Stigma Fighters: Kassondra Boyes

My struggle with mental health has been lifelong. I was born into poverty, to a single mother already raising one daughter. We did not have a lot of support, and our financial situation was bleak. I have trouble remembering things back then very well, or even in order. I know that we moved a lot, spent a long time couch surfing at the homes of friends, and changing schools. My mother, who was stretched so thin trying to get by with us, was not able to be home with us as much as she wanted, or as much as we wanted. I could not read until I was almost 7. At the age of 6, I was sexually assaulted by a family member in a position of trust. This event has changed so much of my life, even now, 23 years later. I have severe anxiety, and PTSD. The history with the man who assaulted me did not end for many years, though the assault stopped soon after it started. The problem was that at the time the assault occurred, I fell through the cracks of a system that is entrusted with human safety, protection and justice. I was not protected from my attacker, nor were those who would fall victim to his hands after me. I was not heard and he was not stopped for many years. I was 17 before any of us saw any kind of justice for what he did. The consequence for being disbelieved was, unfortunately, the pulling apart of my family. My siblings and I were all separated and sent to different caregivers. The life I was given after that is what I truly believe saved my life. I think without the support I had back then I would have turned to substance or alcohol abuse. I’ve considered them more than once to cope but I know that road gets so much worse. I’m trying so hard. I suffer from chronic insomnia, severe nightmares, constant anxiety, panic attacks and periods of depression that fluctuates from bearable to completely unmanageable. Worse still is that those problems were worsened by a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis at 19, after years of being sick.

I struggle daily with managing my feelings. My journey to get help began four years ago, and I’ve barely had any response from anyone. I’ve tried to get help in this Province with little help, even now. Referrals to therapists or psychiatrists fell through cracks and trips to emergency drop in clinics for mental health were temporary band-aids. I’d leave feeling a little better, and sometimes within hours the help that I had, became ineffective. I saw medical doctors who were not willing to entertain conversations about mental health, or told me outright that mental health problems such as the ones I suffer from are just excuses, they aren’t real, and therefore cannot be fixed. I’ve read self-help books and turned to meditation and medication and herbal remedies. They say to ask for help. They say to tell someone if you’ve reached the end of your tether, feeling suicidal and unable to cope, if you’re scared. And yet here I am, feeling mostly like those words were a joke. I’ve taken responsibility for my mental illness. I know there’s something wrong with me but I don’t know what it’s called, how to treat it, or where to turn. I know that watching me struggle and spiral out of control is hurting the people I love, and has cost me relationships with people who destroyed me emotionally to lose. Everybody leaves. I’ve been left feeling like there is no hope because this Province is extremely lacking in resources for people battling mental illness. I am so grateful for what we have but it is not enough. I’m losing hope, and for the first time in my life I’m becoming apathetic about getting better because wanting to get better and not being able to is causing me more distress than the acceptance is. I always believed that I was a functional person that this thing was happening to, and with help it could be treated. I never before felt like I am what’s happening to me, until now.

I have extremely low self-esteem. I take blame for every bad thing that happens to me, the people I know, or the situations I’m in. All of the flaws I see in myself and all of the bad things I’ve experienced and all the hurt people have ever dealt me is so magnified that it’s nearly impossible for me to see beyond. I feel at fault. I feel like a failure. I feel like I deserve to feel this way, to be ill, to never get better, to get worse, and to die this way. I feel like I earned it. I feel like my presence in other people’s lives costs them things that without me they would not have to sacrifice. I feel like I attract bad things and bad people. I feel ignored, shut out, and rejected. I feel like nobody is listening, and that people’s “encouragement” is just filler platitudes for not having any answers, or not knowing what to do or say, and not wanting to be involved. I’m beginning to feel like it will never get better. I lived with my depression and anxiety silently as an adult, until it took on a life of its own. And I refused to ask for help until I realized that it had grown beyond my ability to control it or cope with it. I’ve had suicidal thoughts before, but passively. I always knew that really, there are people who love me even if I don’t feel it the way they deserve for me to. Knowing that, intellectually, is what has kept me from acting on those thoughts. I don’t want to hurt or punish or inflict my misery on others. Recently, though, I’ve been feeling like the pain of losing me would pale in comparison to losing the consequences of me. They’d be free, no more worrying about what I am or am not capable of doing, or what mood swing I will have next, or who is responsible for how I feel, or walking on eggshells for fear of stressing me out. The people I love would be free of the anxiety I cause them. Wouldn’t that be a relief? Wouldn’t that be some kind of loving, merciful act? Is it selfish?

Kassondra Boyes

Kassondra is  a Mom, Wife, Musician, Artist, Writer and Type 1 Diabetic. She battles her mental illness by immersing herself in family, writing, music and art. She believe that access to mental health services, support and physicians who are better educated about mental illness and treatment options is of vital importance. While she has, and sometimes still does battle depression and suicidal thoughts, she is always trying to overcome them, and is hopeful that there is a better life ahead of her.

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Chronic Pain, Depression and Anxiety: Jessica Davis

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in pain.

I was born with a bone disorder called Mulitple Hereditary Exostoses. Nobody in my family had it; I was a rare case where it wasn’t hereditary for me, but a genetic mutational. I was a fairly happy kid, I guess. I tried to smile through the pain, and I only started to get sad when I started to realize the differences between me and everyone else.

MHE is incredibly hard for me to explain in just a few short sentences. I basically have bone tumors that grow along the long bones and joints of my regular bones. As a child, my doctor referred to them as “bumpy bones” or “extra bones”.

These bone spurs (growths, tumors, extra bones or whatever you want to call them) cause a lot of pain on a daily basis. They rub up against tendons and nerves. They fuse my joints and they affect my mobility. I’ve had around 15 MHE related surgeries in my lifetime. The doctors go in, shave down the bone growths, and stitch me back up. I have several ugly, angry scars all over my limbs and I was extremely embarrassed of them as a teen.

I hid my body. I wore layers and tried not to draw any attention to myself what-so-ever. I hated when people looked at me. I developed extreme anxiety when it came to social situations and crowds, to the point of getting physically ill.

Each year, my anxiety got worse. My self-hatred grew. I never thought I was beautiful, I never thought I could be desired or considered sexy. Maybe it had something to do with being told that “my bone thing was gross” on more than one occasion, by more than one boy, after revealing bits of myself to them. Maybe it’s just extremely hard to be different from your peers. I reached a point where I thought I’d never find love or happiness.

Then I met my husband, and I started to see myself through his eyes. I started to see that my scars and differently shaped limbs didn’t take away from my beauty, but added to it. I was unique, a rarity. Sure, some days I absolutely do not feel that way, but those days are less frequent then they once were.

I used to hate my body so much. Now I only hate that it doesn’t work the way I need it to; the way I want it to.

It also seems like “managing the pain” of this disorder is a catch 22…damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

For example; I used to draw. I used to love drawing, and I used to be fairly decent at it. Toss in a couple of wrist surgeries followed by the bones in my fingers slowly fusing, and that ability is now gone. Each surgery comes with a price; the loss of my drawing ability, nerve damage. Scars that hurt.

Last February, I had a bone growth removed from the heel of my foot. For years, I felt as if I was walking on a marble. The sensation is all messed up in that heel, and it still aches. Luckily, the sensation of “walking on a marble” is gone, though. A price to pay, sometimes the benefits outweigh the risks…and sometimes, they don’t.

Accompanying all this pain is depression. You can’t be in pain every day of your life and not feel depressed by it, or at least…I’ve never met anyone who’s escaped the demon of depression while coping with chronic pain. It’s depressing to tell your children that no, you can’t get on the ground with them today to build a Lego Spaceship because you’re in too much pain. It’s depressing to have to say no to doing fun activities with your friends because you simply don’t have enough energy to do it all. Being in pain sucks your energy back like my Dodge Ram sucks back gasoline; it’s there one minute, and gone the next. Unfortunately, I can’t just go and refuel with the ease of filling a truck.

I also live with a monstrous amount of guilt over the fact that both of our sons inherited MHE from me.

The pain, the anxiety, and the depression all seem to grow more and more with each passing year, especially after my pregnancies. It’s a ripple affect; the pain intensified, I have more responsibilities and I can’t just “rest” when I have a bad pain day. I have to keep moving. This spirals my mental symptoms out of control.

I take no medicine for depression or anxiety, but I do take a synthetic marijuana pill to help manage pain. It works to help elevate some of the depression and anxiety as well. I mostly force myself to keep moving, to keep going even when I absolutely do not want to.

There’s one thing I am determined to teach my kids: and that’s the art of never giving up.

JC

Jess is a married mother of two in her mid-twenties. Jess is addicted to coffee, Instagram selfies, Cadbury Mini Eggs, and Dill Pickle chips (only not together, because that would be gross). She has been blogging for nearly 10 years, and won a Bloggie award some time ago. She writes new adult romance novels under the pen name of J.C. Hannigan. You can find Jess pretty much everywhere; except, it would seem…in the laundry room.
Blog: http://sarcastica.org
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jcahannigan
Author Page: http://facebook.com/jcahannigan

Stigma Fighters: Bif Naked

ENDING STIGMA ESSAY by Bif Naked

I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to these unceded lands of The Coast Salish Territories, and made my home here in 1991. Vancouver held so much promise, and was rumored to be a great solution for people living in the colder climates of Canada, who may be looking for jobs, looking for education opportunities, or looking for a fresh start. People come to Vancouver in droves, and it holds them by their hearts and never lets go.

The guys in my first band, GorillaGorilla, and I, lived over on Rupert Street at the top of a long hill, down which we could skateboard, without aid of pushing feet, all the way to the bottom, to Broadway Street, where we might catch a bus to go downtown—either to work, or to rehearsal space, or to see a gig—many of which were played by friends in other bands. We could have never done that in Winnipeg (from where we’d just moved) and we were in awe of the differences we were discovering on the West Coast. It was a rich music, skateboard, and art culture, and we were thriving despite our poverty. Life was serendipity. We had simple and earnest intentions, we never gave up on our dreams, and collaboratively worked toward what we hoped would be “success”.

This work ethic, and these dreams, are natural for most people. In fact, the majority of people are working toward a goal and endeavor to transcend poverty and struggle. Most people are trying to have a better life.

That’s how things were for my friend Lorainne.

I met Lorainne on the streets of Vancouver, in 1991. Burrard Street, to be exact. Burrard and Robson.

She was a panhandler, asking passersby for change. She looked like she was about sixty years old, with hair not totally grey but it was just so hard to tell as she was somewhat unkempt. And awkward.

Lorainne never appeared to be drunk, but her swollen face and big, red nose told me much about her personal life. She never had a warm coat, but was in snow boots, and was at the same corner, downtown, every day. She went there at eight a.m. and left at 10 a.m. each morning. It was her routine.

On my way to work, every day, I said “hi” to her and gave her the extra few dollars I carried with me to the bus stop where I jumped on and went to my day job in a printing shop. Sometimes two dollars, sometimes five, but I always made sure I had change jingling in my pocket as I went out the door.

I made just enough money from my cheque to pay rent, pay electric bill, and set aside a few dollars for food and supplies and bus fare. It worked out to about seven dollars a day and when I saw Lorainne I could not pass her by without giving her something. Anything.

Eventually, I started to strike up conversations with her, and she began to let her guard down.

Her speech was unusual and she had an emotionless way about communicating. Lorainne never smiled or frowned, she just spoke in a demonstrative and loud voice, calling me by name if she happened to see me walking toward her.

“BETH! OH HELLO BETH!” she would yell from half-a-block away. I always waved until I approached Lorainne and eventually, we would hug hello.

I began to ask Lorainne questions about herself.

Where did she live? (“SUBSIDIZED HOUSING” she yelled.)

Does she work? (“THIS IS MY JOB. I COME EVERY DAY.”)

Is she married? (“I HAVE A BOYFRIEND HE MAKES ME SPAGHETTI.”)

Everything was always matter-of-fact, and her answers were not always consistent, so I never really knew if the things she told me were true. I just wanted to know how she got there. I wanted to piece together how my friend came to be…I wondered how she became this panhandler lady.

What I eventually pieced together, over the next decade or so, brought me to a place of understanding and acceptance about Lorainne.

Lorainne was living in Ottawa, for most of her life. As an adult, She was working a desk job for the government, and putting her daughter through school. Unmarried but happy, Lorainne loved life, loved her job, and most of all, loved her daughter.

Then everything shifted for her, and life as she knew it blew apart. Lorainne’s daughter was killed, suddenly, and that was the trauma that may have triggered Lorainne’s disorder.

Like many people, grief and response to loss is the most distressing event in life. But for Lorainne, the result of this catastrophic event was real damage to the psyche. The death of her daughter was so traumatic psychologically for Lorainne, that she developed PTSD, depression, and chronic psychosis trying to cope. Eventually, substance abuse—in Lorainne’s case, alcohol—overtook her life, and her active psychosis increased in frequency. She no longer worked, went home, or spoke with friends and family. She became homeless. She often experienced being in a catatonic state. It was as if her brain was changed, and her old life was never again to be.

It is possible that her excessive alcohol intake, plus the psychological damage, may have contributed to the development of her chronic, substance-induced psychotic disorder. This poor quality of life for Lorainne included impaired social cognition, poor functional ability, disorganized thinking and speech, and a frequent state of confusion.

I do not know, and was never able to determine, whether or not Lorainne had any pre-existing psychopathology that may have been a factor. I do not know if she had a history of illness, or poor adjustment before onset. Plus, excessive alcohol abuse can sometimes present itself as illnesses like schizophrenia, and I do not know Lorainne’s medical history.

What I do know is that Lorainne has a tragic story of loss that led her to be where she is now, and who she is now.

I know this is true for every person I see on the street. Each individual has a story. Each individual has a story worth telling, but more importantly, worth listening to.

I am glad Lorainne and I became friends. She never accepted my help, my offers to walk her home, my offers of clothing, groceries, toiletries, even refused anything over a twenty dollar bill. In fact, it would stress her out and she became agitated.
No, Lorainne didn’t ask anything of me, except my daily hugs and my friendly exchange. In return, I received the same from her.

We are very blessed by the friendships in our lives and sometimes, these seemingly small things, actually make all the difference for people.

People like Lorainne.

And people like me.

Bif - Promo 4 color

Bif Naked is a celebrated and notorious performer in music, TV, film, and dance, and a tireless advocate and Humanitarian. Orphaned in India, emancipated by punk rock, and empowered by surviving breast cancer, kidney failure, heart surgery, divorce, and surviving as a Woman in The Entertainment Industry for twenty-five years, Bif has transcended any and all obstacles placed in her path to become one of the world’s most unique, recognizable and beloved icons. It is because Bif is such a tremendous performer and musician, that she is able to seamlessly and successfully explore and record other mediums, like writing, painting, choreography, and of course- other genres of music. Inspired by life and experiences, Bif’s writing is at the forefront and has become a tool for her advocacy. “We must continue to raise awareness and keep going.” When not touring, Canada’s Sweetheart works as an activist, is recording a new record, and is editing her juicy memoirs. You can learn more about Bif and her work here She has been featured on The Globe and Mail as well as The Huffington Post. Find her on Facebook , Twitter and follow her on Instagram

Stigma Fighters: Jessica Fuerst

I’ve always known I was emotionally different but I never really thought about the words Depression and Anxiety until I was roughly 7-8 months pregnant with my first baby back in 2010.

My story begins further back when I was a teenager though. I had no idea what mental health was or that depression was real. I was a cutter. Now before you assume ‘Oh this girl cuts, and she wants to end her life’ yeah, I’ve had suicidal thoughts, still have them from time to time, but cutting wasn’t about ending my life, it was more for control. Situations would happen and be out of my control, I used cutting to inflict pain on myself, to see the blood leave my cut and it would symbolize my pain leaving me. Messed up right? But for me, it was normal. One of my closest friends threatened to tell my parents if I didn’t stop, so for a long time I had stopped. I’ve had slip ups , because let’s be honest, something that is used as a coping mechanism is hard to just stop. I have periods of time where I don’t think about cutting and times where it’s all I can think about. My last cut was Christmas 2014, the worst I’ve ever inflicted on myself and it scared me.

Living with depression has to be one of the most annoying things I’ve dealt with. It’s frustrating to want to change my life from what it is but not being able to actually do something about it. I am an emotional person. I can’t understand why I sit and cry about how my life is. I feel like I should be grateful that I am still here; I have my health and the most amazing son I could ask for. People that don’t struggle daily with mental illness just don’t get it. It’s not as easy to change your life as everyone makes it seem to be I’ve fallen into a rut and I just can’t seem to lift my head up. I have become fake about my emotions, posting happy things online to make everyone else think that I am okay. Pictures of me smiling and having fun when I am so torn up about what has happened in the past 2 years alone.

I feel pathetic writing my feelings and thoughts about my story. Someone, somewhere has it worse than me and it just eats at me that I am complaining and whining about myself. I am not dying. I had a great childhood. My son is healthy.

My son’s father left me. My ex walked away from me and my son after he got me pregnant. 2 weeks later, I lost the baby. I don’t trust anything any man says to me. Apparently, I am not worth it. They all want me until they actually get me. Then they walk away and leave in the worst ways.

I hate depression, it is nothing but a liar but I let the lies control my life. I feel like I am worthless. I treat myself horribly. I treat my friends and people I care about like shit. All I want most days is to curl up and forget I am even alive. My son, my perfect 4-year-old little boy deserves so much better than a mommy who can barely take care of herself. Sometimes I wonder why on Earth someone so amazing was given to me. Then I remember that no matter how shitty I feel, no matter how many times I want to end my life, I can’t. He needs me. My life isn’t worth living in my eyes but to him, I am his hero. I am his mommy and he needs me.

I don’t even know what I am typing anymore. I am sitting at my screen, barely able to type through the tears. This is impossible to write something when there is so much back story that explains so much. I just don’t feel like any of this is important.

When did I become like this? How did I go from having a job, money, friends to being this way. Why me? Why can’t I just snap the fuck out of this? Why must I sit here feeling sorry for myself? I’m so mad that I turned out like this. People say I am a strong woman for what I’ve been through…I say why can’t I just man the fuck up and get my life back. Stop being lazy and start making decisions. I guess truth be told, I am scared to commit. I stopped running and committed to my sons father, he walked away. I trusted and committed myself to my ex, he walked away. I am scared to get a job because I have been out of work for 4 years, what if I fail? Again. I am scared to apply to college because what if I fail at that too? I failed at creating life…and even though logically it’s not my fault that I miscarried my second baby, I failed at providing a healthy safe home for my baby to grow and it’s just not fair. I am a good person and just when I think things will look up I am reminded…it won’t, not for me anyways.

It’s so easy for me to talk to my friends about their mental health and try to help them get through things but why can’t I just help myself?
Everyone always says “Time heals all wounds” or some bullshit like that, and even though it’s probably true, everyday I feel pain. I am just getting better at hiding it.

I don’t take medication to help, I probably should but I don’t. I don’t want to take a pill to numb myself for the rest of my life. They make me sick and I have a hard time swallowing pills. I’d rather light up a joint, feel that band-aid be put on, be able to play with my son, cook and get things done.

I just wish I could wake up and not be sad anymore.

jess

Jessica is  a 26-year-old mama, diagnosed with depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder since 2010. She is an aspiring photographer at Fuerst Click Photographer. You can find her work on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/FuerstClickPhotography

Stigma Fighters: Martin B.

The words that kill

It’s been 20 years, almost to the day, since I experienced my first episode of major depression. I was almost 20 years old and there wasn’t any hint that I was about to go through the most difficult period of my life.

Up until that point, my life was what is considered as ‘normal’. No particular drama. I wasn’t a victim of abuse, harassment or bullying of any kind. I was as normal as it gets. Anxiety, sure, I had some. Occasional mood swings came and went. But, that happens to all of us.

Truth be told, my mental illness snuck up on me out of nowhere. In fact, I still remember our first encounter as if it were yesterday. I was in bed, just about to fall into a deep sleep when, all of a sudden, my heart started pounding. I thought it was trying to break out of my chest the same way a prisoner tries to break out of jail, by any means necessary. Breathing heavily, I tried to get out of bed and get some help. I was dizzy, my hands were numb and I felt like there was a 200 lb. anvil on my chest.

By the time the paramedics arrived, I managed to settle down somewhat. I vaguely remember asking if I had just suffered a heart attack.

“No. Have you had any panic attacks in the past?” the paramedic asked. I was confused, as if he was speaking a foreign language.

“A panic what?” I answered. “Can that kill you?”

The months that followed were a nightmare. Completely disjointed, I could barely go about my daily business. Every action required a Herculean effort. Every decision felt like a trigonometry problem. It was like I was trapped in quicksand or swimming against a strong current.

I was trapped in a body that wouldn’t function. It was like my brain decided to take a vacation. “Sorry, we are closed.” The lights were on, but nobody was home.
While my friends were savouring life’s beautiful moments of youth, I barricaded myself in my apartment. They were happy and smiling while I was apathetic, a hypochondriac and a slave to steady stream of negative thoughts.

That’s when ‘the words that kill’ were pronounced.

And not just by anyone.

After the umpteenth emergency room visit and the umpteenth confirmation by a doctor that I hadn’t suffered from a heart attack or that I didn’t have a flesh eating disease, my father, desperate and exasperated from seeing his son in such suffering, looked at me straight in the eyes and said:

“ENOUGH!! Pick yourself up and give yourself a kick in the ass!”

Those words hit me just like a Mike Tyson uppercut. Right on the chin.

It wasn’t from lack of effort or determination. It wasn’t laziness. But it was difficult, impossible even, to give myself a kick in the ass. The machine was broken and the mind has succumbed to its new master: fear.

*Author’s note: It is physically impossible to give yourself a kick in the ass, by the way. Try it. It’s like touching your elbow with your hand from the same arm. Mission impossible.)

The problem, I know very well now, was never my hind parts. Far from it. It was between my ears. I was suffering from a mental illness and there wasn’t enough kicks to the rear end in the world that would change a single thing.

I needed help and support. The help came, finally, after a few months when a doctor gave me his diagnosis: major depression with panic attacks. The little blue and yellow pills were included with the diagnosis.

The support, however, came from a particular and unexpected source. From my girlfriend at the time, my mother and my brother were there for me too but surprisingly, support also came from my father.

My father comes from a generation of men for whom mental illness was a sign of weakness. A man doesn’t cry. A man doesn’t ask for help and, a man definitely does not suffer from a mental illness. Stand up, put on your big boy pants and walk!

However, taboos and prejudices towards mental illness are not all born equal. Some are born from ignorance or lack of education. Often, it is from a desire to ridicule or to judge. Sometimes, however, the source of the prejudice can come from a much deeper source.

That day when my father uttered those words will remain forever etched in my memory. I remember seeing, in the blue of his eyes, a deep pain and an immeasurable sadness.

A long time had passed before I finally grasped the real meaning of those words uttered by my father that day. It was a cry from the heart. An immense pledge of love towards his son launched through the only words available to him at the time.

It was also at that time that I realized that in order to change his perception, his way of seeing things, was to break the silence and open up a dialogue with my father about my mental illness.

Since being diagnosed over 20 years ago, much water has flowed under the bridge. I stopped counting the number of episodes and panic attacks. I lost count a long time ago. Although I consider myself incredibly lucky to be under the care of an excellent psychiatrist, I know that depression and anxiety will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. It is like a marriage without the possibility of divorce.

What reassures me is knowing that I have the unwavering and unconditional support of my family and friends.

I also know that, if there is a storm on the horizon, my father will be there to look me in the eye and say: “Come on, let’s talk about it.”

Albert Einstein once said: “It is easier to disintegrate an atom than to break a prejudice.”

My father is certainly not a physicist but he is living proof that a prejudice can be disintegrated and reduced to nothing.

A bit of open mindedness, listening, and love is all you need.

It takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And…a kick in the ass is not a requirement!

MartinMartin runs the french-language mental health blog Entre les deux oreilles and can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This post was originally published in french on the Entre les deux oreilles website and was translated to english by Giovanni Sardo.

Stigma Fighters Are Coming Offline And Onto A Campus Near You

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We are so pleased to announce that Stigma Fighters has applied for it’s NPO status. What does this mean? Well it means that not only will our online series of essays submitted by all of you continue to grow,  it means that we are branching out and bringing founder and CEO, Sarah Fader’s vision to life.

Stigma Fighters is now in the works of setting up our first campus tours across the United States. Speakers will be invited onto campuses at colleges and high schools to talk to young people about mental health awareness and mental health issues.

Stigma Fighters chapters are being established throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, and The United Kingdom, including the world’s teen and deaf communities.

Please help us to continue to grow.  A Fund Dreamer Campaign has been approved and ready to go. The link is below. Thank you so much for your continued support, you all are amazing.

http://www.funddreamer.com/campaigns/stigma-fighters-the-high-school-and-college-tour

Stigma Fighters: A Sister’s Love

One August day two years ago I stood on a deck, cold beverage in hand enjoying those golden moments of summer. I was with my best friend, my sister. We were talking and laughing. Then she looked at me and said “I have something to tell you.” Right away my heart started to hammer in my chest. She didn’t have an icy cold beverage in hand, could it be I was going to be an Aunty again? Then she said these words:

“About two months ago I decided I was going to walk out of my life. I was going to get in my truck and drive and never come back. My husband and kids would be better off without me. I knew it would hurt them but it would be better. I know my family would have been sad, but I knew my kids would eventually be ok and my husband would be happy. If I just left and drove away and didn’t come back everything would be better for them and for me.”

I had to sit, and in a hurry, before I fell. How she stood there so calm in appearance, and told me this without emotion, without inflection. The only give away were the tears streaming down her face I don’t know, because in that short space of time MY life changed.

My role as the big sister and protector altered and skewed, fell off its axis and stopped.

She looked the same. Huge brown eyes, her killer smile, and that perfect messy ponytail that I can’t ever copy. Nothing amiss. But I looked a little closer, her brown eyes were tired and that smile the one that got us into and out of more trouble than I can count, looked slightly forced.

She wiped her tears and said in a choked, watery voice. “So out of the two of us I am actually the crazy one!”

CRAZY!!! It has always been determined that I was the crazy one. The SPECIAL ONE, the one who’s “VOICES” got the blame for my sudden outbursts or seemingly good at the time ideas. But it was always a joke a tease not for real.

Now one of the strongest women I have ever known was standing before me and telling me she was sick. Not an illness that shows on the outside. No lumps, bumps, goiters, nothing missing all limbs in place. Physically intact and perfect. But inside she was a hot mess.

She had to take a pill every day. She had to go and see her doctor once a month, and if he didn’t like the answers to a pre-set list of questions, specific to her diagnosis, that truck ride she was going to make was pre-arranged for her. She would have to go to the hospital. Left in the care of people who didn’t know her but would help her.

And I was at a loss. Me the speaker, the keeper of the voice(s). The one who could always find words, talk non-stop and still have so much to say was struck dumb.

You see my sister has been my best friend forever. It was love at first sight. NO ONE hurt her, and I have taken my lumps more than once protecting her. Her wins were my wins, her loses too. Her moments of glory were moments when I thought I would burst with pride. Her heart aches were mine and it was up to me to make it better. She never asked me to but I always did because that was my job as the big sister. Even when I stood beside her as she married her true love I decided: He might be her true love the one she lived with laughed with and loved for better or worse till death did them part…but I was her protector he couldn’t have that role.

But this was not something I couldn’t fix. I couldn’t protect her. We couldn’t go for a hike and after that hike and a six-pack everything would have worked itself out, we couldn’t go for coffee and cheese cake and figure it out. Shit we couldn’t even sip a glass of wine while the kids played in the yard and work it out.
My sister was sick and halls and ice cream wouldn’t work either.

I started to shake a little on the inside, and hoped I wasn’t on the outside, and in a voice that wasn’t my own said “Good, good sister now you know. Now we know and WE can beat this thing”

WE would beat this thing because nothing brought the sisters down. We were goddamn unstoppable and this was a bump in the road. That was it a bump and we would lock in the hubs and crawl on.

Rah Rah sisboom bah…I was pumped I knew I could beat this for her. Watch out world I was on a mission to kick this problems ass and that was exactly what I was going to do.

That was two years ago. And until recently I thought that I was doing a great job beating this “thing” for her. I thought my non-stop “identifying” with her by making comparisons in my life was helping. Turns out it was solving nothing and I wasn’t protecting her. That realization was horrible. What had happened to the big sister protector? Had I lost my edge? No. I had assumed that because I had said she was better that she was. How awful of me. I have since learned that educating myself is the first step in helping. Listening is another step. As long as she is talking I need to listen, not identify or compare. She doesn’t need a cheerleader, someone telling her to dig deep, try harder, it will be ok, you can snap out of this. She needs support, she needs the understanding. Does she need a protector? No. She needs her sister to understand, to hold her hand and to just be there, through the good, through the bad and through her journey. But it is hers to take, she has told me I can walk beside her because she needs me to, but I can’t fix it for her. That the hardest part.

Thank you for letting me tell part of my story.

Fight On.

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