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Wearing the ‘normal’ mask is what I always have done. I developed strategies over the years to aid in coping with my anxiety and depressive disorders. I use mantra’s like ‘Fake it until you Make it’, ‘Look for the Good’, and ‘One step at a Time’. I find these helpful temporarily.

After many years of suffering and experience, I recognize the importance of self-reflection. I developed various coping strategies like declining an event or gathering, removing triggers, humor, and simply taking that ‘mental health day’.

I am also very aware that continual stressful situations increase my mental health symptoms and in turn it becomes increasingly harder and sometimes impossible to slip on that ‘everything’ is okay face and accompanying behaviors. I am then exposed as the ‘alien’ I have exhaustively tried to ‘hide’ in my work life, my community life, and sometimes from my family.

I wish and imagine a world where I can openly share anytime and anywhere my disorders and my struggles without fear of being treated differently. I imagine an existence without fear of not receiving that promotion or opportunity. An existence without fear of judgement, and without the fear of individual assumptions that I am ‘sick’ if I am just having a bad day, if I declined that invitation, if I ignored that text, or if I cried during a movie. It is ‘okay to not be okay’.

I continue to imagine a world where I can completely exist in a community of acceptance and without judgement.

If I imagine, like John Lennon, Bell Let’s Talk Day will be everyday without fear and with a peace of mind that stigma will not smother me, alienate me, and that support will blanket me when I am at my worst.

I have a dream that one day, we all will be able to share & talk about mental health without any fear. I dream and envision a community that supports, protects, and is compassionate.

A community of people educated in mental health disorders who ‘stand-up’ for mental health, advocates collectively, and stomps on stigma. 

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