Grace Peverly, RN
In place of silence, I speak.
After 40 years of inner turmoil, I am still caught in the cyclical vortex of anxiety and depression. I feel that if I don’t keep juggling all that I do, somehow my life will fall apart. Always advancing, I am forever charging ahead with the view that eventually I will make it to a place of completion and rest. I’m exhausted with worry! I dread the time when people around me figure out that I’m faking my way through life. I don’t want them to realize that I really don’t know anything and that I am completely overwhelmed.
This comes out in the hardest, and sometimes greatest times in my life—key moments where I’ve struggled the most with my mental health. These include trying to grow up in a nomadic home with a mom dealing with a debilitating chronic neurological illness, navigating relationships, establishing a profession, making a name for myself, the births of my boys, financial and marital struggles, navigating a multiple-cultural lifestyle, and praying through crises of faith. As life goes by, the list of stressors increases. Terrors overcome my thinking, leaving me paralyzed. One of these horrors is becoming open and vulnerable—for the world to judge, and punish. I shudder to have others to see my weaknesses as a parent, failure as a spouse, lack of knowledge or expertise as a nurse and musician, growing mental/emotional/spiritual chaos, or the gulf increasing between me and a healthy, whole mind.
We are taught to celebrate success in life. We reward achievement. We encourage and promote winners. Why don’t we want to admit mental illness? We abhor failure. We shun losers. We don’t want our illness to hold our hard-fought standing or those of our loved ones. In hiding our shame, contrary to our intended protection of silence, our secrecy opens us up to doubts, fears, and ultimate failure. Physically, our bodies break down from deep inside. Symptoms arise even while we cover our shame with increased effort and iron will. We do this because life’s comforts are not as important as our pride. In condemning ourselves to silent suffering, we are imprisoned by our own secrecy.
Transparency is freedom. Just calling mental illness by its name, we have taken the great unknown shame and trimmed it into something approachable and manageable—because illness can be treated. We can fight a named challenge. We know our purpose and can follow a heading to begin towards renewal.
There will come a time when the only thing left of me are the echoes, reflections, and consequences of my choices. I want my legacy to promote wellness. In place of fear, I choose strength. In place of illness, I choose healing. In place of silence, I speak.