Time to Cure the Stigma

“Happy birthday. I love you,” she said in a barely discernable whisper, mustering every bit of strength she had left. I was turning 14 years old and my mom had been a breast cancer survivor. However, the dreaded disease came back with a vengeance and on April 20, 1992 I visited my mom in her hospital room for what turned out to be the last time. I was too young to fully comprehend the severity of the situation. Nonetheless, a mere 2 days later I was woken early to the news that my mom had passed away. A few weeks later, I joined the members of my church as one of the youngest by far individuals to display a white carnation honoring my now deceased mom on Mother’s Day. Ever since, my birthday and Mother’s Day have been emotional triggers for me. Even after becoming a mom myself, the months of April and May remain bittersweet. Over the past 2 plus decades, I have faced internal and external demons directly related to the grief and trauma surrounding my mom’s death and unspeakable circumstances in my family that followed. It has been an ongoing battle filled with times of great sorrow, complex (and occasional scary) thoughts, as well as periodic bursts of hope. I am grateful for my faith, friends, husband, and children who have supported me on this journey thus far, but I have recently come to realize that I need professional assistance. I have had some counseling, but not on a regular basis. There has been so much stigma in our society against people admitting they have a mental health condition, much less a need for treatment, that it has prevented me seeking proper help. I will delay no more. It has been 26 years since my mom’s passing, but it is never too late for improving one’s health. My mom spent her whole life and last breaths making me feel special and loved. I am finally ready to honor her memory not only by grieving, but by living and thriving, by taking care of myself fully and completely. It is time for my children to see that their mom is a stronger person for addressing her mental health needs. It is time to be a better me! It is time for society to have more compassion, empathy, and understanding of people like me! It is time to cure the stigma! I am writing this to show I am not ashamed. I am sharing it to empower individuals who need professional guidance to seek the help openly and confidently, without worry of what others may think nor fear of how their bosses and coworkers will react. I encourage loved ones of those diagnosed with a mental health condition to be kind, patient, and supportive. I want employers to be reasonably accommodating. I challenge society to stop thinking of people like me as “crazy” And quit using phrases such as, “Just get over it!” Yes, world, it is time to cure stigma! May is Mental Health Awareness Month. You can read more about it and the 2018 #CureStigma campaign sponsored by NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness here:

http://www.adasoutheast.org/news/articles.php?id=8724