“Resiliency is about shining brightly despite the inevitable dark or difficult moments that we all encounter in life…”
Resiliency is about resistance. It is about defying obstacles and norms that you might think will hold you back. As a queer Black person with a bipolar diagnosis, I have run into stigma time and time again. Whether the discrimination is attributed to racism, homophobia, or ableism, it is often connected to conservative cultural, political, or social norms. It is important to question these norms and to facilitate discourse about the issues we witness in the world.
Resiliency is about awareness. Having a culture of awareness about mental health (among other societal issues) enables collective resilience. Issues like sexism, racism, and ableism (including mental health stigma) have a societal impact that influences all of our interpersonal relationships and our relationship with self. Consequently, these issues should matter to us. Not in the sense that we should feel responsible for resolving these issues, but more so in the sense that we should become aware of these issues and should care to spread awareness. It could save a life.
Resiliency is about overcoming. Especially concerning mental health, ableism operates through the normalization of social marginalization due to fear of and misconceptions about mental illness. This contributes to individuals suffering in silence due to fear of judgment due to mental health stigma when experiencing mental health symptoms. Another effect of mental health stigma is denial. Denial that you might be facing mental health problems, and denying yourself the treatment and support that you need and deserve. This is something that I’ve gone through firsthand.
When I had my first episode, I was more than one thousand miles away from home. As time went by, my symptoms worsened and my behavior became increasingly erratic. It was unclear to me and my classmates what was wrong, but when my friends reached out to my mother, she flew to immediately to get me in front of my psychiatrist.
Whenever someone is struggling with mental health, it is important to have relationships and safe spaces that allow for self-expression. This looks like providing space for your friends and loved ones to vent (and vice versa), journaling for self-care, and seeking support from hotlines or medical professionals when appropriate. I’ve learned from my personal experiences that many people, especially youth and young adults, do not know how to support someone going through a mental health crisis, let alone understand how to identify symptoms of a disorder or signs of a mental health episode. This is knowledge that everyone should have for themselves and to protect their friends and loved ones.
Resiliency is about shining brightly despite the inevitable dark or difficult moments that we all encounter in life. It is about perseverance through the various ups and downs thrown at us. It is defining your joy autonomously, without being held back by judgment and social norms. It is getting up each day and trying to move forward with our lives. And especially when we cannot give our best, it is about having grace and love for ourselves.