Encourage Courage. Encourage Crusaders.

cru-sad-er: n: 
1. a person who campaigns vigorously for political, social, or religious change or movement.
synonyms: campaigner, fighter, champion, advocate.

The week of Oct 5-11 was recognized as Mental Health Awareness week.

It was also the week I was moved by an act of courage.. And when and where courage presents itself, inspiration and empowerment are to sure to follow.

We too often only think of courageous acts as ones that are displayed in the face of danger or on the grounds of battlefields. In buildings on and lines of fire. Only in the matters of physical life or death.

We under-appreciate the bravery and strength it takes to overcome the sometimes dauntingly high heights of insecurity and the darkness of the depths of vulnerability that can exist within our very selves..But when one does find the strength to conquer those trials, they are able to find one of the most beautiful and powerful things to ever and always exist (and it exists within all of us): they find their voice.

And not just a voice that parrots lines or facts or surface-level quotes. It’s not a voice that just makes noise like too many do today. It is the voice that speaks of no other than itself. It is your voice that speaks only the truth of your truth.

Reflection of one’s self can be a very confronting, and each step of the way takes strength and courageousness. The allowance of complete unguardedness and honesty of who you are and whatever battles you’re going through is just the first part of the challenge. The second is to separate those two and to truly understand that who you are IS NOT whatever battle you’re going through.
You are not the illness.
You are not the disease.
You are not the abuse.
You are not the neglect.
You are not the adversity.
You are not the hard times, the burdens or pain.
Those are just the battles you are going, and will make it, through.
The final and ultimate display of courage comes in the moment when you finally let your voice – with no fear or no shame – share your story, your battles, your truth, yourself.

I saw friend who had found her courage her when she shared for all to see, her truth that for the last five years she has hidden the fact she’s battled depression and anxiety.

She is not the person most would have expected to hear admitting she struggles with mental health. Maybe those closer to her knew, but for the standard relation or acquaintance she is this beautiful woman who is always laughing and never afraid to speak her mind. She is loved and she is loving. She is happy. For as long as I can remember she has always been a person that leads, that other people look up to and admire — and now, with her sharing her truth, she is all of those things tenfold. Because the moment she shone the light on herself and her battle, she inadvertently shined light for all others who may have otherwise thought they were in that same dark by themselves. She automatically became a figure and a crusader for all of those who suffer through the same illness. And this world needs more crusaders. This world needs more light.

Because it’s as though we’ve been conditioned to suppress our true selves and to keep our true voices silent; particularly the ones that differ from what’s considered the societal norm. Somewhere along the way we’ve been taught this fear and shame of being different, of being sick, of seeming broken. We are afraid of showing our imperfections in this society that idolizes a fictional standard of perfection.

But this fear and silence only creates stigma. It creates segregation. It creates isolation. It creates this feeling that there is something shameful or wrong with you, that you are less than everyone else around you and there is no one else would understand. This silence makes you feel alone.

Suppression and silence of one’s voice is one of the most dangerous things to exist. But the courageous and the crusaders have the power to break through all those dangers.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr

I can’t help but wonder just how many people my friend touched, and encouraged, and empowered to accept and love the parts of themselves they had been keeping silent. And just by her being open and honest and by using her voice to speak her truth, she removed the stigma of her illness, she let others know that she is not, nor should they, be ashamed of their battle. She let others know that they are not alone. We are not alone. You are not alone.

We must use our voices to remove the silence and the stigmas and the segregations.

We must use our voices to encourage courage.

To encourage honesty.
Encourage truth.
Encourage the perfectness of our imperfections.
Encourage acceptance.
Encourage love.
Encourage voices.
Encourage each other.
Encourage crusaders.

Mental Health Awareness
National Alliance on Mental Illness 5k. Paint the town Lime Green.

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