When I first became a nurse, I thought this is it, this is what I want to do when I grow up. I started working in mental health right from the beginning, and I knew it was the right fit. I was good at my work, and passionate about it as well. It seemed like I had a very bright career future ahead of me.
Then I developed a mental illness myself more than 10 years ago. I became even more passionate about my work, but my managers weren’t so keen on having a nurse around whom they considered unpredictable and thus unsafe.
Stigma is never pretty or acceptable, but when it comes from within mental health care it seems particularly galling. That doesn’t make it any less real, though.
Gradually, the career trajectory I had envisioned became less and less certain. Life took a number of unexpected, highly distressing turns, and it’s become increasingly clear that I could no longer rely on the career I loved so much as being a certainty for my future. While I fought to hold onto the idea that somehow my life would get back to the track it was previously on, I eventually realized that belief really wasn’t serving me, and it kept me trapped in a sense of failure.
I would need to find a different source of meaning and fulfillment.
When I started a mental health blog a couple of years ago, it was a means of self-expression and connecting with other people experiencing mental illness. It was a hobby with therapeutic benefits.
As blogging started playing a more prominent role in my life, I started having glimmers of realization that maybe there was a future for me that didn’t revolve around being a nurse. Signposts started popping up, pointing me in a new direction.
I want to use the written word to fight the stigma and misinformation surrounding mental illness. Being a stigma warrior will be my new identity to shout from the rooftops.
I don’t want other people to feel as alone with the stigma as I did. I don’t want other people to be silenced, as I felt when it seemed that no one was prepared to listen to or even allow my voice. There will be no more silence.
I want my blog to be a safe space for people to talk about difficult things. I want to reach more people who might be struggling.
I want to continue to form genuine, open, honest connections with others living with mental illness. In that sense, maybe where I’m heading isn’t so far removed from where I came from.
I want to take all the weakness that I feel and the weakness that others see in me and turn it into something powerful. The written word can serve as both weapon and armour.
I want my voice to be heard.
While that is a lot of “I wants”, I’ve come to see those wants as being within reach, which is a transformation in and of itself.
And wouldn’t it be nice if some of the people who tried to silence me and pull me down happened to stumble across my writing online, and maybe find my book (soon to be books plural) on Amazon.
They say success is the best revenge. Maybe being a stigma warrior is going to be my kind of success.