Let This Be The Year You Destroy The Stigma Of Mental Illness

Denys Nevozhai
Denys Nevozhai

In 2017, impact someone’s life by sharing stories… because this is the ordinary person’s year to break down the walls of stigma.

I promise that you, the person reading this now, the person who may not live with a mental health condition, knows someone who does. 2016’s celebrity mental health champions Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, Kid Cudi, Demi Lovato, Brandon Marshall, Carrie Fisher (RIP to the Princess) and so many others have come out in force this past year to give a voice to what I consider the pivotal hush-hush of all generations.

Mental illness affects all humans, it is not racially, politically, or religiously charged, it is not gender biased, it is not rich or poor, and does not fall into any polarizing category except the subtle and many times overt branding known as stigma. I am thankful for celebrity-status stories, and I totally understand why we are quick to share something that is attached to a popular name – but I truly believe that stories from the average person relate to the majority living with mental illness even more, they are someone just like them making their journey a real-life example, showing us how to cope, and ultimately how to survive.

I can also promise you that anyone will feel an emotional and compassionate connection, on a human-level to these stories – because through this wicked and flawed life-voyage, every single one of us is fighting a stigma of some kind. Every single one of us can be inspired by bravery and 2017 is our year to share our stories and we need everyone to help us out. My New Year’s resolution for you is to not forget about the everyday people fighting to have their voice heard too. I am asking that you share with family, friends, and online communities, stories of hope and healing, of compassion and of raw truth from ordinary people who experience mental illness in their daily lives – raise awareness and offer hope to people around you. Here is an introduction to my mental health journey, and how it has affected my approach in 2017 – I hope you can see why it is vital that you become a growth game ambassador and share stories like mine to help people find their bravery.

At the age of 36, it has taken me over two decades to finally come clean about my mental illness struggle – not just with family, friends and now officially in the public eye – but with myself. I am done being delicate. My journey is heartbreak, childhood trauma and abuse, Iraq’s warzone, helplessness, and stigma. Like a brick wall, I knew it was time. It was time for me to share my story in public for the first time ever. In November 2016, just over a month ago, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a non-profit fundraising event and share my very vulnerable truth in front of two-hundred people who are directly involved in the mental health community.

I promised myself if I could get through that first public purging, that I would reach far beyond just my social media pages and connect with as many people as possible to hopefully inspire them to find their voice and lift their shame. I am taking 2017 by the horns, and have begun writing with my full voice again. I believe that sharing your story with others lifts burdens on both sides and my personal resolution is more like my mental purge revolution – to share the good, the bad, the ugly, but also the beautiful – every flower must grow through dirt, right? I call myself a Growth Game Warrior, an ordinary woman who battles her demons daily, but who also thrives in the best of ways by understanding not just what her limitations are, but what immense strength and power has evolved from being a survivor.

I am passionate about loving the crap out of humans who inspire others by being inspired by others. I am passionate about my non-profit work and my main gig with the U.S. military, creating abstract and purging art that gives people an idea of what creative therapy looks like, my natural approach to healing versus medication which include my morning modern hippie smoothies that I could legit sell for top dollar in any city.

I love road cycling, running and meditation as a form of mental purging, adventure therapy and fitness, my abundant tattoos that remind me to own my authentic identity and tell a story without having to say a single word – and writing which allows my mind to split open and revisit words once written to see my endless growth pilgrimage. I am also headstrong about my values that center and refocus my growth game – at the top of my list are benevolence and love – I am passionate about feeling it, giving it, and knowing now that I deserve it.

My journey about childhood trauma, abuse, pain, terror, war, the effects of all that – about love, healing, and self-prospective – I know relates to so many people out there. There is no surprise that I, like many of you, am a sensitive human – we are savagely vulnerable collages of emotion – and I like it that way. I am using this very public platform to share my journey because I know real-life experiences from normal people can impact the brave people trying to find their footing, who are experiencing something similar, or who have been waiting to tell their story for the first time – one of survival, and one filled to the moon and back with love, courage, and faith in knowing that stigma does not exist when mental wellness is encouraged instead of judged.

For your 2017 resolutions, I hope you incorporate how you can help others find hope because resolutions are not always matter of fact, they are not just about losing weight, working out, spending less, or giving up something – they should always be about the greater good from within. Once you help someone else find their strength, you have started a ripple effect and created your own empathetic journey. My name is Monica, I am a possibilitarian, and I hope you choose to be also – because the vibrations we create will be returned as an even greater echo. Let’s help each other grow, practice reckless optimism and create our own frequency so that others who devour similar empathic purpose can dial in.  

For those who are just like me, the ordinary people – You are bravery. You are significant. You are loved. Don’t you dare give up on this life. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Love hard. Be fierce and never apologize for your superpowers. Be the louts flower, and be grateful for the mud. TC mark

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