss. True differences and uniquity and loving yourself, everything about yourself. Never making someone feel badly because they aren’t the same as you, and apologizing if you do it.
We celebrate each and every thing that sets them apart from the crowd. Red hair or painting or their love of dolls. Thinking creatively and looking at things differently (that’s my favorite).
So come on, all, come out from the shadows. Come show the world that we are parents and professionals and writers and students and sales clerks and everything that they are. Put a face with these labels. If you can’t find the ability to do it for yourself, do it so that the next generation doesn’t have quite such a fight facing them.
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