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Stand By Me Always: Mental Illness and Fairweather Friends

08/04/2013 09:48 EDT | Updated 10/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Anybody who has mental illness knows that we all have all our good days and our bad days. For some reason my good days seem to go by fast while my bad days feel as if they drag on. However, I know a bad day will soon turn into a good day and I am blessed in that I have a close circle of friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who are there for me when I am struggling.

Last week I had the privilege of being one of five Canadians named as a "Face of Mental Illness" by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness & Mental Health for 2013. In my role as "Face," I'll have the opportunity to meet with politicians and policymakers, and to share my story of living with mental illness and of my recovery, nationally. In addition, I'll be participating in the 2014 Bell Let's Talk Day.

After the announcement was made, I received a lot of tweets, emails, text messages, and calls congratulating me. Much of this correspondence came from people I haven't heard from in months or years. These are the exact some people who say they accepted me for having mental illness yet turned their backs on me when I needed an ear vent to or a shoulder to cry on for reasons I didn't know.

Talking about mental illness is a serious and difficult conversation to have; even as an advocate I'm still not immune to the questions I'm asked or the reactions I get from people. But what is even more difficult is people saying they accept me for who I am and then deserting me.

I get it; it is a challenge and even scary dealing with an illness or a situation that you're unfamiliar with. We tend to go into panic mode when somebody we care about is displaying themselves in a way that concerns us. The easiest thing to do is run away and remove ourselves. But at what price do those with mental illness pay when you turn your backs on us? A high one, I'd say.

Everybody isn't a therapist. However, it is weird having people come in and out of my life when it is convenient for them. As soon they hear something good has happened to me, they're the first people to want to celebrate with me yet they also don't want me talking about what I refer to as "the dark side of mental illness." People ask me why I don't ditch them once and for all? It's because I have faith that eventually they'll come around and accept my bad days just as much as they accept my good ones.

I encourage all of you to take a moment and think of what it would be like to be abandoned in a time when you really need somebody the most. This is an experience I have lived through too many times. I hope none of you will repeat this mistake.

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