Holding Our Arms Up: World Mental Health Day

I always feel a little bit of pressure to say something profound on World Mental Health Day. After all, I write about mental illness, I live with a mental illness, and I should probably say something. But I’ve started about five different posts in the past two weeks, and none of them have anything new to say. That’s because for weeks, I’ve been holding everything together with therapy and medication, and dodging every sincere “how are you” that’s been sent my way.


In the past month, we’ve lost a lot of mental health advocates to suicide. Research estimates that anywhere between 25% and 60% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once in their life. It’s a number that weighs on me in moments like this one, because it reminds me that just because I’m an advocate doesn’t mean I do this well.


When I write, I’m writing for my life. And I’m writing for your life, too. Every post about living with bipolar disorder, everything I’ve ever said is written to say that we exist, that we are worthy, and that we aren’t scary.


But sometimes it gets me.

And I know that sometimes it gets you, too.


I know this because so many of my friends engage in the work of justice for voices that have been silenced for so long, and a lot of us are just tired. We’re tired because for the past two years, everything has felt worse. We’re tired because despite the vulnerability that we show on a daily basis, our friends and our families still don’t believe us when we explain why we are tired.


There’s this great story in Exodus where the Israelites are fighting against the Amalekites, and as Moses holds his arms up, the Israelites are winning, but as soon as he puts them down, they start to lose. And so Aaron and Hur give Moses a place to sit, and they hold up his arms for him.


A lot of us are Moses. We’re tired of holding up our arms, tired of feeling like we’re alone in this battle. But a lot of us are Aaron and Hur, and it’s time that we give our friends who are fighting a place to sit. It’s time for us to hold their arms up while they rest.


So today is for the advocates.


Today is for those of you who work with people with mental illnesses, may you always remember that we are people first. May you find the ways to love us, even if we make it difficult.


For those of you who are allies. May you find the strength to hold up someone’s arms so the fight can continue.


Today is for parents of kids who live with mental illnesses. For those of you who go to IEP meetings and advocate for the correct placement and find yourself having to constantly remind people that your kid is just a kid who needs support. May you soak up every last bit of joy that your child has on the good days, and remember those moments when things get hard.


Today is for those of you who advocate for justice and equality in any area of this broken world, may you remember that you cannot dismantle a system on your own. May you find spaces of peace and bask in them.


For those of you whose very bodies are considered radical, may you remember that you are loved, and that you belong in whatever space God has placed you in. And that sometimes the best revolution we have is to just show up. And keep showing up.


For those of us who live with mental illness every day, whether you’ve been honest about your story or your diagnosis or not. The fact that we are here, when both our minds and the world try to tell us that we aren’t worthy, is enough.


For anyone who lives a life advocating for our communities – we are light. Let’s remember to take care of ourselves and our immediate communities on this World Mental Health Day, to lift each other’s arms, and to find rest if we need it, so that we can continue to fight for justice so that we can bring more of our light into the world.


Love y’all.


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