Mental illness has so many faces. It is our best friends, family members near and dear to us, coworkers and those who we think have it all together. These are all people that at some point face an invisible demon that they just can’t feel comfortable comforting or allowing others into their lives to understand what the are going through. Alarmingly, 1 in 4 Americans are impacted by mental illness and it can completely gut their lives and the lives of their loved ones. It’s a crushingly, debilitating illness that is invisible and does not get the recognition it deserves by health professionals. It is also an illness that doesn’t not get enough public awareness. The homeless guy yelling at himself could have schizophrenia, the lady flipping me off in her car could be suicidal, and the perfectly perfect individual could be lacking self confidence. We are all human. We’re not crazy, we’re humans with disorders or illnesses that have either been misdiagnosed, unrecognized or lacking the proper support to understand what they are going through and provide proper medical attention.
This year has seen its trials and tribulations. I have never questioned life so much than I did this year and it started with mental illness. I wish there was a way I could fix it, change events, but I know that can’t happen. But this week, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) came out with a new campaign that resonated with me. I’ve been thinking of a short mantra that resonated with me during my runs. Something that I could tell myself over an over again when I’m doubting anything and this was it. I Will Listen. Three short words, that mean so much more. Words that mean I won’t judge, I’m here as a shoulder to cry on, a voice to be heard and not someone who has to fix the situation, but can help the situation. I try so hard to try and fix things, make the resolution that I would do, but every person needs to figure it out on their own. So, I will listen. I will listen. And focus less on trying to fix things.
I now think twice when I see someone that may not act right. Yes, there are often environmental issues such as drug addictions that muddy the waters, but when I see someone talking to themselves or acting irrational, I remind myself that they too are human. They didn’t ask to be that way. They may not know how to fix it, or have the support to fix it. So listen. Be there and listen. Fight the stigma and help raise awareness about mental awareness instead of making fun of these people.
The photo is of a beach in Folly Beach, SC – one of my happy places and memories of the year