I’m approaching 40 years old, but have amazingly done most of my personal growth in just one. Crazy right? Whoa! Natalie! Back up! Are you really going to use the word ‘crazy’ when you’re a mental health advocate? What impression will people get of you? So there it is…a perfect example of how a lifetime of depression-guided, self-appraisal can to this day influence how I think (or over-think) I’m making an impression on people.
Even though recovering from the dark world of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction has undoubtedly strengthened my confidence and inner-peace, there is still a side of me, (the tattoo-free side I suppose), that deeply safeguards my albeit false, perpetually smiling image. But why does this side of me still care what image I am portraying? I really have nothing to hide! I have already very publicly announced, and illustrated to thousands of my blog readers who the Natalie is behind a fragile bubble of incessant laughter. People already know that I have travelled from the relentless hell of suicidal ideation, to the heaven of self-acceptance and love. So why would I still worry about whether or not I make a good impression, when I know that I am a good person, and when I’m pretty candid about, well…everything?
I think the answer lies in the fact that I am still a woman who battles mental illness in a world that often smiles and nods in the lime-light of mental health awareness, but quickly closes the blinds when the cameras are off to retreat to the comfortable world of complacency; and that fact alone can make even me feel like I should retract certain impressions that I’ve made.
Promoting a stigma-free world is somewhat of a social hot-topic these days, but ‘hot-topic talk’ is cheap when lives are still being lost because many people simply give the impression that they maintain a stigma-free view of people who battle mental health illnesses, when really they would rather gargle hornets than speak out about the stigma-acts they still witness. – So no wonder depression still makes an impression on even me.
But alas, my doubts about speaking up and fighting for the suppression of mental health stigma always subside, and I soon feel the need to strip down to my core beliefs again. I think from time to time that some people probably roll their eyes because my blog posts still appear on Facebook and Twitter, but I won’t stop speaking the words that so many still can’t say. Besides, at the end of the day your impression of me is really none of my business anyway.
I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and the world is a much better place when I don’t have to hide. Inner-strength is much deeper than the clothes, and THAT is the impression I fight to leave.
*A tremendous thank you to Pie Magazine (Editor Sandra Roberts and Photographer Jeff Buchanan), for the opportunity to embrace yet another level of strength through vulnerability, and to learn how beautiful living without a mask can be. xo