Competing in pageants is always nerve wracking but competing in a pageant where I have been completely open about my daily struggles with my mental health is especially so. I know I’m going to be judged and the fact is, with the stigma surrounding mental illness, those judges may only see me as an illness. They may see me as unstable or violent or any of the other stigmas that go hand in hand with having a mental illness. But I’m going to do it anyways.
It’s hard to be open about things with people when they inevitably ask “why can’t you just be happy?” It’s not a choice to have a mental illness. It’s not a decision I made this morning…”hmmm, you know what? I think I’ll be bipolar today.” It’s something I struggle with everyday. And guess what? It has made me a warrior! I have done some amazing things in my life but the two that were the hardest are 1) creating life and pushing a baby out after 24 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing and 2) living with a mental illness. Nothing worth having is ever easy. If it were easy everyone would do it.
I’m choosing to share my story with everyone who wants to hear it, and some who don’t. I want to spread the word that having a mental illness isn’t a death sentence. It’s part of who you are. Being weird and “kooky” has always been a part of what makes me unique and anyone who knows me knows that it doesn’t stop me from being a great wife, mother, and friend.
I’m taking the risk to sit down with these judges and tell them I’m not perfect, far from it, actually. But I’m strong and I can be who they need me to be. I can reach their expectations for the queen and blow them away.
I will show them that having a mental illness doesn’t define you. It makes you a fighter.
Images courtesy of My General Life, Healthyplace.com, and notsalmon.com