Talking About What We Don’t Have Words For

’twas the night before election day,
when all through the house,
the committees were stirring…

just kidding.
i won’t finish that poem unless literally 1,000 people ask for it.

this really is not another election day/vote post.

this is a post about what i’ve seen across
newsfeeds, texting, messaging, tv screens, newspapers, etc.

everyone is telling us to do something.
to vote red.
to vote blue.
to vote third party.
to leave it blank.
to riot.
to put on a face mask.

and then i saw a post, just like thousands of others out there,
of a mother sad about her child’s safety precautions at school.
she said “i can vote and i can pray,
but society, we have a sickness”

it made me take a second to pause.
the first feeling i had was anger.

i was angry because i do have an illness.
one that i’m not shy about.
one that many people in this world share,
and one that is stigmatized even still.

and then i was heartbroken.
because the people out there who are undiagnosed,
the ones not on medication,
the ones not in treatment,
the ones who don’t feel safe in their own skin.

sick people are not the cause of all destruction.
sick people are people who have an illness, not a malicious heart.
people with mental illness are so much more than their diagnosis.
people like me have hopes and fears, dreams and stories.

using language that is dehumanizing
makes it that much harder for our teenagers,
young adults, fellow humans,
to come out and be honest about how they are feeling.
who would want to be the cause of all the bad things in the world?

when i was a kid,
so many adults in my life would point out my failures.
it only made me angry.
i didn’t know how else to behave.
i didn’t know how to communicate my feelings.
all i knew was that i felt like a disappointment.
so i played into that role.
i became exactly who they told me i was.

see, we are the sum of who people tell us we are.
if someone tells you every day that you are difficult, you will start to believe it.
if someone tells you that you are sick, you will believe it.

what i needed as a kid was for someone to show me how to get better.
if all we do is point and say
“you’re sick.”
what good does that do?

if someone is struggling,
if they are seemingly “failing”
if someone is not their best,
chances are,
they already know that.

pointing it out will only make them feel ashamed.
and shame is a dangerous drug this society is addicted to.
we do anything to avoid it.
including lying, hiding, and faking it.
and we shame people into being who we want them to be.

it is time we stop pointing out sicknesses,
and start showing people the road to recovery.

even if you know nothing about mental health,
all we have to say to one another is:
“i don’t know the way out, but you are not alone.”
and then stick by them every step of the way.

in my own recovery,
my therapist has asked me to do homework.

to any teacher of mine out there reading this,
be surprised:
i do it every week.

some of it is hard:
writing about certain things, entering spaces i haven’t been in awhile.
some of it is really hard:
talking to other people about my feelings.
some of it is super fun!!!!:
watching A Million Little Things.

if you haven’t heard of it,
AMLT is about a life after the unexpected suicide of a friend.
the premise is that friendship is not one big thing,
friendship is a million little things.

i get goosebumps every time.

the most recent episode shows a scene
where a character’s wife finds a suicide note he wrote.
she’s distraught. angry. confused.
the wife, through tears, yells:
“how could you not tell me? how could i not see it?”
the husband is crying and yelling
“i don’t know, i don’t know.
that’s what i’m saying.
i don’t know how to talk about it.
i have a great life, but sometimes i get sad for no reason.
and then i start to wonder
if this is the happiest i will ever get.”

my heart.

talking about mental health is hard.
talking about suicide is damn near impossible.

we have to have this conversation though.

it will be clumsy, and awkward, and difficult,
but it is the most important conversation we will have.

if you get sad sometimes even when life is really, seemingly good,
if you can’t help but cry even when nothing seems to be wrong,
if getting out of bed is hard, if having friends feels hard,
you are not alone.
i’ve been there too.
i carry the same disease in my cells.
while it will forever be a part of me,
it does not define me.

i started going to therapy.
i have a therapist i trust,
who makes me do hard things
(and yes, we can do the hard things)
and she reminds me that no matter what my brain says,
i am resilient, brave, and powerful.
that i matter.

the same words should be spoken to you.
even when your brain takes over.
depression is a liar. anxiety is a thug.
you are a superhero.

friends and family, strangers and patrons,
if you know someone struggling,
or even if you don’t know.
your words matter.
tell someone they are important.
let people know their presence is essential.

our language is important.
what you post, say, text,
can change someone.
don’t point out someone’s insecurities or shortcomings,
show them their strengths.
let what you say change someone for the better.

we all have a place at the table.
we all have a story to tell.
you have to choose to show up,
and it will be painful for a minute.
no sugar coating here.

but it will be worth it.
oh boy, will it be worth it.
take it from me.
we are so glad you are here.
i can’t wait for you to see what is in store for you, my friend.

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