I thought since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I definitely needed to post something in my blog. At first I wasn't very successful, trying to give facts, when what I really wanted to do here is to share what I know from personal experience. So here it is:
Coming from a family filled with mental illness, I think the first thing that comes to mind is the isolation that you feel. I felt that no one would ever understand my daughter or me or the complexities that our family faces ever single day. At first you just want to hide it, protect the person with the illness. I remember spending years doing that with my daughter. Slowly I realized that may not be the best thing for any of us. Why should we have to hide the fact that our daughter has a mental illness? Would we hide it if she had cancer or some other physical illness?
Once I began sharing (with my daughter's permission)about our struggle, I was amazed at the responses I got! Most people said they had a mental illness or knew someone close to them who did. Many thanked me for my candor and thought me speaking out about it was terrific! I had no idea so many people were out there suffering in silence! It felt good to step out of the shadows and share our family's story. And that's when my art really took a wonderful turn. I had an outlet to express what my daughter and my family was facing. I could share it with the world and maybe, just maybe, help someone deal with their struggle along the way!
We have all seen or heard about the down sides to mental illness, so I wanted to concentrate here on the positive! I want people to know that people with mental illness are amazing! Not only do they have to go through life's normal trials and tribulations like the rest of us, but they are combating an illness and stigma about that illness, too. My daughter, Ashley, shines so brightly, sometimes it can hurt to look at her! She never does anything half way, she is like a gale-force wind that you can only stand in the wake of with awe. Her brain thinks differently and so that makes her so unique and interesting. The last thing I would ever call her is boring!
Ashley is now studying to get her PhD in Psychology. She believes this is her destiny, to help people deal with the mental illness she is dealing with, Borderline Personality Disorder. She hopes to concentrate on this illness and find new therapies to help people. Such a positive outcome, after a very tragic beginning! Her story can give hope to those struggling with mental illness. There was a time she couldn't even go to school or work. Now she is getting straight A's this semester and able to work, too.
So my message to anyone struggling with mental illness is... don't give up. It may take years to get back on track, but it can be done. Don't be afraid to ask for help. As we have experienced, it is well worth it!