As the five people who read my blog know, my husband and I recently lost a friend to suicide.
I also have many friends and even some family members who have medical issues relating to the brain and how it works. Their conditions (okay, and my own as well, if we're being honest) run the gamut from depression, anxiety, Asperger's, schizophrenia, dissociative disorder, agoraphobia, ADD, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder... and these are just people in my life in one way or another. All of these conditions affect other areas of life as well. One of my own conditions results in fairly bad insomnia, which, in turn, has the potential to affect so many other things.
Even a slight chemical imbalance can wreak absolute havoc on a person's life and the quality thereof.
It's not "just" feeling a little anxious, it's feeling like you have an elephant sitting on your chest just daring you to think about going to work.
It's not "just" being a little foggy because you didn't sleep well last night, it's being so tired from anxiety-induced insomnia that you run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel if you do make it out the door.
It's not "just" feeling a little blue now and then, it's the agonizing feeling that you're completely worthless, that there's no way out from under your burdens and that everyone in your life would be better off without you.
It's not "just" feeling a little fat, it's looking in the mirror at 85 pounds and seeing Jabba the Hut staring back at you, so instead of the apple and diet Coke you allow yourself twice a day, you cut out the apples, add a pack of cigarettes and increase your cardio from 6 hours a day to 8 so that maybe next month you'll be down to a Mimi from Drew Carey size, when in reality you'll actually be a skeleton in a hospital bed.
It's not "just" checking the coffee pot two or three times to make sure it's off before you leave for work, it's having to touch a doorknob 9 times, and if you don't, something truly awful will happen.
It's not "just" jumping at the loud boom of fireworks, it's a soldier completely unable to join his or her friends at a 4th of July celebration because they'll flash back to Vietnam, or the Gulf, or Iraq and go into a trance like they're right back there on the battlefield.
Can you imagine what life would be like if any of that applied to you? Yet so many mental illnesses are stigmatized by our society, because it's not something you can "see," like the cast on a broken leg or the bald head of a cancer patient.
Chances are, you know someone who has suffered from some form of mental illness at some point in their life. If you don't think you do, you probably do and just don't know it outright. Hey, it might even be you.
On October 3rd, I will be participating in a 5K walk sponsored by my local chapter of NAMI. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization committed to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness through awareness, education, support and advocacy. I originally thought I'd walk in honor of the friend we lost so recently, but upon reflection, I'm walking for all of us.
To look at me, you'd never think I'd make it 1K, let alone 5K. I'm challenging myself by walking for such an important cause - won't you please challenge yourself by supporting me?
Please. If not for me, for the friends and family of those you know who have been affected by mental illness. For yourself.