further notes on smiling and stigma

now that i'm happy i don't have much to write about.  so i'm trying anyways to dig deep into the pit of words inside me and pull out something that is worth saying.  i'm not sure how successful i've been.  you can be the judge of that.

we all live in our own different little realities.
there are a lot of harrowing and macabre details to my reality that i don't particularly enjoy sharing but i do anyways, and sometimes people trumpet around and say it makes me brave, but i don't really think so.  i think the people who listen to what i'm saying are brave.  they are the heroes.  woven in and out of this blog are my little realities, the small little facts that hold my world together like secrets.  they are the little details that people see and feel a punch in the stomach or chills down their spine.  

these are largely chronicled in (this) e-mail which i sent to my friends and family a year and a half ago.
i will try not to go through them all again.  there is a risk here of sounding dramatic horns that don't need to be heard right now.  because my reality right now, right at this very moment, is that i am happy.  i am working a normal (amazing) job with normal hours and cook above average meals with my above average brother and see my above average friends  and visit my above average province and so largely my reality right now is a good one.  there are only a few remaining little details that would scrape at the psyches of anyone who loves me anyways.  anyways, that's what i'm talking about.  the small details of our lives that shape us.  we all have our own realities.

talking about mental illness is supposed to be brave.  and it is.  but listening to mental illness has always seemed a lot more valiant to me.  because it's hard.  when we're talking about stigma, that's easy to forget.  it's easy to forget that it is hard to hear things.  it is hard to hear that your sister can't imagine a version of her life where she lives past the age of 25, and it's hard to hear your friend describe her arms as battlefields, just like it's hard to be able retrace every scar you've ever had.  and that is where a lot of stigma comes from.  that is important to know.  before i talked about how stigma is a social license not to listen.  stigma also comes from the pain that comes from listening.  and it is important to understand and process that before we screech STIGMA.  and so one of the things we need to defeat denial and stomp out stigma is simple: courage.  be brave.  when it comes to mental illness and hearing about sadness, be bold.  be ready to talk about sadness but be ready to hear about it too.  

my friends often wonder what they can do and how they can help.  without professional degrees it's a bit hard.  and it's easy to say just listen.  but it's more than just listening.  it's opening your mind to the sharp realities of mental illness.  
be bold.
open your heart to the hard things.

that's how you help.

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