I’m not going to list off all the things I’m thankful for here. While I’ve had my share of difficulties this year, the things I’m thankful for are far to many for a single blog post.
But there is something else I want to say, one other thing I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for the advances made by the mental health advocacy community, advances that have reduced the social stigma surrounding mental illness.
The stigma has been reduced?
Wait, the stigma has been reduced? Why wasn’t I called?” Yes, I’m fully aware that there is still a significant percentage of the general population who view those of us suffering from less than perfect mental health as being flawed or inadequate. That stigma looms large in our global community. Though inroads have been made in that area, that’s not the aspect of stigma I’m referring to, I’m referring to our own ways of dealing with stigma.
It was not that long ago that we quietly accepted, not only our mental illnesses, but the public opinion of ourselves as well. We were either forced to accept it and wear it like a brand or a badge of shame, or we kept our mental health issues to ourselves, denied them.
Whether we kept our mental health a secret or whether it was openly known, it meant we had no peer support. We were encouraged to keep it secret. We hid our errant thoughts from the world, and if we were unable to do that, we hid ourselves away.
We were made to believe we were inadequate, unusual, broken, wrong. And there was no one to tell us any different. We suffered in silence and assured ourselves that all we needed was time.
Yes, I’m one of the lucky ones …
I freely admit that having ADHD means I have an easier time blending in, at least for a while. But trust me, I’ve known the feeling of being ostracized. I’ve known that feeling all my life. It’s taught me to forgive though I can’t forget. And I always move on.
So how have times changed?
I’ve acquired a cadre of friends of late that seem willing to accept me. I may have mentioned that last Wednesday, but I think it bears repeating. Their acceptance gives me the strength to stand up and be counted in the world as one who has mental health issues. And I don’t stand quietly, I’m the one waving my hands and saying “Over here, hey, here. Did you count me yet? …”
United we stand
It is true that some of these friends have ADHD, and that does mean that mental health is occasionally a topic of conversation. But those conversations just add fuel to the fire of our determination to be accepting of ourselves and each other.
In my group, we never suffer stigmatization, and that carries me through my days and weeks.
Disorganized group therapy, what other kind would ADHDers have?
Though we aren’t organized, we are a support group. We need community to heal. And we need to show those who would isolate and vilify us that they too need to heal. That healing will only come from their acceptance of us. They need us, need to accept us.
And recent studies would indicate that one in four of them may also need to be accepted without stigmatization. I’m ready to welcome them. And I’m thankful that I’m in a place that allows me to do that.
Happy Mental Health Day everyone, and happy Canadian Thanksgiving.