‘You’re so brave’ is a phrase I hear often when I share my personal stories of dealing with mental illness. People believe that I am brave for speaking up, and I believe that other people are brave for sharing their stories. However I struggle when it comes to myself, I don’t feel brave.
I’ve never really hidden the fact that I have a mental illness. I have scars covering nearly every inch of my arms..I always thought it was pointless to pretend that I was completely sane. Growing up in a small town also meant that nothing was every truly a secret, maybe that toughened me up.
While I have always been up front about having a mental illness, it was only this year that I was forthcoming with exactly what the mental illness I was diagnosed with. I bought into the stigma and I hid it from everyone. I was advocating being open, while I was happy to push down the truth about myself. I wasn’t brave.
Maybe having no choice about owning up to my past has meant that I am dismissive of my own bravery at speaking up. I still remember the day I told a boy in my class that Prozac wasn’t a happy pill. Getting hauled into the principals office for writing about a suicide attempt for a class assignment is still burned into my mind, as is being told to rewrite an information booklet, the day before it was due. They were scared, scared that what I had would be a reflection on them. Maybe I was a little brave.
I have told people to shove it, I have tried to educate them on the reality of mental illness, and still I don’t think I am brave. This is who I am, this is what I need to do. I’ve seen the revulsion in people’s eyes when faced with someone who has a mental illness. It is those looks that spur me on to talk about my story. It’s not bravery.
I hope that soon it won’t be considered brave to share stories of mental illness, not because the stories aren’t filled with strength but because it will be normal to talk about mental illness. I hope that one day, there won’t be hesitation about telling an employer that you have a mental illness, that it will be treated no differently to any other illness. It is my hope that the bravery we show today, will mean that our children and their children won’t have to be brave too.
Linking up with Jess for IBOT
I know when I call you brave, I’m referring to your life and what you’ve made of it rather than thinking you are brave for sharing your story but thinking about it and what seems to be the general consensus where mental illness isn’t talked about freely or enough, I suppose you really are brave in this regard too. Perhaps rather than call it brave we should call it a head of the times?
I don’t think you’re under any obligation to be brave- but you are anyway. You’ve shared your story with candor and grace in the hope that it helps others. That’s what makes you brave in my eyes.
Beautifully said. Alas, it should not be considered “brave” to speak openly and honestly of these things, but unfortunately it still is. And good on you for doing your part to change that. xx
Nice post. I have a saying ‘Things aren’t weird unless we’re taught they’re weird’. Exactly what you say about bravery and mental illness. It’s not a thing to hide unless we’re taught to hide it…here’s to the future.
Well you’re definitely leading the way, Tegan. Keep doing what you’re doing whatever your reasons are. You are making a difference and doing your part in changing the way people view those with mental illness.
Well said Tegan.
“I hope that soon it won’t be considered brave to share stories of mental illness, not because the stories aren’t filled with strength but because it will be normal to talk about mental illness.” This.
Another beautiful post and one that has really started me thinking – what is “being brave” Gish I think that question is quite loaded. I think you are more than brave to share your stories Tegan, I think you are following your inner voice and being guided by that intuition and calling – surely that is much better than just “being brave”?
I get told I’m being brave all the time too and for me its not about being brave, its just about telling my story. I want to inspire people to believe in themselves and in a way I kind of want to make all the shit parts of my life worth something (like it was worth having to go through an abusive marriage if it inspires someone else to be able to get out of theirs). I also want to reduce the stigma around things too.
I know people think we’re brave because we have the guts to say F you to the stigma or what society thinks and tell our story anyway, but to me its just telling our story like any other blogger or person does. It just happens to be that our stories involve a lot more heavy shit than others 🙂
It’s great that you can write about your experiences. That’s what we do, isn’t it? People have often said to me that I must be strong, because of my own experiences, but I am not particularly stronger or more resilient than the next person, I’ve just done what I needed to do to get through the day,week, month, years.
The important thing is to keep writing and keep sharing.
Thank you for sharing your experiences Tegan. I always gain something when I read your writing.
If you didn’t feel scared, it wouldn’t be brave. I totally agree that hopefully in the not very distant future, people will simply share and they won’t feel scared so there will be no need to feel brave. x
This is very well written. It is a shame that it is still called ‘being brave’ but whatever it is, stick at it!
Funny how bravery in one generation is just normality in another, and yet we don’t see that for such a long time. Keep being brave Tegan. Keep making it normal and not brave. xx
I think of bravery as leading the way and you have done that by educating people about mental illness. I sure wouldn’t know as much as I do because of you. I think it’s brave of you to share what you know and do even if you don’t feel it. X
I believe someone who is brave is someone whom sacrifices themselves to save someone else. By this definition you are incredibly brave. You sacrifice people’s judgment of you for the sake of connecting and inspiring of others. I am a bit pessimistic and feel like that there will always be some stigma when it comes to Mental illness simply because you cannot see it on someones face. Therefore I will always see you as brave. xx
Yes! The lines Alison put in quotation marks from your post! You are spot on and just a little bit brave AND strong even if you don’t think so 🙂
Before I finished this post I would have called you brave too. Something to think about xo