It is difficult for me to think about what to write when it comes to the stigma around mental health and my family.

Rarely, if ever, has mental health been openly discussed within my family. This is not to say mental illness does not take up great space in our world, because it has brought and continues to bring us to our knees. 

If anything, mental health seems to be too scary to talk about or to acknowledge among all of us.

I sit here and  I find myself now wondering if this is because we are too afraid to be vulnerable with each other. Afraid to show that we truly don’t have it all together. That we are, in fact, human. Hesitant because the space we have cultivated in terms of emotions is more judgmental than accepting.

We seem to be more than comfy in the sacred boxes that we have created for ourselves — tiny, separate spaces to work through what we go through, on our own.

Does it help?

The honest answer is no. But the other honest answer is yes because each of our spaces has helped us survive.

Surviving is not the same as thriving, though, right?

[Related: Silenced by the stigmas of mental health]

There have been moments, in spite of our fears, when we have stepped outside our boxes for the sake of supporting and comforting each other.

I remember the day my friend passed away to suicide. I laid curled up on my bed, crying. My younger brother brought me a stuffed animal for comfort. I remember him asking friends to send love and support my way because he knew I needed it. 

I remember at Thanksgiving dinner when my dad began to cry. He let us know that he will never give up on us and will continue to work hard to protect us. We all started to cry, and then we all hugged him.

I remember the night when my baby sister couldn’t cope. Her best friend was moving to another state and so my sister asked me to come be by her side. I sat there for a while and laid my hand on her as she wept.

I remember crying in my car about to be on my way anywhere but home. It was in the next moment when my mother came to my car window. She reminded me that no matter how heavy the world felt in that moment, we would get through it — I would get through it. 

All I have when it comes to mental health and my family are these moments — moments where my family stood up against the “big, scary monster” and defeated it.

It’s outside these moments where my family does not speak of our struggles because we are all OK.

We do not struggle with mental health because we are all hard at work, trying to keep up with the pace of life. 

Mental health plays a great unspoken role in all of our lives, but we are a family who is still trying to navigate the world of mental health and us.

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