A Peek Into Mental Health Disorders
This year I promised I would make My Mess My Message. This post isn’t just about me, but someone I have known for a very long time. Someone I consider to be very “Normal” and would never question if she was diagnosed with a mental illness. But what is “Normal” and what does “Normal” look like? Can you be diagnosed with a Mental Health Disorder and live according to what society deems a normal life?
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. The year is 1992 and it was the first year of Middle School. Which meant new school bus, new classmates and what I thought at the time were life changing events. I guess it is all relative, right? I remember meeting a girl on my bus named Funmi…she seemed really cool and more importantly she was a transplant to Georgia just like myself. Coming from a family of immigrants was still very new in our area at that time and we all know how mean kids could be. We spoke differently, we ate different foods, our cultures were different and the list goes on. But what I don’t think Funmi ever realized is how much I admired her because she was so proud of her culture. If only, I could have been THAT proud and not worried what the kids would say about me.
So fast forward to post college days. While hanging out with friends in a club one night, I saw Funmi. I smiled when I saw her because that proud Funmi I knew in middle school, was still the same. She was a “normal” twenty something year old enjoying life to the fullest. At least that is what I saw and I am sure anyone else would too. We didn’t speak much, but I would always say hello when I saw her. The invention of those great things we call Facebook and Instagram would give me a peek into her oh so normal life.
Over time, I began to admire something else about Funmi, her transparency. Sharing all that she was going through in life with back issues, surgery and so much more. On January 19th, I was overcome by Funmi’s transparency regarding her health and depression. I sent her a message to check on her and tell her how much she inspired me and that I too suffered from depression after my divorce.
Whew….I said it! I suffered from depression, me…Madam Manners, yes therapy, medicine, prayer, guidance…all of it. I told Funmi that I hope to be able to be transparent about this too one day. She was very supportive and warned me that everyone would not be as accepting as she was, so be prepared. But I knew my time was coming…if I help one person, I have done my job.
Today I write this post (I know it is a long one) because Funmi hit me hard with her blog post today about Mental Illness and her diagnosis. Now she said previously that she suffered from depression. Yes anyone could have a bout of depression and be okay. That seems pretty normal, right? I mean we are talking about an amazing woman who has her life together, well educated, is raising an amazing son, cooks like a well trained chef, an active social life and so much more. She represents all societal norms and exceeds them! But her post shared that she was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in the late 90’s. She is not a crazy person walking around talking to herself or sitting in an psych ward. She is Funmi…that proud Nigerian Girl that I went to middle school with. You know the one with the fabulous shape and killer smile…yes her…the “Normal” one. So here is the key: she was diagnosed, got help and maintains through treatment. This is how she has been able to lead a life based on what we consider to be normal. She is not the stereotype you think of think of when you hear mental illness; she really is normal…beautifully flawed an all!
I close by saying, mental health disorders are a large part of our society and please don’t turn a deaf ear or shun someone because they live with this. You know that “Normal” friend that may be having a bad day many days of the week, it may be more than that. So open your heart and know that someone needs you not to judge them on this, but support them. We are “Normal” because no one is perfect, our brains just work a little differently. Please head over to Funmi’s Blog – Write Fore Ewe and read her story and journey with Mental Illness. It is an amazing blog!