At about eight years old, a little girl starts being sexually molested by her older brother. Her parents don’t notice that the formerly happy, vibrant child turns sullen, quiet.
Another little girl is sexually molested for over two years by a neighbor, a well-respected man in the community.
A roommate’s boyfriend repeatedly rapes a girl in her room, and when confronted, the roommate kicks the victim out, making her essentially homeless.
A little boy is thrown out of the house by his father. Into the snow. In the dead of winter. Hours pass before he is let back inside.
A teenager repeatedly runs away from home, but is brought back by the police. They never ask why she runs away, never ask about the abuse that perpetuates it.
A three-year old child is sexually molested by her 15-year-old female babysitter.
A man pulls a gun on his wife and infant daughter. Another time, he throws his wife outside in the yard. She’s only wearing a thin nightgown. Later, when she finally is able to leave him, he won’t let her retrieve their daughter’s clothing or toys. For three years. Not until she gets a judge’s order.
A mom and her two daughters always live in fear of angering daddy. And there’s no telling what will set him off. When he’s angry, he breaks things. Beats his small children and their mother. The one daughter learns to hide. She tries to become invisible. She tries to forget.
I wish I could tell you that all of these stories are made up. That they didn’t really happen. But they did. To people I know.
The first girl finally forgave her brother, and he died. She suffers from a variety of mental illnesses and is under constant psychiatric care. She never told her parents, not wanting to hurt them. Today, she holds a director position in a well-known company.
The second girl finally told her mother, and the man was put in jail. The mother started a non-profit to fight against child abuse, and that girl today tells her story as a way to shine a light on what can happen.
The rape victim finally told her story to the world. She’s a writer, jewelry maker, all-around great gal. Who still, sometimes, blames herself for what happened. The rapist was never punished.
The little boy? My father. At 54 years old, he was finally diagnosed with bi-polar, went through electroshock therapy, and is currently in a home, a broken, broken man.
The teenager is now in her 60s and is a wonderful artist and person. But she still struggles with depression and anger. A few years ago, she was suicidal, but thankfully checked herself into a hospital and got help.
The three-year old immediately told her dad. Because of what I’ve been through, I was able to talk to the dad and listen and give ideas. Thanks to my encouragement, he and his wife put their daughter and her sister on a witness stand, and, thanks to their testimony, the babysitter was charged with a crime. Both children are growing up to be giving, wonderful girls.
The woman who lost all her belongings? Well, she’s recovered – in a way. She and her daughter have a lovely home and have replaced all the lost and retrieved things with even better things. But she suffers from depression and anxiety. She cries all the time, but hides it, to protect her daughter, who thankfully doesn’t suffer as her mother does. She’s a well-adjusted teenager. And the man who abused them? He continues to make their lives hell, as best he can. And he’s never been charged with a crime.
The last story? That’s mine.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time (specifically “D” for this year’s #AtoZChallenge2015), or if you know me personally, you know that I suffer from a variety of ailments, both physical and mental. But I’m no longer invisible. And I tell my story, by golly. I tell it. To shine a light on the darkness. To maybe stop it happening to anyone else.
The mental issues are sometimes the hardest for me to handle. After all, they don’t make a lick of sense. Why am I depressed when I have what is, by all accounts, a wonderful life? Why am I crying when I literally have nothing to cry about, but I do anyway? I’m an accomplished, talented person with a master’s degree and 20 years of marketing experience and five years of teaching experience at the college level, yet I mentally hurt. Most of the time. And there’s always that nagging voice in my head that tells me I’m worthless. That I don’t deserve to live. That I don’t deserve my friends or my husband or my house or my talent or… anything at all.
Because I suffer from depression and anxiety and PTSD and occasional panic attacks and a little bit of OCD. All invisible illnesses, all pretty much misunderstood… because if you’ve never suffered from any of them, they make absolutely no sense to you. They literally do not exist.
And that’s where Stigma Fighters comes in, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues in high schools and colleges around the United States.
In February 2014, Sarah Fader wrote an article for The Huffington Post about living with panic disorder and depression, then started the site and serves as CEO. On the about page of StigmaFighters.com, she states “I wrote it because I wanted to show the world that there are people living with mental illness who are not just homeless or institutionalized. There are those of us who are living within the confines of society. … I’m using my forum to raise awareness for people (like me) who are seemingly ‘normal’ but actually fighting hard to survive.”
Part of spreading awareness about mental health issues is the stories that are told on the StigmaFighters.com blog, with topics covering:
- Brave People
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
These are all clearly very very difficult topics to read about. There’s a STIGMA attached to mental illness in our country. It’s like you have a moral failing if you can’t get out of bed for three days because you just… can’t. (And yes, that was me. Right before I finally got help.) And there’s a stigma to asking for help. Although many insurance companies do cover mental health, many of them do not. And many providers no longer accept insurance because of the stringent requirements of the insurance companies (and often, lack of payment for services).
Not only are these topics difficult to read, they were likely incredibly difficult to write about. (Note, my story isn’t on there. Yet. I’ve started a piece, and stopped. And looked at it again, and stopped. Someday, I’ll conquer my fear and write it and submit it.)
So, I urge you, as a fellow human being, to read some of these stories. READ AND BEAR WITNESS to these very human, very true, very raw stories. And applaud the bravery of the people who were willing to bare their souls and their pain and the possible backlash for telling their truth, their stories.
Bear witness, and remember: