Mental health issues are important to me. I've made no secret of my experience with post partum depression or my ongoing struggles with social anxiety. Daughter HoCoHouseHon wrote about bipolar disorder in 2013 in "Shame." (Still worth the read, even after four years.)
Yesterday Howard County Blogger Jason Booms posted a look into to his own story. Take the time to read it:
Spartan Consideratons--"On Depression and Packaged Goods"
It is hard to write a piece like this, especially if you shrink from confessional writing. Opening up about things which feel like weakness or personal failure is a brave thing to do. Jason's description of the dark voice that "plays on resentments and fears" is hauntingly familiar to me.
Also familiar is the truth that seeking professional help is not a happy ending, but a necessary beginning to what can be a long and bumpy road. Therapy is a piece of the puzzle. Medication can help and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it helps but only for a while. In my own experience seeking professional help was the first step in my acknowledging that yes, it is hard work to be me, and it always will be.
Perhaps this explains my outrage when on Thursday, September 22nd, attorney (and friend of Board Chair Christine O'Connor) Mike Smith used the Public Forum to attempt to smear Board Member Cindy Vaillancourt based on a concoction of groundless assumptions and mean-spirited conspiracy theories. He attacked her because he had been given the information that she had sought medical ssistance for depression. He suggested that made her "unfit".
I wrote my blog piece about this on September 24th. On that same day I wrote The Howard County NAMI informing them and requesting their assistance. Executive Director Beverly Francis-Gibson responded on September 26th:
Thank you for your email. The Board of Directors is aware of this situation and will be issuing a public statement.
Today is November 5th. Has anyone seen a statement from Howard County NAMI? Have I somehow missed it?
Silence on mental health issues is exactly what we don't need. We need voices, like Jason's, and we need advocacy. Standing up to depression and anxiety and other mental health issues is hard enough. Our community needs people who will stand up to bullies like Mike Smith who seek to use someone's medical history against them, like a weapon.
Anyone who observed what happened at that Board Meeting who was in a position to speak out and intervene and didn't is complicit.
A long, long time ago a very special man read my daughter's blog post and felt convicted enough by the topic that he asked his readers to take a look. I'm asking you today to read Jason's.
And please, please, please: let's talk about this. Let's not allow silence or the "dark voice that plays on fear" to win.