I am opening up and moving into the future. This was my status today on a social network:
2013 was a momentous year for me. I participated in intensive training to become a Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist in mental health, which led to a 3-month internship at the state-run East Hawaii Community Mental Health Center. All this culminated this fall in receiving full certification in the field from the state.
What most people don’t seem to fully grasp is the word “peer”. It means an equal. What I want to announce for the first time to all who care to listen is that I am an equal to the people I work with. I have a mental illness, too.
Mental illness is surrounded by stigma all over the world, and I have allowed that shadow to keep myself in the dark to everyone but a very few close friends and family members. I’ve been in hiding, and it is a burden I have carried since I was diagnosed 12 years ago.
Today, I choose to lift that shadow from my life. I have a mental illness. I am very lucky to live in the time and place that I do. I receive excellent medical attention, I have a medication regimen that enables me to live a fulfilling life, and I have support from many who know me.
Here at the end of 2013, I leave behind the shame that accompanies so many people diagnosed with mental illness. I march forward into 2014 with a clean slate ready to write a new future. I am happy, and I am loved.
I am opening up on this blog, too. I have been anonymous here for almost four years. It’s time to leave the fear and the shame behind. My name is Jake, and I live in Hawaii.