MHI: CURSED by Mercedes M. Yardley
Trigger Warning: This piece addresses mental health
The HWA is pleased to launch its Mental Health Initiative, a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre. The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, launches in June, and includes the following blog posts from Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members.
Mercedes M. Yardley
I come from a long, rich history of mental illness. It was only spoken of in whispers, in hisses, passed down from female to female because we seemed to experience the worst. Great grandmother died in the asylum. Grandma had shock treatments so severe that she couldn’t remember her children. My father and his siblings became used to being called by the wrong name, if my grandmother recalled a name at all.
I took the plunge and started on medication, which felt shameful. It saved my life. Gradually my aunt and cousins opened up about our history. We sit around a virtual table discussing The Big Secret, the Dark Family Curse. We throw our cards down and find that we have depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideation. We talk about pricing our medication while pricing caskets. Frugality has saved us more than once.
But do you know what else we are? We’re family. We have the same eyes and some of us have pink and blue hair. We are psychologists. We are cartoonists. We are writers and mothers and fathers. We are basketball players and elders in our church. We roller derby. We kickbox. We have pets who think we’re their world. We do good things for society. We volunteer, and march politically, and render aid to those who need it. And although of course we cry, we laugh and laugh and laugh.
Things are different than a generation ago. By speaking up, I’m hoping to help erase the stigma of mental health. It shouldn’t be a secret, and there should be no shame. It’s simply one aspect to an intricate, multi-faceted individual. It isn’t who we are. It doesn’t make us less. It makes us compassionate and strong, worthwhile and powerful.