I had these shoes for nearly five years, come this summer….
I got them during my medical leave that year, a few months after I attempted to take my life and landed myself in a psych ward of a hospital.
The shoes became an integral part of my “survival routine,” since then. They have been with me through every milestone within the past five years…
I wore them for the three consecutive years I walked in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Annual Community Walk, in Washington, DC.
I wore them for the three consecutive years I ran in the UNRWA GAZA 5K for the Mental Health Care of Palestinian Refugee Children, in Washington, DC.
I wore these shoes during my “victory laps” after every big milestone in my PhD program thus far: from the qualifying exam, field exam, dissertation proposal defense, and all the smaller milestones in between.
It is safe to say that I have worn them out, and there is pride in that. They are emblematic of my wounds, scars, and battles…. My blood, sweat, and tears.
Understandably so, it is very hard to give up something of great sentimental value, but there comes a time that we may have to.
We need to remember that it is possible to appreciate and honor our past struggles, and at the same time, be able to let it go.
It is okay to embrace your struggle, and be stronger appreciating what you went through, recognizing that warrior within you. Take pride in that.
Take pride, as long as the pain of the memories of what you have endured do not paralyze you. It is sometimes difficult to take the “good” and leave the “bad,” but we must in order to move forward to live that enriching life we ALL deserve.
Although it is time for me to “get new shoes,” what I have experienced will always be a part of me, no matter what I do and no matter where I go. I will always be me…
And after witnessing what it is like in a psych ward, I was determined never to go back there again. It’s really despicable how patients are treated in psych wards in some hospitals. Personally, I feel that sometimes the most “othered” “community” out there, is not the Muslims, immigrants, blacks, women, etc. etc., but rather the “mentally ill” across all sectors and boundaries, and even within the mental health care system.
I don’t see shame in finding ways to survive and I don’t see a need to hide it because of that “conditioned shame.” Which is why, even if no one is listening, I simply cannot remain silent on an issue that has impacted me personally and affects millions of people here in the US and around the world.
I am a better person because of my struggles with my mental illness.
I could be stripped away of all the “material elements” of my life, simply because I have chosen to be open about my past and current experiences with chronic and clinical depression, anxiety, PTSD and OCD.
But no one can take away my strength and my determination to continue fighting back, to break down the barriers threatened by the very intersections that make me who I am today.
No one can take that away from us.
The only way I can continue to save my own life, and help save others, is if I do not fear to be who I am, with every element of my human existence. No matter the “risks.”
And, in order to fix something that is broken, we have to admit that it is actually broken.
When something wreaks of stigma to this extent, in which hiding our wounds and scars plays into that vicious cycle of shame, ultimately preventing us from getting the help we need, speaking these truths that often define our daily existence is sometimes an important recourse.
Talking about our struggles, and sharing our stories, helps us, frees us, relieves us, and makes us more able to appropriately address our health and well-being, to become strong contributors, leaders, and public servants in our communities.
Because those of us who suffer with a mental illness are equally able to be positive contributors to society, as long as we give each other a chance to break free.
HAPPY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH.
My Dearest Friends, let us not be afraid to speak our truths, and in turn, to help save lives.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran
Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,