The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

by Lea Wetzel, Drop-in Center Coordinator

May 9, 2023

When I started getting diagnosed with mental health conditions, I was still a teenager. I was ashamed, scared, and felt like I was doomed. I come from a family that has both mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders, so I was aware of what they both can look like. It hit me hard, and even though I had seen struggles within my family’s dynamics, I still held shame and guilt from my situation. I later learned that the shame and guilt was not mine to carry, but before that, I carried it like I was packing luggage around, everywhere I went.

I learned to “mask” so much of my realities, that it became second nature to act as if, all was well.  I didn’t fully grasp the effects that what I had going on, had on me, and those around me. I know that I would feel so secluded, even if I was in a room full of people. I lived with anxiety and depression most of my life. I later ended up with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and within the past seven years, I was diagnosed with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).

I struggled for a long time, and felt the need to hide my problems, until I couldn’t anymore, and I ended up in and out of being hospitalized, tried on multiple medications, and in and out of treatment centers and the justice system.

I self-medicated for decades, in active addiction, and my mental health was on large amounts of highs and lows. I thought I had it figured out but found myself in a place where I pushed almost everyone that was important to me away, and was surrounded by hurt, pain, loss, and loneliness. After lots of this ongoing cycle, I finally figured out that I had to hit a place of understanding in my life, and later I found something called acceptance. I learned to forgive those who had hurt me, situations that went on, and most importantly I needed to learn to forgive myself.

All of what started my healing evolved from awareness and education on the why, what, where, when, and who, within my life and my mental health. I found solutions and answers to my life, and a better understanding of myself.  Through learning about how the brain works, practices and principles that worked for me, I started to find solutions. What was the most helpful was being able to share and hold healing space with others that were on a similar journey. Reconnecting to my ancestorial background was the beginning of a bigger source that unfolded so much positivity and enlightenment.

Knowing that I come from a heritage that has also been affected by historical and intergenerational traumas, and learning the truth behind my history, also gave me more knowledge and awareness that allowed my growth and healing to continue. Learning that that growth and healing never ends, that the more I learn, I need to have humility and humbleness. I embrace all the support and knowledge that others grace me with, and I feel so blessed.

I started out feeling like I had a curse, and now I see it all as a blessing. Learning about the key pieces to my mental health and implementing principles and practices into my life, has allowed my life to be full of blessings. I have an understanding that I now can use my voice to share my journey, and it can positively affect others, and hopefully allow them to realize they are not alone, and there is no need for stigma. We don’t and shouldn’t ever accept another’s stigma on our mental health, or anyone else’s, and we can be examples for others, and advocate together.

My grandfather, Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, told us kids when we were little, that society will attempt to make us feel different or try to say something is wrong with us, but that is not true, and don’t listen to them. We are gifted, and we can see, and feel things that not the everyday average “normy” understands. We may take a little longer to figure things out, but never give up. Knowledge is power, and always know, that you have a bigger purpose and no matter what the obstacle, Creator has a plan, so keep going, and get past those barriers, and be a voice of overcoming.



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