What if your reality is not reality?

What if everyone told you that everything you see, hear, touch, think, feel is just a hallucination?

Well, I was told that.

Am I truly insane? Who knows? Who can properly determine what is authentic madness?

We need to be more aware of mental illness.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia. What is schizophrenia? Basically schizophrenia is a mental disorder that messes with my thinking and how I perceive things. I hear, see, feel things that may or may not be there.

More people need to be aware of mental illness. Not all mentally ill people are dangerous. Just as all people who don't have a mental illness are safe to be around. Statistics that BBC gathered prove that there are more crimes done on the mentally ill than those committed by them. "1% of victims of violent crime believed that the incident occurred because the offender had a mental illness." (Hammond, "Future - The Myth of Mental Illness and Violence.") "3 to 5 percent of all violence, including but not limited to firearm violence, is attributable to serious mental illness." ("Gun Violence and Mental Illness.")

Personally, I think I'm too drugged up to do anything. A few hours after taking my meds, they knock me out completely. When I wake up in the morning, as a side effect of the meds, I'm too tired and sleepy to even want to do anything. Sure I had thoughts [one shoulder shrug]. [lift an eyebrow] But who hasn't wanted to sucker punch a person who angered them? You had thought about it, but you didn't follow through with it.

The side effects of the meds suck. But when I'm off them... can you imagine that excessively profound terror, that overwhelmingly unreasonable paranoia, those unceasingly hovering voices, the terrifying feeling of being unable to trust anyone, of having lost all safety, all hope, all light? I still get scared sometimes for no reason.

What's depression, you may ask. I get sad for no reason. It's so incredibly difficult to get up in the morning when all I want to do is sleep and will the world away. It's so ineffably hard when all I hear and feel is that I'm worth nothing, that I'm useless, unwanted, unneeded. I've always heard those voices, constantly yelling, whispering that I should just kill myself, that someone is going to murder my precious ones. Some days, some weeks, no matter how hard I try I can't feel anything. I don't want to do anything. I don't feel like eating. I don't want to shower. I don't want to go out. I don't want to move. I don't want to do anything at all. For no fucking reason. I'm either just sad or I can't feel a thing. It's just a big, gaping void of nothing. I don't care if I smell. I don't care if I look scary. I don't care about anything. You can't battle nothing.

You trip, fall, scrape your knee. You can just put a bandaid on it. Your body gets sick. You can just go to the doctor and get prescribed meds. You get in an accident. Go to physical therapy.

But.

How do you fight nothing?

To me, that's what depression feels like.

Sometimes it's okay to be sad. It's okay not to act perfect. Just try to not let it kill your soul.

You...

You, no matter what you think, believe, you have the potential to be the best you can be.

Probably should start small. But it's a pain in the butt with so much stigma polluting the world. With mental illness, comes stigma. What exactly is stigma? It's negativity and discrimination toward a certain topic, such as mental illness or homosexuality.

We need to reduce stigma.

If there wasn't so much stigma around mental illness, people wouldn't need to hide it until they can't anymore. Until they explode and unfortunate things happen.

We can save lives, people. [shake fists] We can actually save lives.

Mental illness is not something you can just will away. It needs to managed so that the person can function and live just like anyone else. Having a mental illness, going to therapy doesn't need to be a bad thing. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is the nation's largest mental health organization, states that "approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year (NAMI)." But you don't see mass shootings every day.

I've been going to Pacific Clinics, a mental health clinic, for three years now. I've met with many schizophrenics and bipolar people and most of them have never shown me any aggression. They smile and talk just like anyone else.

You may not be able to save everyone but you can make things easier for them.

You can become more aware by going to mental health clinics and events, or just simply forming relationships with people who have actually experienced mental illness instead of those who plead insanity just so they don't have to go to death row. If you understand what mental illness really is, then stigma can disappear. You at least help someone. If you help someone, one day, someone will help you back.

[smile] Imagine we all can do this. Imagine a world free of discrimination, a place where you don't have to fear for your life, your safety, just because you're different. A haven that is safe and comfortable for anyone. A place of warmth and friendship. A place of healing.

So let's bring awareness. [fist up] Let's reduce stigma. [shake fist] Talk about it more. [hand out] [wave hand] Go to Nami Walks to raise money. It's once a year in the first few weeks of October. Go to Pacific Clinics. [link hands] Become friends with these people. Donate any amount to further this cause. Volunteer your time at the clinics. Just do something, anything.

You can be the change you need.

You can be the change we need.

References

"Gun Violence and Mental Illness: Myths and Evidence-Based Facts." Gun Violence and Mental Illness: Myths and Evidence-Based Facts - American Mental Health Counselors Association, blogs/joel-miller/2017/10/03/gun-violence-and-mental-illnessmyths-and-evidence-based-facts.

Hammond, Claudia. "Future - The Myth of Mental Illness and Violence." BBC News, BBC, 23 July 2015, future/story/20150723-the-myth-of-mental-illness-and-violence.

Members, Therapists, Psychiatrists, Nurses of Pacific Clinics.

"NAMI." Home, 19 May 2018, About-NAMI.

"Schizophrenia." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Apr. 2018, diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443.


Mmhm. Yes, yes, I know I missed Mental Health Awareness Month. And yeah, schizophrenia's symptoms sometimes can vary pretty drastically from person to person. And sometimes just slightly, or not at all. I don't claim to know all the symptoms nor can I claim to remember every single detail about schizophrenia. Sorry if my descriptions don't parallel your perception of schizophrenia. Not saying that you are wrong. Everyone's got their own way of thinking, of seeing. Some people experience it differently.

I gave this speech in front of my speech class last week. When I disclosed my diagnosis, the room went silent. I was debating whether I should or not, but if I could help someone, even one person, then it is worth it. After I was done, so many of my classmates smiled and gave me the thumbs up.

And for those who have someone who has a mental illness, please, please...

Don't give up on them.

Yeah, it's tough sometimes. It's frustrating. But they need you. Stay strong.

For those who are struggling with anything,

For those who are lost,

You are not alone.

If you ever needa talk, I'm here.

If you don't want me, I'll try to connect you with people who can help.