This post feels a little weird to write because it is the blogging equivalent of standing on the shoulder of giants. And the inspiration for this post is a giant to me. Her name is Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), and if you don’t know her work, you should because it is amazing.
Jenny talks openly about her battles with mental illness, chronic pain, and so much more, all while mixing in a delightful dollop of humor and ridiculous light-heartedness. And while there are many truly amazing people in my life who have accepted me, her writings are the first ones that I read and was like yes, my brain is not the only ridiculously broken brain out there. This person, though she doesn’t know me, is one of my tribe. Or maybe I’m a part of hers since she has been doing this a lot longer? Either way, she was the inspiration for me to open up and be transparent about my mental illness.
She often tells the story of the folder of 24. It is a folder of 24 letters that she got from people who were actively planning their suicide, but choose life instead. They did so not because of anything she wrote, but because of the reactions she got, the people who whispered out of the darkness…me too.
Me too is such a powerful phrase. It lets us know we are not alone, and that is what the folder of 24 is all about. However, it is also about stories. The stories of people who are alive today because people said, “me too.” And since talking about that, Jenny often says that she has complete strangers come up to her at book signings to say, “I’m number 25.”
Jenny featured this story on her recent TEDx Talk. And during it, she said that there are so many 25s out there. And she is right. And honestly, if a few things had gone differently in my life, I’d probably be one of those 25s too.
Before I got help, I often wondered if anyone would miss me if I were gone. Even now, with a wife and family members who love me and friends I can count on, I sometimes find myself wondering the same thing during my darkest moments. While waiting for a train I am often struck by how easy it would be to just step in front of it, which would end the dark, painful nights. Light always wins, partly because of people like Jenny who are open about their battles and inspire others to do the same, partly because of the people I connect with through this blog, and the knowledge that mental illness lies. And that the people I love also love me.
I am not a burden. I am not a waste. I am not better off gone.
And neither are you.
Maybe I’m not truly another 25 because I have never been actively suicidal. Maybe I’m just a 25 lite because I have at times been passively suicidal, but I have a story full of dark twists and scary ledges that I have looked over before pulling myself back. And so do millions of other people.
Mental illness is not a joke. Depression is not mere sadness. They are serious and potentially fatal diseases that we need to talk about so that we can break the stigma. As Jenny reminded us in her recent TEDx Talk, stories are so much more powerful than the stigma. And the more people who speak up, the more those stories come out. The more they spread. And the less power stigma has.
That is why I write this blog. Whether I have one reader or a hundred, it is about speaking up about a battle that millions of us face. It is about being honest about the fact that sometimes I am not okay, and the fact that I’m not okay is okay because I am not alone.
So thank you to Jenny Lawson for inspiring me. Thank you to my friends for being there for me. To my family for loving me, even in my brokenness.
And as always, thank you to all of you for reading. Until next time.