Hello my dear readers, I have returned. Not that I actually went anywhere but never the less I am back....
I read an article today, about Richard Dreyfuss opening up about his battle with bipolar disorder. He actually has been open about it since 2006 but did an article with People magazine.
I started to visualize and think about how beneficial it is to have celebrities come out and talk about their mental illness. To come out of the "mental closet" as it were. I like to think of a mental closet as a place in your mind where nothing matches, only half of the clothes fit and the others are way too small, it's dark and smells faintly of old people and mothballs, and there may or may not be a disembodied voice floating around. A closet that we keep all of the things we want to keep hidden in for fear that other's will judge us or hate us for it. Mental illness type things. Some of us are out and some of us are hanging on to that last coat hanger of sanity trying to appear as normal as possible. Some don't have a choice but to remain in the closet with the door locked behind them. It is important to talk about one's closets. And in my uneducated opinion if you can safely than you should.
What it means for all of us when an actor, singer,or famous person comes out of their "mental closet" is insurmountable. Some people huff and puff and pout claiming that famous people deciding to come out and declare they have mental illness is unhelpful. I call Bull crap!
Anytime someone comes out and admits to having a mental illness, it is helpful. Especially, those that no one suspected had anything wrong with them. Why you ask? Because generally when one is diagnosed with a mental illness they feel broken and lost. They go through a roller coaster of emotions ranging from gratefulness that they have a diagnoses to shame because they now have a diagnoses they were not prepared for. It is devastating to be told there is something wrong with your brain. Something broken in your mind. Instantly a cacophony of negative words and slurs go through your mind about what mental illness means. Are you now supposed to accept that you are all of these things? Are you a nut job, a psycho, a crazy nutcase, maniacal unhinged unbalanced lunatic? Are you dangerous now that what ails you has a name? Are you worthless or unproductive? That is what you have been told and taught all of your life that mental illness is. Does this now mean that this will be the new you?
Being diagnosed with a mental illness is not only a personal devastation but also a social one. It is not seen by the average community the same way having diabetes is or any other physical illness. In short, you are treated differently. You are responded to differently. You are often ostracized and stigmatized. Your life as you know it has changed and there is no going back tot he way it was before the doctor uttered those words that changed everything. Not really.
So, when someone famous that is adored or respected by the masses comes forward and declares their own personal struggle with mental illness, it is freeing. It shows the masses that mental illness does not mean dangerous. That it does not mean that you have to be homeless or scary looking to suffer from mental illness. That people go onto live wonderful and happy lives even thought they are dealing with mental issues. They are not seen as nut jobs, crazies, and certainly not lunatics. It opens the world's minds to the fact that mental illness is everywhere and it does not have to define everything we do in our lives. It is not simply a death sentence to be inflicted after years of toiling in the dark shadows and cold rooms of the past. Things are different now, and there are many more ways to be treated and live our lives as functional even exceptional human beings.
Not only does it inspire the world to look upon us differently when a famous person comes out of the "mental closet" but it also can inspire us, the sufferers as well. All of our lives we are told, explained to, and shown that we are not capable of doing what we want. We are not able to fulfill our dreams or our desires. We are somehow broken and therefore should not try to reach out to our dreams or set anything but low goals for ourselves. And we believe them more often than not. We secretly feel that we are in some ways unable to be as productive as normal people. We feel that we are somehow unable to be anything of worth or value to others. I call bull crap on that as well.
When famous people who suffer from mental illness come out and talk about it, it opens doors. It creates new doorways where we can see that even if we struggle with mental illness, that does not mean that we can't be an actor, a singer, a painter....ect. That we are not bound to a life of misery simply because we are not like everyone else. In fact, some of the world's greatest artists, leaders, and talents have suffered from mental illness. From actors such as Dreyfuss to Patty Duke. From painters such as Van Gogh to Edvard Munch. From singers like Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys) to Kurt Cobain (Nirvana). Comedians Rosanne Bar, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams....just to name a few. Composers such as Beethoven, Mahler, Schumann. Many athletes, world leaders, presidents, painters, singers, authors, and poets suffer or have suffered from mental illness. There are more people famous mentally ill people than you can shake a stick at and still we are afraid. We are afraid that we are not good enough. We are afraid that we can not become what we desire to be. That no one will respect us or believe in us. That we do not matter. And it is all false.
Every time we hear or read or see a famous person talking about mental illness and how it has affected their lives, we are reminded that the only thing holding us back from our lives is us and our fear. That we are capable and worthy. That we belong on this planet and each community just like everyone else. That we have nothing to be ashamed of. It is my fervent hope that each time a celebrity comes out of the mental closet we learn from them. We learn that we have nothing to fear. We learn to not be so devastated when we are sitting in the psychiatrist's office waiting to hear our diagnoses. That it wont be an earth shaking, souls shattering feeling that comes over us after we receive that diagnoses. That celebrities can actually open that door for us to be accepted as they are differences and all, creativity and all, mental illness and all. That one day being diagnosed with mental illness will be no more shocking or stigmatizing or frightening than being diagnosed with diabetes. That is what I truly wish. To end all of the stigma and shame and all the bad feelings of guilt and worthlessness that lingers simply because we are different.
I believe that is very important to have role models. I also believe that when your role model comes out and talks about their lives and struggles it can change the world for just a tiny bit better. This is their tiny bit of better and I commend them on the bravery for doing so. Thank you Richard Dreyfuss for standing up for us and being honest and thank you to all of those who have come before him.