As you know we had an event this week and as you know, weird shit happened! I got good feedback with the exception of one petty (IMHO) email from someone I have helped professionally. Yes, she came and ate the $30 lunch, didn't donate, and proceeded to write an 800-word email to me and my boss bitching about everything she didn't like about the event.
Everything else aside, it was her reasoning that made me hurt and angry - and that actually inspired this post.
In the mental health advocacy world, like every other civil rights movement, there are factions of people who don't think others unlike them belong, or should have a seat at the table. And it is why, as my keynote speaker noted at the event, we're not even at the back of the bus with mental health - we're under the fucking bus. It is a civil rights battle that we are waging right now, and with the petty infighting, we are crippling ourselves.
This person said her comments were from "a peer's perspective" - a "peer" being someone who lives with mental health challenges - and among many other pointed comments, she said the event had too many family members speaking. Our emcee has nieces with PTSD; one speaker has a son with major depression; one speaker lives with multiple mental illness diagnoses and has a son who does as well.
And that is what I reacted (privately) somewhat viscerally to.
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all, right? Or in my case, if you don't want to use the word fuck in a work email, don't write back. So I haven't - yet.
What I wanted to tell her - and maybe one day, calmly I will - is that her attitude is the biggest thing holding us back from progress. That the us vs. them attitude gets us exactly nowhere. That so many of us are both peers and family members - and even if no one identifies as either one, we still need their help. We have to stop labeling ourselves and others if we want to fucking get anywhere.
Only when we come together and stop worrying who is in the front row of the debate will we move forward and truly convince people that just because the illness is in your brain, it doesn't mean you should be ashamed. That it is OK to ask for help.
Only then will the super high, heartbreaking suicide rates in this country begin to plummet.
Only then will people no longer feel alone, isolated, hopeless.
I took a helpline call at work this week from a sister advocating for her adult brother. He has been shuffled around by the system, has no health coverage because of a bureaucratic SNAFU, and his mother said, literally, "I guess we are just helpless." And the sister said, "No, we aren't."
So she called my organization. And we are advocating for them. Amazingly, I have been assured that the state's insurance program will rush his application this week.
Does it matter how she identifies? Or how I identify? Or does it matter that we are fighting for this person's right to proper treatment and human dignity?
So there is my elevator speech. Next month is our biggest event and I'm raising money again. If you feel inclined, please help me kick ass. No donation is too small and everything is appreciated.
Because we are literally all in this together.