I am trying to learn the correct language to discuss issues that are outside my own experience. Hopefully I got them right in this piece. If not, please help educate me. I appreciate it.
My Statement of Belief
Emboldened, public racism--from the ‘rally’ in Charlottesville, to the refusal of the White House to label it as terrorism and racism--is unfortunately not a collection of isolated incidents. They’ve been happening--literally--since before this country was formed. Despite legislation, despite stellar leaders, despite promises of a new day dawning, this is not our past; it is still very much our present.
I feel that the time has come to be as open and clear as possible about my beliefs. It is the only way I think I can deal with the climate in our society. I cannot march, I cannot donate huge amounts of money in support, I do not possess a public pulpit or any meaningful way to support social justice. What I can do is publicly state my beliefs and support for those who need allies.
Everyone has the same rights as a human. Period. There should be no distinction between race, ethnicity, creed, or gender. People who say that one is superior to another have issues with their own inadequacies.
Everyone has the right to define themselves. This includes gender and ethnicity. If someone chooses to be fluid in either gender or ethnicity, that is their right. My daughter who is Native American, African American and Caucasian was raised to define herself. She has the right to decide whether she will define as African American or biracial or any combination she chooses. She can change this definition day to day or hour to hour. It is her choice. Just as it is the choice of an individual to define themselves as one gender or none. It is their choice.
Everyone has the right to love who they choose. I support same sex marriage. I support hertoersexual marriage. If you love each other and are both consenting adults, then I believe that is your business, not the government’s or anyone’s church.
Everyone has the right to believe in a higher power whether that is a god, gods or their own conscience. Whatever they choose to as their compass for their morality.
Everyone has a right to evolve and change their opinions through their life. That does not mean they have to change to match your opinions. My own beliefs evolved through my life experiences, especially from being a parent. When my children asked a question I had to be able to explain my answer which led to me questioning my own beliefs. Secondly as my children attended college and were exposed to new perspectives, they shared what they learned with me. It helped me grown as a person and better understand what I did truly believe in.
Everyone has a right to health care. There should not be a difference in coverage between physical and mental illnesses. People with chronic illness should be supported whether or not those illnesses are visible to others. Good healthcare should note just belong to the wealthy or to our law makers. Stigma towards addiction, mental illness or any illness should be eliminated. Without open discussion, awareness and research funding will not happen.
Everyone has a right to their own opinions but not from the consequences of how they choose to express those opinions. For example, I define myself as a Roman Catholic. How do I square my beliefs with those of the Catholic Church? I don’t. I do hope when the time comes my children can find a priest to give me a Catholic funeral Mass because that is important to me.
Finally I believe
Everyone has the potential to affect positive change. Everyone can do something to make each day better. Whether supporting a friend who is dealing with illness or lending your talent as a writer to helping job searchers develop resumes that work for them, small things can make a difference. For some, like me, that is all we have to give. For others with more talent or time or treasure, they can help
I have to believe that the people who have goodness will make life better for everyone. Currently, there’s a huge shitstorm raging. Getting through it is not going to be easy or quick. It has to start with those like me who enjoy white privilege acknowledging we have this privilege, and attempting to use it to aid those who do not. The first step in support is listening. We need to start today.
The confrontation started when I shared a facebook post from my daughter:
No big deal, right? I try to support Mental Health awareness and stigma fighting because several members of my family, myself included, have dealt with mental health issues, depression in particular.
Then a guy I knew and had not seen since high school replied to my post with this comment, “people say women are better communicators - obviously not.”
I should have known better than to respond. But in the interest of trying to educate someone on depression respond I did, “It is not a male or female issue. It is one of the really hard things with depression.”
The guy again responded with his focus on the female focus of the post, “"she was depressed" "she did" "she told you" x7”
Again I tried to be the voice of reason and explain, “Whoever wrote it used "she" but it applies equally to "he"”
When he responded, “so, my original statement stands”, I should have quit. I should have recognized that this was not a conversation, it was a confrontation.
At this point, my son asked,”What exactly is that original statement?” and I sent him a link.
The guy, in response, posted a graphic that said, "We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given a life. It's up to us to make it good or bad."
One of my son’s friends jumped in with, “this image/story was being used as a descriptive example to illustrate something about depression. The author made the subject of the story a female, but all of the "shes" could easily be replaced with "hes." This is obviously not intended to be a scientific study about the relationship between gender and depression, but if you think women are the only people who suffer from depression, I strongly encourage you to educate yourself.
And in regard to your claim that an "easy solution" to depression is "talking to people," I'm going to be frank: if someone is suffering from depression, and the only people they have to talk to are as misinformed as you have demonstrated yourself to be through your comments, that is going to do much more harm than good. There is no "easy solution" to depression. It's not simply feeling sad or having a bad day. It's so much more complicated than that, and until you do enough research to fully grasp what it is, you shouldn't comment on it.”
I thought my son’s friend's response was very well written. I had had enough though. I was dispirited and tired of having to justify my depression, so I chose to bow out, “I give up. Truly I just wanted to share something that is true in my life and my daughter's. Both of us suffer from depression. While I did not write the piece I appreciated the sentiment behind it. Ok?”
Unfortunately he was not done, “it just bothers me that women 'suffer' from depression when there is an easy solution: talk to people.”
My fuel tank was empty so I posted the following and then unfriended him, “t is not that simple. I wish it were but it is not. Men suffer from depression also. Frankly I cannot help you understand it as I have lived it but do not have a medical degree. wishing you the best but I am done. Thank you.”
Another on my friend’s weighed in, “some people just don't get it.......unless you are dealing or have dealt with it, you don't understand it.....you are 100% correct......it isn't simple.”
I posed on Twitter, “ · Some days #depression just sucks the life out of you, circumstances/individuals can make it worse. Time for #selfcare & going offline.” My twitter automatically posts to my facebook. I signed off and watched a Dan Jones documentary on the Great Castles of Britain to try to decompress (yes, I am a history nerd).
But it wasn’t over. I received a facebook message from the guy which he sent shortly after I had unfriended him. He said, “seriously Nan; my mom suffered from depression for 30 years. i would call her fairly often just to talk to her. i suffer from it as well. the only way to combat it is talk to people. If there is a simple solution to your problem, why won't you try it? to make yourself seem more mysterious? self-righteous? Seriously, depression is very easy to combat, if you do not enable it.”
When I read the message this morning, my jaw dropped. “Depression is very easy to combat, if you do not enable it”? How am I enabling it? I see a therapist. I take anti-depression medications.
“The only way to combat it is to talk to people”? Which people should I be talking to? Surely not someone like this guy? Shouldn’t those of us who suffer (and yes dear God, we suffer) from depression support each other? Not shame each other?
Last night when I signed off, I was almost in tears. I was tired and depressed and frustrated. This morning, I am mad, angry and completely pissed off. This is not a good thing. I have a weapon that I employ when I am truly angry. My words, my less than under average writing and I am using them now. We have got to stop having to justify our mental illness. We have got to not being in a position where we feel we have to give personal medical information to prove that we are trying to “get better”. And we have got to stop attacking other individuals with mental illness and support each other.
So what was the purpose of sharing this long and detailed conversation from social media? To illustrate that not only is there stigma still against mental illness but there is a shaming factor, too. Stigma and Shame have got to stop.
This article originally appeared in the York Sunday News
How one person can change the world
Nann Halliwell, Community Columnist 2:58 p.m. EST January 11, 2016
Personal advocacy can make a difference.
There are very few people who would describe themselves as satisfied with the world situation or even our country’s political path. Yet, for the most part, the only action taken is complaining, especially on social media.
There is no logical action taken to try to improve the situation. How does that effect change? Instead of unproductive complaining, there is a simple tool that can be used to effect change and is as equally powerful when wielded by the individual as by the masses. That tool is advocacy.
When people think of advocacy, we tend to think of the “big boys” and their causes, Michael J. Fox and Parkinson’s, Susan Komen and Breast Cancer, and the NRA and gun control. Reminiscent of the belief that our individual voices are not heard in politics unless we belong to one of the two mainstream parties, we buy into the thought that we must have an organization to advocate for us. While organizations can be helpful in advocating, they are by no means necessary. All you need to advocate is your personal experience and the desire to make your voice heard.
I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, the most common yet least known movement disorder, when I was 39 years old. The president of Tremor Action Network (www.tremoraction.org), Kathleen Welker, helped me understand how advocacy works and mentored me as I left my comfort zone to advocate for an increase in research.
My advocacy is minor compared to two local women whose advocacy has literally saved lives.
Vickie Glatfelter and Alyssa Rohrbaugh both watched their children suffer with addiction to heroin. Shortly after losing her son to a heroin overdose, Vickie decided to reach out to others in the same situation. She stated, “I felt the need to be there for other families to help them in any way I could.” Alyssa meet Vickie at the rally organized to make the problem of heroin public. They decided to form a local chapter of the national organization “Not One More.” Through their advocacy, lives have been saved. Narcan, a heroin antidote administered in overdoses, is now available for police and first responders.
Vickie perfectly sums up the benefits of advocacy, “I feel the more vocal we are, the more awareness we will raise. By reaching out and letting others know we understand and want to help, we will begin to break the stigma. There is so much we can do, but it is a long and winding road until we will see a difference. But by working together, we can accomplish this.”
So how do you start to advocate? You simply start telling your story. Whatever your issue is that you want to see change in, share your story. To share your story, you first must create it. Remember when creating your story to highlight the two “I”s: Issue and Impact. What is the issue you want to change? How has it impacted your life? You may have to tweak your story depending on the audience you are sharing it with, but the most important thing is to share.
Who should you share it with? Your audiences can be anyone who you feel needs to hear your voice. A couple of examples are legislatures (local, state and federal), news outlets (newspapers, TV and blogs) and other local resources.
While it may seem intimidating to contact your legislative representatives, keep in mind, they work for you. Not the other way around. Your time is valuable, and if they want to keep their job, they will listen.
When you are ready to host an event or put up a display, your local library may help you by providing you with a space and advertising an event.
Use social media. Today, social media is one of the most important and influential ways people receive their information. Use your existing social media (Facebook, Twitter) to raise awareness. Or start a new account specifically to keep your topic a part of the Internet conversation. Remember to use your social media to educate and raise awareness, not start a Twitter war. Your tone must be calm. Provide information from reliable resources and links to relevant articles online related to your issue.
A few final tips to help make your advocating effective: If you can see the person (legislator or their aide), it adds another level of personalization to your story and helps lock it into their minds. Be persistent. Keep emailing or calling until you finally reach the right person. Face-to-face meetings trump phone calls or emails. Support others who are working toward the same goal as you. Share why you advocate and educate those whom you come in contact with.
One person can make a difference. I did. I was able to get my congressional representative as well as another representative to join the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus. Vickie and Alyssa were able to literally save lives by getting Narcan into the hands of the people who can save addicts from overdosing. Is there more we can do? Yes, and we are not done by a long shot. You can make a difference. Just harness your passion and go.