They both run in my family.
Last year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and opted for a double mastectomy. We were all very thankful that her decision has led her to be cancer free since. Yay, Mom!
But there are others in my family that have (or had) breast cancer and are being faced with that same tough decision.
I know it cannot be easy.
But thankfully, one thing that there is never a shortage of is people out there supporting/advocating/fundraising/walking/wearing pink and doing all sorts of awesome things for breast cancer awareness, research, treatment, etc. There are a bajillion support groups and a whole month dedicated to this disease in which you will see athletes and actors donning pink for this cause. It’s awesome.
Trust me, I did not come here to badmouth breast cancer supporters or advocates- they are some amazing people.
No, what I came here to do was to talk about a realization that I had last year. You see, my mom’s cancer scare garnished me a lot of sympathy/empathy. People went out of their way to make sure I was ok, mom was ok, our family was ok. There was just so much support.
But the thing is, for almost my entire life my mother has been sick. She has been battling (and currently kicking its ass) bipolar disorder since I was just a wee one. It was not an easy road for her. It’s easier now, but it will always be a battle. And my mom is a freaking rock star. And I have learned so much about strength, courage, compassion and love from her. She has been through so much- she is the epitome of what it means to be a fighter.
But, from what I have experienced, people don’t have the same type of sympathy/empathy for someone living with a mental illness as they do for someone battling cancer. Why is that?
I can blame the stigma that still exists that allows people to believe that ‘crazy’ people are scary/danger to society/should be avoided at all costs.
I can blame the media for their often misguided representations of mental illness
I can blame the schizophrenic homeless man on the street that keeps yelling at passerbys because he is living in an alternate reality that we cannot see nor understand
But why blame them?
I know the truth about mental illness. I know that it is a disease. I know that having a disease does not make you less of a person. I know that there is a superhuman strength required to battle these diseases and there are few on the sidelines cheering for these people. But we should be.
I should be…
And for that to happen I need to be an advocate. I need to be a cheerleader. I need to talk openly about my experiences and help to break down the stigmas that exist. And I need to be a friend and supporter for those around me, always.
Everyone deserves to know that there is someone out there that loves them and cares for them no matter what. Scars and all.
Love and hugs,