Hello, and welcome to my new site, dedicated to fashion, beauty, and most of all, mental health. Because fabulousness begins with good mental health.
Here is the thing. I started this site in memory of and in dedication to my brother, Jefferson Joseph Blanton-Harris. He was a fabulous brother, musician, father, and friend. He took his life in 2013. So why am I telling you this, and what does this have to do with this blog?
For years I walked around with a well-kept secret. As a psychiatric nurse, I would look around and think, someone who is fighting this battle against Bipolar Disorder needs to “come out of the closet”. People who are newly diagnosed need examples of people who are happy, healthy, and functioning well. Someone really ought to do this, I thought. BUT NOT ME! I am a psychiatric nurse, with over 20 years in the field. I need to be professional, I can’t be open about my struggles with Bipolar Disorder. I have a reputation to protect.
What kind of world is it, when the very people who have Bipolar Disorder, and are functioning well enough to take care of others for over 20 years, can’t even admit that they have the condition? What does that say about the stigma attached? Why should people walk around in secret, and lie, because of stupid stigma? What does it say about the profession, that it is not really okay to have the disorder? What does that tell our clients/patients?
Surviving the suicide of a loved one changes a person. You live with incredible guilt, for not having done everything within your power to save your loved one. I live with the sting of this guilt every day, every moment. But living in that place does not serve me, my brother, or the community at large. There is only one thing left to do. That is to be open about my struggles. Because I can’t save my brother, and I can’t bring him back. But I quite possibly could help someone else. And that is what I am bound and determined to do.
It is not easy being a 15 year old, feeling dead inside, in a doctor’s office in 1985, hearing “I think you have Manic Depression”. Quite frankly, I thought doc was nuts. He was socially awkward and wide-eyed and seemed naïve and I didn’t think very much of him. But here is the thing, he was right. I spent 15 years lying to myself, and telling myself that this strange doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. I finally accepted the inevitable in 2001. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself, to admit the truth. Admitting and facing it led to recovery, the appropriate tools for coping, the appropriate medications, etc. I thank God for my treatment team. I thank God I survived. But most of all, I thank God that I don’t have to live with the “secret” any longer.
Though it is at times embarrassing, I will share my story and hold my head up high. I am proud of my accomplishments in spite of my condition. I have two college degrees, graduated from both Magna Cum Laude, was the President of the Honor Society, etc. I have never been unemployed and have enjoyed lengthy employment at my work locations, with good evaluations. I have been married for 10 years. I have a beautiful son whom I adore, and is my greatest gift. I accomplished most of this while being extremely depressed one day, then manic the next. That is no small feat. I share all this, not to brag, but to inspire hope that in spite of a mental illness, and with the help of God and your treatment team, all things are possible.
Yes, I will hold my head up high. Screw the stigma. It is time to be a Mental Health Warrior. It is time.
Thank you for visiting my site. I know nothing about blogs and I am still working out the kinks in this program. But I want to make this a site about you, and the things that make you feel fabulous. Fashion, beauty, family, relationships, God, spirituality. But most of all mental health. We all need each other in this adventure we call life.
God bless you real good. Let’s ride this journey together, shall we?
*Please note- this site is intended simply as a peer support site where ideas are exchanged. It is not intended to substitute psychiatric or psychological care. It does not intend to diagnose or treat psychiatric conditions. For referrals and resources such as these, please contact the writer and/or use the AFSP link.