Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Guest Post #1 - Mental Health Awareness Month - by Advocate All Star - Jody Bee

1)   How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?

Because my abuse started pre-verbal, I have always felt like I have had something wrong with me. I began experiencing more serious symptoms when I was about six years old, and had my first suicide attempt at age eight. I did not acknowledge my illness, or get a proper diagnosis until three years ago.

2)   Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

Given the state of mental health treatment when I was a child, I received virtually no support. I tried therapy a few times in my twenties but could never find that one person who actually understood. When I had my breakdown three years ago, I finally sought proper treatment, including talk therapy and medications, which I continue to this day.

3)   What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

Please understand that none of this abuse was your fault. You did nothing wrong to make yourself mentally ill. Please stop hurting yourself because in the long run it is just leaving scars and nothing else changes. Protect your self-esteem as much as you can, as it is one thing that is incredibly difficult to recover. Reach out to anyone you possibly can, and hang on because things will not always remain the same.

4)   What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

That there is something wrong with you that cannot be fixed, and that often our actions are taken as if they were done on purpose, when in fact many of them are a result of our illness; or how any reaction we have that may not be “normal”, we are immediately asked if we are off our medications. We as a society also need to stop jumping to conclusions by pointing the finger and assuming that every bad thing that happens is done by someone mentally ill.

5)   How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?

In my opinion, stigma is simply a matter of lack of education and a surplus of ignorance.
I have always dealt with stigma from my family. I think that we are headed in the 
right direction, but a long way from being where we need to be. The key is for us survivors to continue to fight and voice our stories without shame, knowing that our voice alone speaks for thousands. It is important to have mental health education in schools, to continue talking about it on social media and to help to spread the word until we are big enough in numbers and loud enough that we are heard.

6)   What do you do to get through the bad days?  I try to use the coping mechanisms I have learned and find that distraction is the key for me. I will do some writing, go for a walk, read or watch a movie or TV series. I find it helps me to help others when I am not too down, so I often try to answer many of my DM’s at this point. I have a support network on social media; however, I have yet to master the art of reaching out.

7)   Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?

I do a lot of blogging about my story in hopes of reaching those who may be feeling a similar way, and remind them they are not alone. I am very much into suicide and self-harm prevention, and spend a lot of time talking with people at their moment of crisis. I also took a course and am now a Trauma Recovery Coach who also does peer support in order to make others feel understood and validated.

8)   Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.

Twitter: @onelastkick71 ; Facebook @jodybee


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