A plea to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month

By Tiffany Brown

In 1999, I saw my first therapist.  Sixteen years later, I’ve been through dozens a doctors and now it’s the norm for me.

What’s wrong with me? Nothing at all. But something hasn’t been right since the day I was born.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. It is a mental illness that one out of 100 Americans suffer from.  It’s a challenging combination of schizophrenia and manic, depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.

For a long time, I never told anyone about my illness because I was ashamed. I was afraid of the usual, like “She’s crazy. What’s wrong with her?” or “She’s weird.” When I began letting people know, that’s exactly what happened. Some people actually stopped talking to me. I rarely spend the night over my friend’s houses because I don’t want them to see my pill box containing eight pills: two in the morning and the rest before bed.

Last school year, one of my professors presented me with the opportunity to speak at a panel about mental health. The thought of it frightened me. I also suffer from anxiety and social phobia. I talked it over with my mother and for some strange reason I agreed.

I shared my story with a room of about 30 people who actually clapped for me after I spoke! It was a moment I would never forget. From that day, I refused to be ashamed of who I am. It gave me the confidence to help other people and become a happier me.

May is Mental Health Awareness month represented by the color lime green. The theme this year is “B4Stage4”, according to Mental Health America, (mentalhealthamerica.net) which means recognizing symptoms of a mental illness before Stage Four, the most severe.

Join me and other Americans with mental illnesses along with their families by wearing a lime green ribbon. Mine will be on my backpack.

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