I regularly speak in schools, sharing my mental health journey. It's heavy. It's raw. It's real.
I talk about anxiety, depression, self-harm, and bipolar disorder. Not the things we typically like to talk about, right?
But I am committed to advocacy, to being part of the movement to de-stigmatize the conversations around mental health.
So when a woman came up to me and told me I was so "brave" for standing up and sharing my story, I was extremely taken aback, even offended. The first thing I thought to myself was, "Is this how cancer patients feel?"
They didn't ask to be diagnosed with cancer. I didn't ask to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This is simply what reality looks like for me. I have to take my medication every day. I have to go to therapy every week. And those are things I will have to do my entire life.
Yes, I will admit that it takes a certain level of bravery to do it the first time. Because people don't want to talk about how fucked up they are or how crazy they feel. They don't want to be perceived as fucked up or crazy.
But I am way past saying it out loud for the first time. I am deep into recovery. It isn't bravery anymore. It's a simple acceptance of what my life looks like.
Saying I'm brave minimizes my recovery process. It implies that you think I am weak, that I am an outsider who went through something so distanced from your own experience, something that you cannot fathom dealing with yourself, so you think I am ashamed.
I am not ashamed to be a woman living with bipolar disorder. I manage. I have gotten to know myself so that I know what works and what doesn't. I wouldn't still be alive if I hadn't.
Next time you see someone who is sick, whether it be physically or mentally, think before you call them brave. Think about how that might make them feel.
I did not sign up for this. I chose to fight this battle because the only other choice was not living anymore. And that was not the path I wanted to go down.
I am not brave. I am simply accepting of my reality. And I am willing to share because I know my story needs to be told so other young people won't have to experience what I did.
Trauma is avoidable through education. And my deciding to play a role in that isn't brave. It's necessary.