Friday, July 27, 2018

Belief in the Possibility

People rise out of the ashes, because, at some point, 
they are invested with a belief in the possibility of triumph 
over seemingly impossible odds.
 – Robert Downey Jr.

Often when there is a high profile celebrity relapse, or worse yet, when a celebrity loses their life to suicide, the media focus is on the hopelessness of mental illness and addiction. And it's true, we do have a long way to go. But, the situation is not hopeless.

When these things happen, advocates step up (myself included) and bemoan the state of mental health care in this country. We share disturbing statistics that speak to the critical need for more effective treatment for mental illness and addiction. There is a subset of people who find the courage to step forward and say: "I suffer from mental illness too! I suffer from addiction as well! It's awful."

All of the above voices are important, and we must continue with these efforts to make changes and to destigmatize issues having to do with mental health.

But sometimes we forget that when suicide and addiction have become headline news, those of us who struggle with these conditions are particularly rocked. When our role models suffer a relapse or lose their life to suicide, we are confronted with a frightening sense of hopelessness. Often the media is bombarding us with images and details we don't know how to process, and now through social media we experience a barrage of other people's opinions - not all of them supportive or kind.

What we are in need of is people willing to stand up and say: I have been in the same place as the celebrity, and a relapse or depressive episode does not have to mean the end. 

In the face of desperate sadness and loss, we need heroes who have been there to step forward and remind us that we do make it through, as well.

Until we have better treatment modalities and until we know more about mental illness and addiction, we will continue to lose people. That is true. But I want to remind you that most of us survive. Please remember that. If you have suffered from addiction and mental illness, and are managing it well now ~ please take a moment to remind those who are still suffering that there is hope. If you have suffered from relapses or attempts, but are doing well now, please take a moment to let us know that relapses do not mean that you have failed and they do not mean that recovery is impossible. Please, take a moment to let people know - we survive.

I will start:

I have been where Demi Lovato is. I have suffered in similar ways and had relapses, and breakdowns, and have nearly lost my life to mental illness. I have been there.

For today though, I am ok. Today, I am glad to be here. 

Today, I am a survivor.

If you are struggling with these same issues, and you are reading this, remember that you are a survivor too.