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Before I hit the send button on these blog posts, I start to cry. If someone leaves me a supportive comment, I start to cry. If one of my articles is accepted, I start to cry. For the last seven months I have cried so easily. I often sit at the computer looking at a screen made a little fuzzy from eyes full of tears.

I realized yesterday, that I am letting go of twenty years of shame. I am letting go of twenty years of secrets. I am letting go of twenty years of humiliation, grief, and pain.

All those times at my job when people talked about a client with a mental illness, and how difficult they were, all those words that were used to describe those clients, like nuts, wacko, crazy, cuckoo, etc. I took all that into my spirit, into my psyche. “So, if they knew about me, and my illness, this is what they would think and say about me, too.” I thought to myself.

All those times I saw people talking to people and voices only they could see and hear, and I thought, “That could be me.”

All those times I heard jokes, saw movies, read books, and had no way to respond. All those times I kept my secret while I felt the burn of shame. All those times my husband and I had to hide our reality, and try to go on together after a psychotic episode, rebuilding our world alone.

For most of our marriage my husband and I lived in a bubble. We burst that bubble ourselves but the pressure and pain it caused is being released every day.

After nearly twenty years of having to shove my feelings somewhere deep inside, I can now respond to the stereotypes. I can respond to the language of dehumanization and all of the belittling of an illness that can be deadly and is nothing like the sensational beliefs most people hold. I can now point out when someone is being hurtful or furthering the stigma around schizophrenia.

After nearly two decades of being as tight as a pressure cooker with no way to release steam, I have a space. I have a place in this world, carved from my tears, where people can read about the injustice, the shame, the fear, and the pain.

I have a voice that is sometimes loud, sometimes soft, and sometimes crackly from lack of use. I have a voice and that means I am seen, recognized and validated in a world that often goes speeding by or where people spend time with their heads in their phones instead of looking each other in the eye.

I see that you see me, and that brings tears to my eyes.