In brief: #GetWell2015: First Entry brought to you by Ativan.
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…to this, my first entry in #GetWell2015. I will start with a confession: I needed Ativan to sit down and write, but in the end, that’s simply appropriate for a project where I’m going to be honest about how hard it is to get well in our culture.
Yesterday, in my Happy New Year! Announcements! Launch of #GetWell2015! post I previewed the early thoughts and goals I have for this series. The idea started after I snapped one day about six months ago and frustratedly started discussing my anxiety, ADD, mental health stigma, poverty and the intersection of those things on Twitter. I was paralyzed, couldn’t work, didn’t know what to do. The “OMG ME TOO” messages started coming in immediately. I get more response when using my #AnxietyTalk, #ADDLife, and #povertystigma hashtags than any other topics I discuss. I suspect it’s because these issues are SUPER COMMON, but shhhhhhhhhhh!
We’re not supposed to talk about these things — especially when they overlap. It’s been this way forever.
Discussing mental illness, treatment, struggle or how the exhaustion and time-suck of poverty keep us on the hamster wheel of just getting by isn’t allowed. It isn’t allowed by family who don’t want the shame to touch them — as though they are automatically implicated. (Sometimes they are, let’s be frank. But they aren’t necessarily.) It isn’t allowed by others in our shared profession for fear group credibility is lost. It isn’t allowed in our respective communities — especially if we are part of a marginalized/oppressed group already struggling for legitimacy, respect, and often basic humanity.
I call bullshit.
I’m tired of just getting by. I’m tired of “Oh, that Katie always lands on her feet!” being tossed around as a compliment. Really? That’s my goal? To land on my feet? That implies I’m constantly being tossed off a high platform where cat-like flip moves are required to contort into a landing position that isn’t going to fracture my spine. I’ve been doing that for 20 years and I am EXHAUSTED.
I want more. I want to live. I have made an affirmative choice to find well. I suspect “healthy” is on the other side of “well,” so I’m starting at the beginning. And this shit is already hard. I think I’m only less daunted than other people because this summer I considered a stint in an in-patient facility as a relief. I quickly realized that thought — the thought that should have terrified me, but didn’t — was in itself terrifying. I moved cross-country to avoid it becoming reality.
It’s also slightly less daunting to me because I had my social security number memorized at age eight to make the hospital intake process faster. To say I was well acquainted with the medical system, insurance providers and the like before I hit puberty is a massive understatement.
I’ve never been well. I’ll spare you the childhood medical history of surgeries, disorders, conditions, lingering issues and hospitalizations. What it comes down to is that I have never been able to take for granted breathing, sleeping, digesting, seeing, hearing or any of the things most people haven’t spent a moment of their lives concerned with.
I spent 2014 addressing the first order of business following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act: the 15 doctors visits and one surgery it took for me to be able to breathe. I can now do that! I have also been able to join a cheap gym and line up good docs with good health coverage in my new Southern California home. I even found a therapist I like that I CAN WALK TO in four minutes. Four minutes!
So now that some of the background is over, I’m going to close out this here background entry. I moderate my blog comments and will try to make this a safe space (relatively), so I’m hoping that what happened on Twitter under #AnxietyTalk and #DisorderSolidarity will naturally flow into this project. The strategies that have been shared, the community that has been built — they’ve been invaluable to me and, I know, to some of you. I want that to continue. I want this space to be inclusive and help people find resources and understanding. I’m going to tell it like it is and I have no idea what’s going to happen, other than the universe guarantee that there will be victory/excited days/entries and Fuck The World days/entries.
I have never sugar coated anything and I don’t plan to start now. I am several different people; just like the graphic for this post. I will be unpolished when that’s what’s real. I will be upset when that’s real. I will be descriptive about my history when that’s what’s happening and my truth. The only half-truths will be the use of pseudonyms from time to time because, while this is my story, minor players and family/friends who are targets because of my activism deserve their privacy.
I hope you’ll join me for this whole messy thing. You should know, I’m striving to be Ana, not Elsa.
(Listen, I have nieces and I’m their nanny, so there are going to be Frozen references; don’t send emails, just skip over them if you’re not into it. I’m here to be myself and I’m in a gif phase. Obviously.)
I will leave you with this — the description of the project on its homepage. I suspect it will evolve, but consider this a short preview:
This space houses a project where I honestly detail my struggle to get to “well.” My FIRST ENTRY explains why I’m so committed to ending stigma around health, poverty, mental illness and what it takes to be simply well in our culture that I’m openly discussing my struggle. I also share in real time on Twitter, IG & Facebook with the hashtags #GetWell2015, #AnxietyTalk, #ADDLife, #poverty, #EndStigma & #homebase.
See you at the next entry and on social media in the meantime….