Embrace It

manGrowing up in a town where mental health was almost kept quiet among families made it hard for me to be accepting of the fact that I had some mental health issues of my own. Not only mental health issues, but behavioral as well. I used to struggle with the fact that I had to retain my feelings and invite my demons as guests rather than fight them. It came to the point where my behavioral issues developed. Doctors and clinicians, who were all strangers to me, would come and tell me that I was an angry person. Why? Because there would be days I would cry so loud like no one could hear me, days when I would run as fast as I could to my room and close the door so fast that a loud slam would follow. I would hide in my room hearing two voices, the one in my head speaking words only I could hear, and the other was the voice of my adoptive mother at the time screaming “Why are you like this!” before the inevitable holds that would soon follow each episode.

Why am I like this? Why am I the one of among three (at the time present) brothers who sees my past as if it were in front of me? Why am I the one who hears the voices whispering in my ear that nobody else seemed to hear, deceiving me to a path of self destruction? I was scared, alone, confused, and let down. At the time I had a very religious adoptive mother. God’s word was what I should live by, and most importantly, god makes no mistakes. If god makes no mistakes then what am I? Why am I not perfect? I dreaded the day I saw coming, the day she had no more fight in her. I was given up for adoption for the second time at the age of nine. I remember feeling at my all-time low, that there really was something wrong with me.

I was sent to a residential program where I learned that I was not the only one with issues that needed to be worked on. I remember residential programs to hold both my fondest and darkest memories. I learned how to accept that I have mental health issues. I learned to forgive and move on. Through building relationships with those who have been on, or continue to be on the same journey as I was, I learned that there was nothing for me to be ashamed of. Today I know that if I was in an environment where my mental health could be embraced and not repressed and shamed, things would have turned out differently. I guess I can now say I am proud to have mental health issues because it has made me resilient, strong, and a fighter. Characteristics I may not have developed, given a “normal” life. I stand proud with my mental health, do you?

Matt Anderson is a young adult whose focus is on supporting and advocating for youth and families of mental health. He is currently working in the peer support field.