What Courage Really Looks Like
“Thank you for sharing your story; you are so courageous,” a woman said to me at one of my “In Our Own Voice” presentations. As usual, I smiled and thanked her. It always surprises me when people thank me for speaking out—that the “speaking out” aspect is what they believe is most courageous. Yes, speaking out is cathartic. But when you’re like me, living with mental illness, what’s far more courageous is the journey to speaking out.
What it means to be “Courageous”
- Courage is telling someone you are hearing voices in your head.
- Courage is deciding to stop self-medicating and ask for help.
- Courage is allowing someone to drive you to the hospital so you can voluntarily check yourself into the psych ward.
- Courage is walking into a room of concerned relatives only weeks after your psychotic break, even though your body feels like it consists solely of egg shells shaped like bones.
- Courage is getting up and taking a shower, after days in bed.
- Courage is learning to let negative thoughts just float out of your head.
- Courage is talking yourself into going to the gym just for today.
- Courage is getting out of bed, exercising and collapsing back into bed thinking, “I tried.”
- Courage is searching for a new psychiatrist that your insurance will cover after relocating to a new city.
- Courage is believing that this time, this new medication will lighten your depression.
- Courage is finally feeling good enough to change your hair style.
- Courage is saying “no” to a beer when all your buddies are drinking.
- Courage is saying: “I was sick, but now I am better,” on a job interview.
- Courage is clenching your teeth when a colleague calls someone “crazy”.
- Courage is asking an acquaintance to lunch.
- Courage is explaining to your friends that you have a mental health condition.
Is speaking out courageous? Maybe to you. Speaking out is a relief. Speaking out is sharing my story with others so they can understand how many people fight invisible battles every day. I am thankful that I have the ability and opportunity to speak; I know so many people who live with mental illness who cannot speak out. But it is far from my most courageous act.