Day 10 of 100, intentional, reflective steps.
Often when we pass the homeless our internal radar says “addict” or “mentally ill.” We shake our head, mentally make the sign of the cross and fling a “bless them” prayer out the car window. There is a sneaky, haughty, subconscious voice in me that has made a “them” category in my brain.
I comfort myself with the idea that I have always been accepting ofthe mentally ill. I have advocated for “their” meds and therapy. I have tried to be non-judgemental. Until I was the one who was facing a diagnosis. The mirror of self realization is like a 360 dressing room mirrors in the fluorescent light of judgment. Horrifying. The instant it dawned on me that I was struggling with mental illness, self imposed judgment began swirling around me like Hitchock’s birds.
Where once learning disorders, depression/anxiety and addictions were completely unacceptable to talk about, it has now become open forum. However, when you tag anybody with “mental illness” fear, judgment and feelings of superiority/insuperiority enter the picture. The truth is depression and anxiety are mental illnesses. Some can be treated with exercise, food choices, less caffeine, etc. However, some is chemical and needs medication, just like all other medical illnesses.
My challenge has been this. Shame. I feel shameful admitting that I need a team of professionals to keep me on the level. Even though I know accepting the help of others does not diminish me as a person at all I feel shame. In fact admitting the complexities of my illness does not diminish me either. I am like so many others that I love and deeply respect, on a journey of health and wholeness. My goal? To walk this journey on a road paved with gratitude for all those who walk with me and those who help me stay on the path. Less judgment. More gratitude.
Side lesson: I am attempting to acknowledge myself and others by their personhood before their ailment. “A baby with Down’s Syndrome” rather than “that downs syndrome baby.” “Jill has mental illness/depression” rather than “Jill is mentally ill.” Words matter.