May 18, 2019
Happy May, my Wonderful Weirdoes!
Did you know that May is Mental Health Month? This is the time of year when we are all encouraged to speak openly about our personal experiences with mental health. As someone who used to hide away the fact that I am living with Bipolar Disorder, I understand how hard even starting a conversation about mental health can be. But over the past few years, talking about my setbacks and struggles with my mental health has been liberating. I have never felt freer or more self-possessed then after embracing my beautiful brain and being able to share my mental health journey with all of you. (Yes I am comfortable calling my brain beautiful. Is it riddled with concussion brown spots? Probably. Is it dark and twisted? 90% of the time, yes, yes it is. But Bipolar Disorder has blessed me with unreasonable confidence.)
This whole month is dedicated to the importance of caring about mental health. I care because I was once so timid and afraid to speak up. I care because staying silent almost cost me my life. I care because my world AFTER sharing my truth has been filled with compassion, kindness, love, empathy, beauty, and pride. I want anyone struggling to know that I care about them. And I want them to experience the same acceptance and empowerment I’ve found in embracing my truth.
I want nothing more than for any of you, who may be holding on to a secret mental health battle, to know that even though starting the conversation can seem intimidating, everything that comes after will make that brave step worth it. Working with amazing mental health organizations has shown me that there are incredible resources out there for people looking to educate themselves on symptoms and solutions. (I suggest checking out NAMI.org if you have nagging questions about where to go for help.) Talking about my personal struggles in public has shown me that society is truly becoming more open-minded, accepting, and open-hearted when it comes to mental health. I’ve realized that I am not alone in this journey. When you all share your stories and battles with me at signings, through fan mail, or Twitter, it makes me realize we are all in this together. I am so grateful for your bravery. It inspires me to keep sharing, to keep speaking loudly and proudly.
During Mental Health Month it is important that we come together and help educate those who may not understand the journey. We can do that by sharing statistics and information that explains how common mental illness and mental health disorders are. With 1 in 5 adults in the US living with a mental illness and with 1 in 5 children and teens in the US living with a mental illness, the chances are we are either personally affected or someone we care about is.
So here’s what I’ll be doing to celebrate and support Mental Health Month. I’m going to share as much info as I can on social media, every stat that has moved me, every new study that has genuinely scared me. Mental health disorders and the consequences of going untreated are affecting almost 50 million Americans each day. Suicide rates amongst children and teens are rising exponentially. We need to show people these numbers, the harsh reality of it all. We cannot keep looking away from an uncomfortable topic. I know my wonderful weirdoes are exceptionally strong, beautifully vulnerable, and deeply empathetic. So I’m counting on you all to help share these messages and get people to pay attention.
I’ll also be sharing my story. Again and again until strangers in the supermarket are like “Hey how’s the Bipolar treating you today?” And I’ll be like “It’s great! Also these avocadoes are the perfect firmness!” I will continue to use my voice for those who have yet to find theirs.
In the past few weeks I’ve had the honor of speaking at non-profit events for MOSTe in Los Angeles and NAMI in Chicago. I’ve gotten to share my past struggles and my solutions with people of all ages, from all different walks of life, and I’ve been amazed at how much we all have in common when it comes to living with anxiety or depression, and even temporary symptoms caused by stress and setbacks. I’ll continue to share my story on social media this month and I would be so moved and appreciative if you shared your stories with me.
Let me know why you care about mental health using the hashtag #WhyCare and tagging @NAMICommunicate and me @TheAJMendez on Twitter and Instagram. Whether you're taking care of yourself, a loved one, or supporting a friend who is a caregiver, tell us why you care, why society should care, or what you think we can all do to support each other. Tell me what you do to take care of your beautiful brain!
Sharing your experience, your perspective, is invaluable. Someone out there needs to hear the story only you can tell. So please join me and tell the world why you care. And why they should too. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!