We use them every day, in one way or another. They can be beautiful and heartfelt, or they can be debilitating and cruel. They have different definitions, are spoken in different languages, mean different things to different people.
Words have become such a big part of who I am today and how I express myself. There are days when they are easy; they have a natural flow to them. Other days they can be more difficult; they are stuck in a tangled mess. I like to consider myself a writer, a doodler, a collector of pretty pens that come in all sorts of colours. For as long as I can remember, I would write quotes, song lyrics, or feelings in my school agendas. From late elementary school all the way through high school. I recently found an old notebook that I have had for 14 years. It was interesting to go through it and see how much I’ve grown and how certain parts of my writing has stayed the same and some has changed. I’m always looking at new ways to incorporate different elements into my pieces. I recently connected with a cousin who like me, has a knack, a love, a gift for writing. It’s truly a passion of mine and I find I can easily share my experience as someone who lives with mental illnesses.
I know what it is like to live with a secret. I know what it is like to be terrified of letting someone in on what you’re living with because you don’t know how they will react. How do you explain to someone that you’ve been diagnosed with an illness that they can’t see? That it’s in your head, it’s your brain. It is never any easy conversation to have because the words that have been historically associated with mental illnesses are cruel, not true and hurtful. You name it I’ve probably heard it or been called it, whether it be to my face or behind my back.
“Oh, haven’t you heard she’s crazy”
“She takes pills every day”
“She won’t come to the dance floor because she says there are too many people”
I will never forget the day a former employer of mine asked me why my friends would want me in their bridal party because of you know that stuff I have…I responded that mental illness does NOT define me. (And just in case anyone if wondering I have successfully stood up in 4 of my dearest friends’ weddings.)
“Your impairment in performing the mental functions necessary for everyday life is not severe”
“We encourage you to build your resume and get more experience”
“Failed, required to withdraw”
“You can use this time stop to manage your anxiety”
“I don’t deal with student accommodations personally”
“Please send me your note from your doctor as soon as possible”
“I hope you are feeling better soon and that we see you in tomorrow for the exam!”
“You looked fine yesterday”
“Oh, so you can’t work full time hours?”
I share my words in hope of helping someone else. I talk because I’m tired of being silenced. This fight I’m faced with is just as much within myself as it is with society. If I had a dime for every time, I had my illness doubted, questioned, or ignored, I would have a shit load of dimes. Sometimes my illness is “too much” and other times it is “not severe enough”. But who gets to decide that…? I can sure as heck tell you it’s not me. It’s society not knowing what to do with me. They want to put me in one box or another, well unfortunately that doesn’t work for me.
Words can be so powerful, yet they can do so much damage.
I am here to make them powerful and use them for me and others like me.