When I hear the words “mental illness,” I am often reminded of a phrase widely used in the therapeutic community to describe complexity: “both, and.” I am reminded of the fact that living with mental illness can be BOTH difficult, AND enlightening. I am reminded of how beautifully complicated it is to live in a world where your brain functions differently than others. My mental illnesses paint a picture of intense dichotomy—they have nearly taken my life several times, yet have given me a level of wisdom. They have caused me great pain and suffering, but have also softened me to those who struggle. They have shaped me into the woman I am today. My understanding and awareness of the human condition, my profound sensitivity, and my appreciation for life are vital parts of me that I wouldn’t otherwise possess if mental illness hadn’t entered my life.
When I first began to struggle with mental illness, it wasn’t openly discussed. This was over a decade ago and there weren’t people on the internet writing about how they survived and functioned on a day-to-day basis. There weren’t people sharing their stories and struggles with finding the right medications. There weren’t people telling their stories of trauma and sexual assault, or sharing how they conquered their addictions and maladaptive coping skills (self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders, etc.) These were all things I deeply struggled with, yet felt completely alone in my fight against. I painted a smile on my face for years because of the stigmatization and the messages society sent about mental illness being shameful or something to be kept secret. My reluctance to voice my struggle had me contemplating suicide from the ages of 17-20, and attempting three times before my 25th birthday.
No one should ever have to walk through these things alone. No one should ever have to question their value as a human being, or contemplate not being on this Earth. No one should ever have to feel so desperate that they willfully inflict violence on themselves. No one should ever feel ashamed for things that are not within their control.
I wrote and published my poetry collection ‘bare roots,’ because I want to show people that there is nothing shameful about living with a mental illness, there is nothing embarrassing about disclosing it, and that they are never alone in their fight. This is the most vulnerable and intimate body of work I’ve ever shared with the world, and though it has been intensely frightening to put myself out there, it has also been extremely fulfilling. On days where I am feeling raw and emotional and just want to hide away from the world, I remind myself that someone, somewhere is either reading my words or knows my story, and possibly feels less alone because of it. That in itself makes everything I’ve endured completely worth it.
- Molly Hillery,
Author of 'bare roots' available on Amazon today.