I write a lot — well, not a lot recently, but usually — about how amazing my kids are. It’s true. They’re awesome, and they are awesome because of who they are entirely. Every piece. Neurodiversity and mental illness and personality flaws and brilliant gifts all wrapped into two charming and hilarious packages. It’s important work. It’s a battle against the cultural norms of our day, where those with disabilities are unseen, at best, and abused, more often.
But I realized I don’t really write much about myself, my stories. The stories that I actually own the rights to, versus the way I borrow my children’s respectfully and hope that I do their sweet selves justice. I don’t claim my own quirks and mental illness in the way that I could — the way that I should, if I truly want to model acceptance and celebration for my children.
It’s hard. I was well into my twenties before I accepted that I lived through extensive childhood trauma, that I have obsessive compulsive disorder, that I can be crippled with anxiety… It was my normal. And admitting that it wasn’t anyone else’s normal? What would that mean for me? What would happen with my friends? My job?
We still live in a world filled with stigma. We don’t think people with mental illness or disabilities can be good doctors and teachers and lawyers. (They can.) One in four people that you know experience a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. One in four. They are your neighbors. Your friends. Maybe your family. They may not even know yet what that means or who they are. They might be me when I was 16, laying on the floor, alone, unable to ask for help. They might be me when I was 20, not knowing how to name my challenges but thinking they somehow meant I deserved less of a life, less happiness, less joy, less love. They might be me, now, 30, claiming their brain and owning the accommodations they need to have the life they wish. They are anywhere and everywhere.
That is why I need to share more of my stories. Speaking it takes away the stigma, and reading other people’s has made me feel less alone. Because so many of us are weird and quirky and beautiful — and also something of a mess. Sometimes a non-functioning mess, sometimes semi-functioning, sometimes functioning so fucking well that you just can’t even believe it. All the time, though, all those times, the floor times, the locked in the bathroom times, the rock star winning! times… We’re okay and unique and worthy and deserving of it all — Respect. Love. Belonging.