By Elizabeth Niedra – Class of 2015
This is not to say that you should not. That person has gone to hell and back, has fought through blood and tears (often literally), twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years on end. They did not give up. And they did not die. They came out alive, and a standing ovation in Madison Square Garden wouldn’t sufficiently honor the struggle they continue to endure, and the strength that they have shown by showing it to you.
This is to say, be mindful of who gets your standing ovation, your smile, your awe. It is the person who has returned to you; the person who speaks your language. The person who has already succeeded enough in their struggle to again dwell in the land of the living. They are mental health neatly packaged for your easy consumption, wrapped in culturally kosher signals of normalcy and relatability. They are articulate, touching, anecdotal mental health. They are not anxious, inconsistent, incoherent, unrelatable mental health. They are no longer forcibly concealed under the boggy ten-ton cloak of their symptoms. Be mindful that they are the tip of the pyramid. Be mindful, that whomever else you meet in the realm of mental health, the classmate, the friend, the supervisor, the patient, the disheveled, the unhygienic, the belligerent, the vicious, the tearful, the rude, the entertaining, the angry, the silent, the skinny, the scarred, they too lay claim to your awe. Perhaps they are more in need of your help than your applause; but that fight you gave a standing ovation? They are fighting it, hard, right now. And if your protest is, but she was brave enough to share it with me—realize, they have come to you, by whatever means. That’s exactly what they’re doing.