The thing about mental illness is it's not always visible to the naked eye. People can look at you, see you every day, and have no idea about the internal things raging inside you. This makes it difficult to manage your mental illness and life itself. It’s hard to be genuine in your day-to-day life when you hold a secret you’re scared to share. Wearing a mask while dealing with a mental illness can make life even more exhausting. When it’s hard to simply exist, it’s hard to enjoy life.
I remember the first winter I lived with my husband & talking to him about my seasonal affective disorder. He did not believe it was a real thing. Eventually, he looked it up, and every year after, he witnessed what I had been living with for most of my adult life. To be fair, I had no clue what was going on with me for many of those years. I just knew from time to time I did not feel like myself. I would be overwhelmingly sad, tired, and often angry for no apparent reason. When I started looking back on past events, rereading journal entries, and stepping back to see how I responded to different situations, it all became clear, or at least clear to me.
The National Institutes of Health estimates 57.8 million adults live with a mental illness. Of these 57.8 million, I wonder how many people in their lives do not recognize they, in fact, have a mental illness. The propensity toward shame is one reason why some people are less likely to share, talk about, or even admit they have a mental illness. That is why Still I Run is important. They understand the necessity of bringing awareness to mental illness so that people know they are not alone. While Still I Run has running for mental health at its forefront, the programs they offer now and those in the future will provide gateways to help people in numerous ways. We are truly just getting started.
If you are living with a mental illness but have not shared it with others, I encourage you to do so. For me, journaling was a great source of release, allowing me the space to speak about what I was feeling without the fear of being laughed at or told there was nothing wrong. My first act of reaching out was sharing a journal entry with another person. It felt so freeing but overwhelming at the same time. I remember them saying, “I had no idea you felt this way."
Late this fall, I will run the Honolulu Marathon as a charity partner with Still I Run. I am excited to have been partnered with them for the past few years, and this year I have set a fundraising goal of $4,900 to mark my 49th year of life. Each birthday reminds me of how far I've come. I want to keep showing up for me, share my gifts, and take in all this life has to offer. It's not always easy, but I'm still here...Still I Run!
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