Back in October I wrote a blog titled “#TheChristineProject” where I discussed my frustration with the taboo surrounding outwardly acknowledging that you exist with a mental illness.
This is a very personal subject for me because while friends and loved ones vaguely knew I struggled with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, absolutely no one but my parents knew that I was also grappling with schizophrenia and depression. And, in spite of them knowing, it was still asubject we just didn’t discuss out loud. My conditions were shameful and I was constantly reminded I should tell no one or risk being ostracized and mocked endlessly for being “crazy”. Every day of my life I strived to keep up appearances, until the weight of all I’d been harboring in secret eventually pulled me under. I knew if I didn’t finally speak to someone about my mental illnesses and the abuse I was secretly suffering, my depression would win and I would kill myself.
Throughout my body positive journey I’ve learned to love everything from my thighs, to my tummy, to my tush; proudly shouting to the world, “I will not be ashamed of these things you’ve convinced me I should hate! This is me and I’m fantastic from head to toe!” But one day, after reflecting on a bad mental health experience, I realized there was this huge elephant in the room I wasn’t owning up to and accepting vocally the way I had my physical “flaws” because I was still buying into the notion that was instilled into me as a child: we just don’t talk about THAT.
THAT will isolate you. THAT will make people look at you differently. Your life will be easier if you don’t talk about THAT.
Well I’m here to say THAT way of thinking is nonsense.
A conversation about the state of my mental health is what helped save my life, and I want others to feel comfortable enough to have one of their own as well. Through The Christine Project I hope to give a face to conditions that are frequently stigmatized, and encourage people to embrace not only body positivity but mind positivity. I seek to have people proudly say “In my life I have struggled with _____, but that doesn’t define me because I(‘m) also _____.” because WE ARE NOT DEFINED BY OUR DIAGNOSIS. I want to show those that don’t have a mental illness how important it can be to even one person’s life when you make yourself available as a support system or shoulder to lean on.
But most of all I want to open up the lines of communication that are often buried when it comes to mental illness, so people don’t feel desperate and alone like I once did.
It’s okay. There is hope. You are not alone.
Below are some of the courageous people who wanted to share their personal stories as a part of #TheChristineProject. If you wish to also get involved I will update this blog with your submissions as they come through.
Thank you for your help! xx
(Comments or questions: email@example.com or @thechristinecho)
Megan, who was the first submission to the project and made the beautiful flower illustration above: