Yesterday on the first day of Mental Health Month, I was triggered. In reading the local news headlines I discovered that someone I knew who I’ll call Elana had been reported missing. She was found alive through an aerial search, but she had attempted to take her own life.
I told my husband about this tragic news last night. Craig was a friend of this woman’s long before I met him, but they lost touch over the years. Yesterday he found out exactly where she was being hospitalized and he spoke with an administrator working on her case. I encouraged him to get her a card and he sent it to her this morning. I know that a card sounds like a little thing, but it’s not. Especially when the illness is a mental illness connected with a suicide attempt. I know with all my heart that as she recovers, she will appreciate his gesture very much.
Today I kept thinking about Elana’s situation, although I moved on with my obligations. I dealt with various mundane duties: making beds, bill paying, laundry, putting away dishes, working out, driving the girls back and forth from ballet and playdates etc. that I was supposed to accomplish. Was a little Facebooking & Twittering thrown into the mix? You know it was! (And yeah, it was more than a little. I’m working on it!)
My day brightened up considerably when I got an email from the mental health advocate/cartoonist Chato B. Stewart. Who is Chato B. Stewart?
Chato is a man of many talents. I’ve known Chato as the Psych Central Network and BP (Bipolar) Magazine Cartoonist/Blogger . He’s the artist behind the “Mental Health Cartoons” drawn from his personal experience of living with bipolar disorder. Chato creates positive, provocative and sometimes even funny cartoons! (He is sensitive to the subject matter, that’s for sure.)
Chato believes there is power behind humor, and his motto is “humor gives help, hope and healing”. His mission is use humor as a positive tool to cope with the serious effects of mental illness. He has won the Wego Health Hilarious Activist Award and a prestigious Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) award, and he’s a father of four and a devoted husband to his wife Joan. (Plus, he has a full-time day job, no biggie!)
Chato emailed me to let me know that he selected me to be one of his 2014 Mental Health Heros! Chato’s recognition of my mental health advocacy efforts, which I’ve done on and off over the past five years, completely lifted up my spirits. He’ll be publishing my story on his Mental Health hero website this month, and get this – he’ll be drawing a cartoon of me (yep!) for what he calls his Cartoon-A-Thon.
When Chato started the Cartoon-A-Thon in 2008, he wanted to “actively contribute in a small way to Mental Health Month, which was established by Mental Health Americana in 1946.” Since then Chato has drawn many heroes who can be nominated by anyone, or personally selected by Chato.
Why a Cartoon-A-Thon?
Chato explains his philosophy on the Mental Health Hero website:
“The purpose of the Cartoon-A-Thon is to use humor and laughter as positive tools in dealing with emotional disturbances which affect many people and families due to mental illness.”
Chato brainstormed an idea of drawing cartoons about mental health disorders each day in May for Mental Health Month. In 2008, he drew 18 cartoons. The following year he drew 31 cartoons . In 2010, he introduced his Mental Health Heroes and he featured 31 heroes in the mental health community.
In 2011 and 2012 he kept up with the hero theme to give his peers a platform to tell their story. Many readers were excited in 2012 when Chato’s three daughters started drawing their versions of the heroes. Once again, they’ll pull out their crayons and draw alongside him in 2014. The fact that Chato’s little girls will be drawing pictures of me will be funny, and my two girls will get a HUGE kick out of their efforts as well.
So my day contained happiness and sadness, just like every day does, but on this symbolic beginning of Mental Health Month, I felt those two emotions to a more amplified degree. All the more reason for me to make time to exercise, even though it was a heatwave and I felt like blowing it off. And all the more reason to calmly reassure my husband that when I said to him that I felt “triggered” by Elana’s situation, it didn’t mean I was going to fall apart.
I emphasized to Craig that triggers are not always rational; they are not always easily tamped down and controlled. He told me how much he appreciated my explanation, and that it helped him to hear my perspective. Then he wrapped his arms around me and he said how glad he was that I was doing well. That was pretty cool to hear, and his words meant more to me than any award I could ever receive.
To view the 2013 winners, see their cartoons and read their stories, visit: http://mentalhealthhero.com/
To learn more about the illustrious Chato B. Stewart, visit his website: http://www.chatobstewart.com/
Please donate to my walk benefitting Postpartum Progress!
For more information about the June 21st walk for Climb Out of the Darkness and to donate please visit: