Today, like every Friday, my husband left the house at five-fifty in order to be at the organization he volunteers at, by six.
While he is sweating over a grill making pancakes, eggs, hash browns, or whatever else is on the menu this morning, I am typing away at the computer.
My husband’s advocacy for the mentally ill and my advocacy for the mentally ill, look totally different.
My husband participates in one of the most basic and nurturing of all tasks – he feeds people. Not only that, he gets his hands dirty, he sweats, and he looks people in the eye, giving them the message that even though society isn’t meeting their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, someone still sees them as valuable, human, and important. Someone actually sees them.
I have seen hundreds of blogs dealing with every type and every aspect of mental illness. I have witnessed so many new nonprofits being formed in order to raise awareness and combat the stigma. There are days when I feel like my voice is falling into a canyon of voices and no one can hear me, because everyone is shouting and every shout echoes off the canyon walls. The reverberations are deafening.
Who are the people writing about mental health? Who are these people educating us about life with bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, depression and others? Well, I am going to makes some assumptions here: most of us have a home, because we appear to have access to a computer constantly, most of us are educated at some level, because we are able to write coherent sentences, most of us have access to doctors and medications, otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be able to function at a level that is high enough to keep up a blog, or write an article, or be interviewed.
In other words, most of us are privileged, and please don’t write to me and tell me because you live on disability that you aren’t privileged. Having a roof over your head, having Internet access, having enough food to eat, having access to medical treatment – all of those things make you better off than billions of people on the planet and millions of people in the United States.
How is it that the people with the most are the only voices being heard? The people with the most severe symptoms, the people who suffer the most, the ones who are our most vulnerable, the ones who would benefit most from change, are silent. They have no access to the Internet which in reality is access to the world.
I know that I have influenced a few people with my articles and my blog, because they have written me and told me their stories.
I know that I have made a difference, and I am sure every blogger, writer, and artist out there has contributed in making the world a better place for the mentally ill, at least in the circles where people are literate and have access to a computer.
But I don’t think all this blogging, all these nonprofits formed to educate and combat stigma, have trickled down to the people who need it most.
People need doctors, people need hospitals, people need homes, people need clothes, and shoes and food, and someone to care.
Our household does a pretty good job at advocacy, but the best of it isn’t done by me. I am the one sitting at a comfortable computer chair with my ice water, coffee, and snacks. Who is making life more comfortable for the severely mentally ill – that’s my husband – sweat and tears.