Brave Because I Want To See Society Change

I learned of yesterday’s shooting here in Washington, DC, via the news pouring into my Twitter feed about the woman who had crashed her car into the gate surrounding the White House. There was speculation that a child was in the car with her at the time. There was also speculation that she suffered from mental illness.

Then she was shot by police and died soon after. The baby, thankfully, was unharmed in the ordeal and is now in the custody of child protective services.

I am so utterly heartbroken for this woman, her child, her family and friends and our society.

This needs to stop.

But unfortunately, until our country stops blaming people with mental illness for their conditions and starts providing the mental health services they need to get well, incidents like what happened yesterday will continue to occur.

We need to come together as a society to talk openly about mental health issues. If you notice someone exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a mental illness, do what you can to help them get the treatment they need. I guarantee you they are too sick to realize they need help.

We need to stop hiding our mental illnesses, because by hiding we are adding to the stigma.

Earlier this year I made the choice to go public with the fact that I live with Type 1 Bipolar Disorder. That I’ve been hospitalized a total of four times for mania, once was postpartum psychosis after the birth of my first child in 2008. That I once was afraid and ashamed to speak openly about my illness.

Today, I am neither afraid nor ashamed of my illness. I am proud to talk openly about my experiences because my openness helps others. They’ve told me so.

When we come together to share our stories, we propel a movement forward. A movement to shift the way people view the mentally ill. A movement to bring desperately needed changes to the state of mental health services in our country. A movement to stop the loss of innocent lives – both the mentally ill themselves and the people they harm when they are sick.

You see, yesterday’s news could have been me. I suffer from mental illness. But unlike Miriam Carey, I received proper treatment.

And with proper diagnosis and continuous treatment, people with mental illness can lead perfectly productive lives. They can be {and ARE} valuable members of society when they have the support and services they need to get well and stay well.

I don’t like to think about what could have happened if my husband hadn’t reached out for help. But the reality is that whenever a story like this hits the news and the person involved is thought to have “a history of mental illness,” I am brought right back to the torment and the excruciating emotional pain of what we went through as a family the times I was sick.

We need to change the public’s misconceptions about mental illness because when people get treatment, lives can be saved.

I recently wrote a manifesto on my experience living with bipolar disorder. It’s called Find Your Brave and I hope you’ll take a moment to download it here and share. It’s part of my effort to encourage people to stop hiding and seek support because we’re so much stronger when we come together.

Let’s come together and show the world This Is My Brave.

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