What does community mean to you?
I have lately been thinking a lot about this. Community. What does it mean? Is it just the community in which you reside in? Is it family, or neighbors? Community is people that you are connected to in some way, shape, or form. People who are there for you and supportive. They are your people. I used to think I had a community. I had a lot of people in my life, and at that time, that is how I perceived community, just a whole bunch of people in your life.
But, it really isn`t.
It`s about connecting, and being connected to people who support you, and even understand.
They offer empathy and compassion for you, and whatever you are going through. They are your people. Your community celebrates with you through the good, and happy, and then they are there for you when and if you fall.
So what about community and mental health?
We all have Mental Health, right? Just like we all have physical health. Whether or not we have a mental illness, or we struggle, or don`t struggle, we still have mental health, just like we all have bodies in which we all care for our physical health.
Mental Health still carries such a stigma, and it is so unfortunate, because I think it stops so many from speaking up and getting the help, and of course help comes in so many forms, I don`t even mean medication. If we just talked about it more, it would become more normalized, and we could help others feel support and comfortable.
I remember when I finally opened up to my medical community about how I was feeling.
Until this point I had sort of tip-toed around it, but never actually said it. I was exercising, and eating healthy and all these things that you are supposed to do, but my mental health was so bad that it was affecting my entire life. I felt like I couldn`t function.
I never talked about it before because it felt like I had failed. It felt like I had done something so wrong, and this is how I had to make it right. Then, I was filled with huge amounts of guilt, because I am a mother with 3 beautiful children, how could I feel this way?
Before this point, I remember telling myself that it was a phase. It would change. I would try so hard to change how my mind was thinking. Some things I would try are, to work out harder, thinking it would make me feel better, eating even healthier, and trying to add more self-care into my daily routine.
How could someone feel SO bad, and have such a great life? I couldn`t say it to my doctor. She thought I had it all together, and on the outside that is what it likely looked like.
I have great children, a wonderful husband, and together we make a lovely family. I am very involved with my children, and on top of every single thing health, school, family, sport, etc. I bake cookies for bake sales, go to every single event at the school, etc. I am my kids hugest cheerleader. I power through and give them the mother they deserve.
So how could I possibly admit openly, that this was a mask?
That what you can see, is not what it actually is. And I think that it`s like this for so many people. On the outside it looks amazing, but no one can see the inside of us. And I think as time goes on, and on, and we live this role essentially, and everything looks amazing from the outside, we lose ourselves more and more.
We become so detached from real life, and so lost in our head.
We are so in tune with the role we play that now it just feels normal to do it. Smiling at people, we laugh when we should, we look put together outside of the house, but in secret, we suffer.
As parents I think there is a lot of pressure to parent a certain way, drive a certain car, have your children involved in certain things, even what to dress your children in. There`s pressure to look a certain way, and then how many events did you volunteer at. So, we put our masks on, and keep going.
At least, that`s what I did.
So, when I actually was honest with my doctor, I was at such a bad point. I had to get help or it wasn`t going to end well. It’s possible that it was shocking for her a bit, because again, on the outside, it looked like I had it all together. And that`s not to say I didn`t. But, maybe I don`t look like the face of mental illness, but mental illness wears many faces.
I wish that I had asked for help earlier. In return, I suffered longer than I needed to.
I think that once I started writing, I started to become really in tune to how I was feeling. Writing things down made it real to me, and then I could cope through whatever it was. Writing, brought community.
So, community to me, and for me, aren`t in person people, besides my husband and children. They are people who reach out to me, and I reach out to them. They are the ones cheering me on, and celebrating, and I for them.
The mental health community on Twitter is absolutely amazing.
They are so accepting, and you can be who are really are, and feel what you really feel, all masks off, and that is a truly beautiful thing. Community, and belonging to community brings a feeling of acceptance, and that I am not alone. Knowing that I am not alone, it makes going through day-to-day life that much easier.
Knowing that other people share so openly, and so raw and honest, makes it comfortable for me to also. It helps me recognize what my feelings even are, and inspires me to be honest with myself.
I have done so much healing being involved in community. It has literally changed my life.
I am so open and honest about my mental illness, and openly talk about how I am feeling. No longer feeling shame, I don’t feel the need to hide anymore.
Community helps the ones who maybe aren`t there yet. They maybe aren`t at the point of being honest with themselves yet. Maybe they don`t even realize they need help, or that they would benefit from help. But with community, and seeing, and hearing other people, we can inspire others to speak up. To not feel shame.
There is no shame in having a mental illness, or struggling with your mental health.
It wears the face of many, and you really never know who it is hidden in. Please, when you talk to people, or meet people, etc. remember this. Remember we don`t know their story, and we don`t know their mind or body. Spread kindness.
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