I was at a NAMI support group the other night as they always bring in guest speakers. At the end of the speech, which turned into more of a discussion, one of the attendees told me I should be a motivational speaker and another told me I should write. I chuckled because I currently do both of those things.
The best part of hearing those remarks was that I was absolutely not in the mood to do that presentation. This past week was pretty rough and I can admit I am emotionally spent. I complained to myself the entire time that I didn’t want to do this speech and that I was a fraud because I tell people in my speeches to be positive and love themselves and this week I have done neither of those. How could I tell people to seek out self-love, if I was so angry with myself and the world around me? How could I tell people to be positive, when every positive affirmation I said to myself this week was quickly wiped away by a stronger negative statement? How could I tell people to seek help when I could barely find the words to say that I was struggling?
But then my fiance (who loves these shout-outs in my blogs) told me that it was okay to feel this way and that I wasn’t a fraud at all, but that I could use the pain I was experiencing, in my presentation. And that was the first moment all week, that I felt some light within myself. I always talk about how recovery is a process, it isn’t linear. Recovery looks more like all of the rollercoasters at Six Flags combined. Recovery is messy and this was a messy week for me. And you know what? That’s okay! Because at some point, the rollercoaster ride you are on comes to a stop, and once you get off the ride and catch your breath, you are back on solid ground and feeling like yourself again.
I was very open in my presentation and told those in the room that this has been a tough week for me. And I think I realized that doing this mental health work is not to show that I am the “perfect mental health advocate” but to show that I am the most imperfect advocate, but that is the best kind of advocate. This is mental health work after all, and in order to do this work, we need transparency, we need more people to be real about what is going on with them in order to show that it is okay to struggle and that we are never alone. So I realized that me sharing my story of pain and recovery doesn’t just end with me saying, “YES! ME! I FOUND SELF-LOVE! I AM RECOVERED!”, but that it includes me saying, “I found self-love, but some days I still really don’t even care to be around me, and that’s okay.”
Essentially what I am trying to say is that more people will be attracted to you when you are just who you are, when you are real about what you are going through. It’s not about hiding who you are so others look at you and clap, it’s about being vulnerable so people look at you and say “wow, even despite all this person has been through and continues to go through, they still carry on despite”.
And yesterday, I also was reminded that a lot of times we have to hit the bottom, whatever that bottom looks like, in order to find the light. And I think I found the light within me again. I am excited to share my story multiple times this upcoming week with so many students. And I will share my story without holding back the pain that inevitably will come and go on this journey, because that is what makes my story special, and that’s what makes talking about mental health beautiful.
You are not a fraud if you are advocating for something and you stop doing the very thing you are advocating for. You are only human, waiting for the rollercoaster to come to a stop like the rest of us. And once the ride ends and you feel like you are back together in one piece, you will never know how long you will feel that way before you are back doing loops on the rollercoaster. But with every rollercoaster ride, you will be reminded that the pain will eventually get a bit easier to manage, a life lesson will be learned, and you will always, always find the light at the end.
I thought I had lost my light, my spark, my joy for advocacy. But it was there all along, just waiting to be ignited to remind me why I do what I do. Your light is inside of you too. It’s just waiting to come out of the dark. And if you ever can’t find your light in the future, hold onto hope that the rollercoaster will stop, and your light will shine through, brighter than it ever had before.