Coming out about mental illness

As I prepare to walk in the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) walk tomorrow morning, I will be standing up and taking action to bust the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  I realize that I need to have my own "coming out" about my relationship with mental illness.
I've periodically fought against anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, even back in elementary school.  In the past few years, I've learned to stop fighting against it and start working with it.  While this is related in some way to the last post on grief they aren't the same.
I've navigated some dark crossroads with the support of family members.  Just like the story of each of our lives, mental illness, even within a specific diagnosis, is not the same for everyone.  I can safely say, don't believe what you see and hear about mental illness from anyone with no first hand knowledge.  AND even if someone has first hand knowledge, it may only represent one form, one instance, one variation, at a given point on one journey with it.
My sharing is not meant to scare anyone or solicit support.  I have well running treatment plan with a lot of tools and deep roster of support.  I am certainly not asking for pity.  The opposite is true.  I am sharing to advocate that we open our minds to each others' realities, that we don't make assumptions about each other, and that we walk together the best we can in the forms and with the faculties we have as lovingly and gracefully as we can.  I am also asking that by doing this authentically, we are connecting and honoring the truth of who we are.
During the last bout I had, 5 years ago, I realized that what I feared was living, not dying.  When I hit the lowest point, I realized that I wasn't standing there alone and that what I really wanted was to choose to truly, honestly, deeply and more courageously live.  Writing this is a way to honor that realization.  I believe that our society creates a tough environment for living with mental illness.  We spend a lot of time and energy in the areas of performance, competition, comparison, and expectations.  All of these are presented to us with a sensational enhancement of the stories of those that "succeed" and those that "fail".  I think that these factors and the negative stigma of having a mental illness lead to lengthening our stay in the stages of grief like denial, disappointment, and anger.
Through various forms of self development, spiritual direction, a process my niece says should earn me an honorary PhD, I've  been working on NOT seeing myself and others through the eyes of our culture.  Through a deeper understanding of value (separate from economic 'worth'), interdependence, compassion and radical grace, I've been able to let go more and more of the need to "keep up appearances" and stay more closely aware of my true self.  In practicing this, I can replace my feelings of denial with acceptance, disappointment with hope, and anger with peace.  I am in the process of accepting that I am exactly how I am supposed to be.  I am where I am supposed to be.   I am who I am supposed to be.  In accepting all of these, it becomes more and more easy to embrace an effective plan that works with these truths and the tools that help me thrive in each of these. There is a spiritual and psychological undertone to all of this work that I'd like to expand on in a separate post.  What I want to reiterate is that this work is tough enough to do in a supportive environment.  I think it is close to impossible to do in an environment wrought with negative and false assumptions, fear, ridicule, and all the other forms of stigma.
It seems to me that throughout history, rapid medical advances around a specific illness or condition are made once the veil of stigma, misunderstanding and judgement are lifted.  When we are less afraid of being judged, labeled, singled out, scapegoated, etc, a broader spectrum of information and details are more freely shared in a spirit of support, understanding, nonjudgment and compassion.

I am standing up for that spirit of support to lift the veil of stigma, now.
Grace in, peace out

P.S. I used the image above because I found it funny that as I hand wrote this post, my pen exploded as I wrote the phrase "coming out".  For a brief moment I thought maybe I should not write any more.  But I courageously got up and got a new pen.