What does "talking about the elephant in the room" mean to you?
Talking about the elephant in the room, to me, really doesn’t hold much weight anymore…I’ve no longer allowed the elephant a spot in any room that I’m in. Therefore, there’s no elephant for me to talk about anymore, with anyone. The reason I say this, is because when we identify "Mental Illness" as an “elephant" and speak to it as the elephant, we are making no forward progress in kicking this “elephant” out. I look at it simply as illness, or pain, or hurt, or suffering. Every human being experiences pain, wether mental or physical. Illness is illness, no matter how it shakes down. I spent too many years treating my “mental illness” as something entirely different than physical illness. Treating it as something different inhibited me from letting anyone in to my illness, or letting myself make any strides to getting healthier. Seeing people do this, wether in private or on a major platform bothers me. To treat it as something “too different” from anything else doesn't open any doors for hope or healing, just kept it all confined in grief and anguish. That being said, not everyone takes the stance I take, so I completely understand why this elephant still exists, and that’s why I’ve developed such a passion to help kick it out.
How do you take ownership of that elephant?
I take ownership over that “elephant” by not thinking like an elephant is in the room. I don’t think I’m weird, or abnormal, or crazy. I live my life with a disease that won’t go away. It will ebb and flow, but it won’t go away…and I’m okay with that. Anyone that meets me will learn this about me very quickly. I don’t say the words suicide, depression, or anxiety in hushed or angered tones, I proudly proclaim those words as integral parts of me and my story. I don’t differentiate a difference between illness and how it effects the human condition…yes, some are more severe and life threatening that others, but none of them deserve to be an “elephant” in the room.
What helped you come forward and speak up about living with depression?
Community helped me come forward and speak up. I plugged myself into social networks that shared the hope and healing I so desperately wanted to experience. When I hit my lowest low in 2011, it took that communal showering of love and hope to started my healing process. I lean very heavily on that community day after day. I have close friends and family members that know the ins and outs of my thoughts and patterns. I don’t hold back from sharing things with them, and they don’t hold back from calling me out on potentially dangerous scenarios or situations I may put myself in.
What is the best advice that you can give to someone struggling?
The best advice I can give is to tell someone, just 1 person. Trust me, it works. That one person that you let it in will open doors for you to let more people in and experience the reality that you are not alone and that you are not meant to suffer silently. What started with me being honest and real with my girlfriend in 2011 started this crazy journey of letting more and more people in. I’m at a place now where I’ve let thousands of people in on my darkness…and it’s pretty cool. Oh, don’t get me wrong, letting 1 person or thousands will not make the darkness go away, hate to break it to you. All it will do is reveal to you that the darkness is fleeting and the light is so great, especially when it’s shared with someone else. Because it is so important to let someone in on your pain and struggles, it’s just as important to have people to be so happy for you when you come out the other side of it.