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Let's call Bulls#!t !! (Guest blogger)

This week Partners for Mental Health is kicking off their new campaign called “Let’s CALL BULLS#!T.” 

Let’s CALL BULLS#!T is more than a campaign – it’s a movement.  For youth, activated by youth.  Dedicated to transforming the way we talk about, act towards and support mental health. It's a reaction to an appalling reality: that among the more than 1 in 5 young people who need help, only 25% actually get it. Resources are too thin, funding too little. And the way people and society treat mental health and those facing mental health issues is having a devastating effect.

Let’s CALL BULLS#!T is out to change this by inviting youth to sign the declaration, to call BULLS#!T on the status quo and organize “Moments of Change” across Canada.  And while the campaign closes on November 29th, the movement will go until the BULLS#!T stops!

Call BS at: 

http://callbs.ca/#home

Transient

In light of the new campaign, I have a guest blogger this week.  My dearest friend, Kari Morrison, is here to share her story.  She struggles with physical and mental pain, and calls bulls#!t every single day on how society treats illness that they cannot physically see. 

Here is her story:

After being diagnosed over a year ago with Fibromyalgia, I feel only lately like I’ve been coming to terms with my limitations in any sort of positive way, hoping to connect to a deeper level of acceptance, to somehow achieve a sense of peace about my health. By being forced on a daily basis into respecting my limits by a body that doesn’t function properly and a brain that feels foggy and exhausted I’ve had to challenge myself and my life in ways I wasn’t fully prepared to. 

Fibromyalgia is not the worst health condition I could have been handed but it is one that is so tightly knit to my emotions and psychological processes that it can easily become a consuming illness.  The most debilitating issues caused by this disease are widespread chronic pain that is not easily managed and inescapable fatigue, which often leaves me feeling helpless and frustrated. Fibromyalgia causes an array of symptoms that can come on at any moment, triggered often times by the simplest things. As a sufferer of this illness I find the physical symptoms overwhelming and the emotional impact to be enormous.

It was initially overwhelming to realize I knew so little about a disease that I had suddenly been stamped with, and it was strange to be faced with so many blank expressions when I shared it with others. I started reading testimonials of others who had my same diagnosis and got especially interested in the research studies that had brought doctors to their conclusions about Fibromyalgia. What I realized about this disease and what surprised me was that most of the sufferers who had participated in the studies had experienced similar psychological and emotional struggles as myself, and that their physical symptoms and limitations were almost identical to mine. What I found especially interesting was that most patients even seemed to process their disappointment and frustrations very similar to me. 

As I dive deeper into the world of “Fibromyalgia”, I realize how connected this physical battle is with the psychological ones I’ve had to fight before. I realize how little awareness there is about this physical ailment and how it’s not something many people feel they can relate to and have limited compassion for. It seems foreign to me to be callous towards something I don’t understand but I realize more and more all the time how much ignorance can drive stigma and misunderstanding. I am regularly suffering in silence and that is the nature of the disease. If people really looked carefully, they could see that I might have moments where I look distraught due to pain or have a tough time standing or walking but its often overlooked or written off as being an exaggeration. In so many ways our society expects us to be “strong” and “hard working” and that’s an important expectation, but it often comes with the assumption that we are all equally equipped and we must rarely show our weaknesses. 

In accepting my illness, I have had to come face to face with the very issue of the “suck it up” society expectation and realized that by trying to constantly live up to this I’ve put it on myself almost as much as others do. I realized how often I feel guilt ridden at the frequency and severity of debilitations I have. For some reason I feel like I should believe there’s nothing wrong with me, and it often feels impossible for me to accept a disease that frequently causes me shame and disappointment. The philosophy that I am weak because I am struggling and the assumption that I just “can’t hack it” has been following me around for years.

As a teenager, I struggled with severe anxiety. When I describe my past anxiety problems as “severe”, I don’t feel that this is an overstatement although I always made myself feel as if it was. I was very secretive and private about my struggles and learned to live internally with symptoms that were debilitating and confusing. My anxiety issues were jump started by a trauma and seemed to consume me at a rapid pace. Although I have a family that has always tried to be lovingly involved and helpful in my life, I isolated myself out of shame and lack of understanding.

Because I had no knowledge of what was happening to me, I simply was convinced that I was very sick person and that no one could ever accept someone like me if they knew what I was hiding. I also assumed that I was alone in what I experienced and that I was unreachable. It’s unfortunate that people feel like there is no support available because we are constantly being bombarded by negative stigma in our society, in our work place, even in our families and friendships many people encounter it. Mental and physical disorders steal a piece of us that we often feel completely helpless without. They rob us of our sense of control. When we accept a mental or physical illness it is the first step to healing ourselves, to taking back the control we’ve surrendered over our bodies, our minds, ourselves. When we are stigmatized by others who are often naïve or misinformed, then we are forced into hiding and we are that much farther from our emergence into the healing process. When we are struggling with ailments that seem to others as though they do not exist, it makes it even more difficult for us to find peace and a sense of pride in what we are capable of.

A lot of judgment exists towards the people in society who are considered the weaker links. To find what I would consider a reasonable amount of compassion, you need to fall under the categories of illness that people find worthy of their sympathy. When people are not able to understand the illness, or relate and find empathy, it seems that much more difficult to avoid stigmatization. When others, judge us for being ill, we often internalize that, we misunderstand our own needs and make an assumption that we are weak and should feel bad about our limitations. When we have mental or physical setbacks, it is difficult for anyone to feel confident in our abilities and strengths if we find ourselves being stigmatized as being “crazy” or “a slacker” or “lame”. 

As much as my physical ailment causes me to suffer, I also suffer too often from the judgment of others. I realize that I need to protect myself, as we all do, from the opinions of others. It would make an already at times difficult existence, easier to accept and manage if I were free of judgment. 

It’s a struggle to work your way out of the cycle of worry, stress and chaos that comes along with being mentally or physically ill. I’ve learned it takes perseverance to move out of the shadow of stigma and into the light. The light that is freedom from being labeled or categorized and just becoming a living, breathing person, one among billions, walking my own path, fighting my own fights, living my slightly flawed, one, precious life.  I realize that when I allow myself to be a part of those judgments, that I push myself farther away from health. If I contribute to my own recovery, as well as becoming a voice for my illness, then maybe I’ll find capabilities within myself I never knew existed. We all need to work towards this goal, for ourselves and for others.  

I call bulls#!t on the way our society treats those with mental health problems.

Kari Morrison