The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has a campaign called, “You are not alone!” It serves as a reminder for those of us living with a mental illness that there are millions of people in the United States and around the world who live with a mental illness. We are truly not alone.
It does not take away from anyone’s personal journey it only serves as a reminder there are other people out there who know how you feel and who have probably felt very similar if not the same as you do. For me it means that even when I may struggle for one reason or another there is someone out there who has experienced a similar situation.
I recently had lunch with a friend who lives with depression. He said to me, “It doesn’t make me feel any better to know I’m not alone. It doesn’t take away my pain.” I agreed with him that his pain is unique and certainly individual but I also added that other people struggle and this commonality can offer perspective. Sometimes a little perspective is all we need to open up another avenue for our coping skills.
Every person who lives with mental illness will have their own individual paths to walk. Just like any other disease some people will have more severity than others. But at the end of the day, “knowing you are not alone” plays into a fighting spirit where you recognize people are out there waging their own war against mental illness. And for everyone who faces the grief, loss and sorrow for having a mental illness knowing you are in this with others can mean you are walking a similar path.
I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I know there are people whose lives have been interrupted because they have been hospitalized. My life has been interrupted at times too. I know individuals have to face lots of fear getting back to work or school after being sick, I have had that experience too. I can’t take away pain or fear but perhaps I can offer inspiration in recovery. Because I’ve been there I have a greater understanding and large amount of compassion for others and I know many people who share and offer the same for me.
To walk alone is difficult but to walk beside one another adds strength to the cause. Whenever you feel lonely know you aren’t alone and maybe –if only for a moment–you’ll find greater strength. Sometimes that’s all you need to get through just one more day.