The entire month of May, Bulletin dedicated it's shelf space, event lineup and product proceeds to mental health awareness. Our goal? To shatter stigma around mental illness and let every Bulletin Broad suffering from a mental health condition know they are not alone. We hosted an incredible event with Jasmine Mans, a spoken word star, entrepreneur and acclaimed poet, who taught us the value of communication and self-expression when living with a mental health condition. We partnered with Bumble BFF, Womanly Mag, It's Not Personal and licensed psychoanalyst Kristin Lyons to chat all things mental health and dating. That conversation was moderated by It's Not Personal founder Sara Radin, who today, shares her vulnerable piece about overcoming shame and coming to terms with her own mental illness. All month long, Bulletin has been raising money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an organization that provides extensive services and resources to Americans with mental illness. And yes, donations are great. Money is a golden resource. But we're hoping Sara's inspiring story will serve as a resource for you, too. Something you can draw from, learn from, and grow with.
Mental illness affects 44 million Americans a year. Here is one woman's story of finding self-worth after her diagnosis.
By Sara Radin
There wasn’t a specific moment when I decided to be an advocate for mental health awareness. Really, it was the result of a series of unfortunate yet completely normal events that led me to an unusually dark place - a surgery, a breakup, a death in my family, a dog attack, and a toxic roommate. Ok, maybe not all of those things were totally normal, but still, metaphorically speaking, I felt like broken glass discarded on a sidewalk. At some point, the bright and optimistic person I had always tried to be, had disappeared behind someone I no longer recognized. After a summer of crippling anxiety and depression, I lost the will to live, and decided I needed a lifeline. Finally, I took the plunge and sought out a therapist.
For years, I had subconsciously ignored and put off my own mental health. But the truth is mental illness was a part of my life since I was a young child. Although mental illness of different varieties runs in my family, we never really spoke about it out in the open while I was growing up. For so long, I lacked the understanding and language to recognize it was something that I was experiencing too. It was not until I began psychotherapy that I learned how mental illness had shaped me into who I am and that a lot of the challenges I experienced daily were due to unresolved trauma.
Learning this about myself hit me hard. The label almost felt like a permanent tattoo that rendered me unworthy and undeserving of love or opportunity. I think this was due in part to the lack of openness surrounding mental illness and the ways I had been socialized. I didn’t know or see many other people who were living with it outloud. I didn’t see it being talked about much in the media. I think it was also my unhealthy desire to be perfect that made it so difficult to stomach. It was then that I realized there was a whole lot I didn’t know about myself. Looking in the mirror, I didn’t know who I was anymore. The person who I thought I was for 29 years was a complete stranger.
Though, somewhere within me a voice inside my head told me to make a pact with myself - to not give up just yet, to see this moment as an opportunity to equip myself with more self-knowledge, and to be open about my journey in hopes of helping someone else who might also be struggling. But it was really the last part that gave me the strength to keep going.
Overtime, my weekly sessions with my therapist gave me the self-awareness and toolkit I needed to heal long-held hurts, become more conscious and assertive of my needs, and take better care of myself. My life started shifting in a way I didn’t anticipate as I gained the confidence and the courage to plant seeds and start living out the life I had always wanted: I moved apartments, applied to grad school, started freelancing more, and eventually quit my corporate job. But the biggest change of all was the way I spoke to myself: instead of beating myself up over mistakes or flaws, I started to show myself immense kindness and compassion.
Slowly, I began to free myself from the chains of perfection that had held me captive for so long, and I started to live out my authentic true self. It was like my very own revolution.
Through all of it, I shared the highs and lows of the journey on social media and through my personal writing. It struck a chord with friends and strangers alike who reached out expressing their gratitude for my openness. Many shared their own similar experiences with me and I quickly realized I was far from alone in any of the challenging emotions I was feeling. I decided to start a writing project about the process of going to therapy, launched a mental health support group on Facebook with a friend, and began organizing events that brought people together to talk about mental illness. My vulnerability became my greatest super power and took me down the path I needed to follow to be exactly the person I had always wanted to become.
I now see therapy as the school of life I didn’t know I needed. Moreover, my emotional education has taught me that the power of self-knowledge is limitless and that everything is relative. While I identify with a laundry list of mental illnesses and conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, codependency, love addiction, body dysmorphia, and more, these labels have merely serve as a reference point for the things I struggle with sometimes. They provide me with the context I need so I can move through challenging emotions and experiences but they do not render me any less worthy. These are no longer labels I am scared or ashamed to wear.
Despite so many cultural messages that try to tell me otherwise, today I firmly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with living with mental illness. Though I still have my own hurdles to overcome, I have taught myself how to consistently choose freedom over living in fear. While more people today are championing self-acceptance, I hope in time we will see more openness surrounding mental illness. I will continue to advocate for mental health in everything that I do and if my efforts help just one person, then I know I’ve accomplished my mission.