I’m typing this from my hospital bed that I’ve been in for the last three weeks, still trying to put the broken pieces together. Technically, I’ve spent the last four out of five weeks here. Every now and again, I catch a glimpse of one of the positive affirmations painted on my windows with help from therapeutic recreation that that hold a beautiful view of the St. Paul skyline. “You’re doing a great job today,” reads one. “Be kind,” reads another in pink, bold letters. Lisa, one of my nurses, comes in the room and smiles.
“How are you? You look great.”
“Not too bad,” I say, trying to sound somewhat enthusiastic.
In roughly 48 hours, I’m going home, which, considering how sick I was when I came in — I contracted bacterial meningitis as a complication from surgery, with one of my doctors saying that it was like I was in a comatose-like state — is a huge accomplishment, and one that for a little while, we couldn’t predict would happen.
In truth, I lied to Lisa. I am sad. Actually, I’d go as far as to say that I am depressed. I wish I had told her the truth about how much this illness has taken from me that I’ll have to work so hard to get back; things like being able to be up for more than three hours a day without excruciating pain. I wish I told her how angry I was about potentially having to repeat surgery to place an implant that caused me to get this illness, even though for two whole weeks, we were thrilled with the results. I wish I could tell her about how traumatized I still felt because this was my third life-threatening complication related to this surgery. And if not this procedure, my only other option is a much more major–and permanent–one that has risks of its own.
But yet, I didn’t. So I’m doing it now.
I am depressed. I am hurting, physically and emotionally. And quite frankly, I am scared for what the future holds.
And that is OK.
Today is World Mental Health Day. On this day, team Born This Way Foundation seeks to explode the conversation about mental health and bring it into the light–something that for so long, has festered in darkness. Mental health is health, just like the health of our physical bodies. Mental health can cause a wide range of mental and physical symptoms, ranging from nausea and vomiting caused by anxiety, to suicide–something that kills 123 people per day around the world.
But personally, I don’t want to stop there.
While World Mental Health Day is critical, I as well as the rest of the team hope to see the day where we can talk about mental health every day. I want to live in a world where stigma is eliminated, and seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is viewed just the same as seeing a doctor. I want to live in a world where I don’t feel I have to lie when a nurse asks me how I’m feeling.
This World Mental Health Day, do your part to explode the conversation. Be vulnerable. Ask your friends how they’re feeling. And perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help – today, and every day.
As I look on and once again read the positive affirmations painted on my windows, I am reminded of the power of kindness. Today, on October 10, I am daring to be kind to myself and those around me – and to bring mental health from darkness into the light.