Mental Health is whatever condition your emotions are in. At the most basic of levels – the everyday level – the level of health anyone is in at any given moment: that’s all mental health. This means every single day, every single hour, every single moment of my life I have been experiencing mental health. Sometimes my mental health is really great – I am super happy, I am experiencing a wide range of emotions and displaying them in a positive way, and there is no toxicity or negativity I am expressing in excess amounts. Sometimes I am not in good mental health and I am only experiencing what we have labeled as bad or negative emotions – sadness, fear, trepidation, desolation – simply, I am depressed.
I can remember the specific moment I realized I had depression and I can remember the specific moment when I realized that I never thought about having a future because I didn’t know there could be one for me. Those two moments collided in the fifth grade. I never knew anyone who spoke about their own mental health outside of the TV and I remember telling my mom I was depressed and being so proud of myself for speaking my own truth and asking for the support I so desperately needed and I remember being taught immediately that depression was something to hide and that I shouldn’t talk about it – I shouldn’t experience my depression in the light – only alone in my room and in my head where no one else could be bothered by it.
As I begin planning and preparing for Dior Vargas to come to Iowa to share with us all about her own experiences with Mental Health I am astounded by this overwhelming emotion I can’t quite name. But I think it is that I am witnessing a future for someone like me who has a mental health diagnosis of depression –anxiety – or PTSD (those are just mine but there are so many more that people experience on the day to day) someone who can define a future that I’ve wanted to experience but didn’t know I could.
I witness Dior and am overwhelmed by many things that I can’t quite grasp – her openness about mental health experiences is validated by every person who participates and validation of mental health experiences seems so rare to me. Everywhere Dior travels to share her story the stigmas associated with mental health – the stigmas I’ve experienced – dissolve. They begin to fade away and acceptance blooms in her path.
Dior is a trailblazer for open communication surrounding mental health experiences. She is a landmark for children to learn from; success is not in direct opposition to mental health, sometimes it can be a direct cause for success as it was for Dior. As someone who didn’t know I could have a future, finding out I can not only have a future but it can be successful was earthshattering.
Dior is a Queer Latina Feminist Mental Health Advocate and I am just me, a community member, a person who lives with PTSD, who has been depressed since the 5th grade, who gets so anxious around people it becomes hard to breathe or stay calm. Dior is proof that I am an okay version of myself just for existing and I know I am not the only one who is made to feel that way in her presence.
Planning and preparation for the National Mental Health Awareness event featuring Dior Vargas as its keynote speaker is coming to a close. This awareness of my current mental state has me ready for a future that is clearer now that I know it can exist. Most of all I am ready to share this experience with Iowa, to encourage more acceptance, and growth, and to allow for the end of this spreading of stigma. Because it is important for everyone to know: Individuals who experience mental health symptoms or diagnoses can be successful and have futures. We just do.
Thanks to Dior, I know that now.
by: Katelynn Schultz