secretKeeping Family Problems a Secret

Three years ago, when our youngest daughter agreed to co-write a series with me on her mental health journey, I felt trepidation. Would telling our family secret—that we suffered from a mental illness—change people’s opinions about us?

Sure, blog readers and close family friends already know that our family had struggled—one daughter handled her teenage angst by cutting. The other by eating too healthfully (when it becomes an obsession and you lose weight they call it orthorexia—anorexia’s first cousin). I had even admitted that I struggled with depression after God miraculously cured Pedro from cancer.

I confess that during the months that Sarah lived with us while she struggled with depression, no one really knew about her struggles. We spoke of it in vague terms, “She’s staying home with us and volunteering for a year while she figures things out.”

When she took a turn for the better (we thought), people noticed a difference right away. “She seems so much happier now!” Coworkers didn’t know our secret.

Her behavior abruptly changed from cheerful to volatile and angry on a very public forum. I started getting direct messages from those who knew her, asking me if I knew what she had done. The problem could no longer remain a secret.

Sharing the Secret Empowers

By telling our story in October of 2015, we discovered that sharing the secret with others empowered us. It empowered us to continue healing and to continue the process of restoration in our lives.

It also brought people out of the woodwork. People who shared privately that they, too suffered from a mental illness. I also had opportunities to pray with worried parents and share resources for finding help.

I don’t have a huge platform on the Internet. My tiny voice joins millions of other voices and I often feel as if I don’t make much of a difference. In January I felt lead to apply as a speaker for a breakout session at a huge teacher’s conference in Chicago this summer. I doubted they would accept my application—I don’t have a psychology degree, nor do I have a counseling license. I proposed to speak about “What You Don’t Know CAN Kill You (Or Someone You Love.”

In the section where it described my expertise, I confessed that my only expertise consisted in our family’s experience. I offered to be a panelist in case someone else had already chosen to talk about mental health and adolescents. Moses and I have a lot in common.

I received word this week that the organizers had chosen my topic for a break out session. Did I mention that I have moved from trepid to terrified? I could use your help. Since I have no expertise, but I do have opportunity, I’d love to act as the voice for more than just my family.

A Call for YOUR Help!

I need your help! If you could tell a roomful of educators what you wish they had noticed or done when you or someone you know struggled with a mental illness as an adolescent, what would you tell them? #mentalhealth #stopthestigma #bipolarIf you have suffered from a mental illness that manifested itself during your adolescence, or if you have an adolescent who has received a diagnosis, would you be willing to share with me? I have an opportunity act as the voice for those who suffer from a mental illness.

If you could tell a room full of Christian educators (I have no idea how many people will show up—anywhere from 10-200) a few things about you or the one you love, what would you tell them?

• What signs should they look for?
• Did your behavior/loved one’s behavior change?
• How long did it take for you or your loved one to receive help?
• Was the help helpful?
• If you spent time hospitalized, what do you wish your teachers or professors would have known that would have helped your transition back into school?
• Maybe as a child you had a parent with an untreated or undiagnosed mental illness. What could teachers have done to help you?
• What do you feel that educators should do (if anything) to educate their students about mental illnesses? At what age should mental health education begin?
• Do you feel as if the church understood your mental illness/loved one’s mental illness? What could the church do better?

I’d love to have your responses to any or all of the questions (or anything else you’d love educators to know). Send your responses to anita@anitaojeda.com. I’ll keep your secret safe and promise that only I will see your responses.

Pass it On, Please!

If you happen to be reading this, and don’t suffer, but know someone who does (or who has an adolescent struggling), would you kindly share this post with them?

Most of all, I crave your prayers as I prepare for the presentation. Together, we can help stop the stigma. What you share with me, and I share with educators, has the potential to save someone’s life.

It's time to #stopthestigma and share your wisdom about adolescents and mental illnesses. What do you wish that educators knew about #mentalillness? #mentalhealthawareness Click To Tweet
I need your help! If you could tell a roomful of educators what you wish they had noticed or done when you or someone you know struggled with a mental illness as an adolescent, what would you tell them? #mentalhealth #stopthestigma #bipolar