By Sarah Pitman
As human beings, we are all, for the most part, compassionate, kind, and giving souls. Those suffering from mental illness are no exception. We want people to be happy and healthy. Positive energy and attitude spread, and so we benefit too! As a community, we help each other by offering advice, assistance, guidance, and love. Seeing people suffer is painful when we feel helpless. Which is one of the many reasons why addressing mental illness can be challenging.
For many of us with a mental illness, there is no “cure” or “solution”--no sense of complete healing--for a given diagnosis. There may be treatment, but usually it is a lifelong battle. What we can do is learn to cope and manage, live and learn, and adapt. But there is no telling what may be ahead. Just like everyone else, we want to help. We have advice and ideas that may be useful to those undergoing similar struggles. We say that “experience is the best teacher.” So if we can pass along what we have tried and learned, maybe that would be a help, right?
Well, then comes the inevitable question: at what point is someone suffering from mental illness “qualified” to help others?
On one hand, you could say that situations should not be compared; everyone is different. There is no value nor place for advice from the “sick” because, if they had the answers, wouldn’t they be “better”? On the other hand, you could say that those dealing with mental illness would be some of the most qualified people to give advice, as they are going through it. The insight and experience they have may benefit others, and in turn, lessen the struggle and pain.
It is a tough call. For me, I lean more toward the second side. I believe that it can be easier to see in others that which we cannot see in ourselves, specifically, how to get better. Now, there is a fine line between offering advice and telling someone how they should act, however there should be space for both. I see giving advice as especially helpful in my own recovery. It brings insight into my life and issues I have. It helps me, too.
What I have found a passion for is teaching yoga and wellness. Am I the most experienced yogi? No. I’m still learning. Am I the picture-perfect image of a healthy person? No. I’m working on it. How have I found that I can learn and move towards my goals? Teaching and sharing. I do not profess to know all the answers. But I want to be given the opportunity to speak. My words may be just as valuable as a doctor’s. I have found that coaching is a strength of mine. If I wait to coach and teach until I'm all “better”, who knows how long that could take. Sometimes going to group meetings heals me more than having individual sessions with a therapist. It allows me the space to share, and I am able to listen and connect with others as they recount what they are going through. It can be like looking into a mirror, only clearer, since it’s not “me”. I find myself full of insight that I haven’t had before. I can advise them and help them so easily. Yet, this advice I have all of a sudden, is often new to me too, only I have been too blind to see it for myself in my own disease. What if I could have the space to teach, coach, and listen, then reflect on what I have said later, and apply it to my own journey? It sounds to me like a great idea--I could be helping someone else and simultaneously myself--at one time. But that space is not so easy to find.
Recently, I have been turned down for opportunities to coach, teach, and share, as I do not “appear” a certain way in my physical body. I am not qualified for the position, as I am not “healthy” and “strong”--not a good “role model” or “face for the brand”. Even being upfront and honest about our mental illness bites us.
What about our experience, especially if we are on the upward trend of healing? Does that that not qualify us? Since when is there a perfect fit for a position? We are all “works-in-progress,” trying to figure out this thing called “Life.” We have a voice that wants to speak and share. We can still learn and recover, while we help others. I have grown more resilient and stronger by helping. I see that changes are able to be made, and I am capable of making them.
Certainly, just like other teachers, those of us with mental illness have done work to “earn our stripes”...
Some of us are ready to help--and together we can be unstoppable in the fight against mental illness.
Meet our Author Sarah Pitman
When asked what she does, Sarah replies with "spread sunshine through yoga, meditation, and creative expression." She may get the occasional blank stare, but it's the truth. Sharing her story and her message through yoga and writing is how she heals, and has been her greatest form of therapy. Since moving to LA last year, she has received her yoga teacher training certification, mentored and assisted additional trainings and workshops, and explored blogging and writing. Currently, she is receiving her advanced training in restorative yoga to both aid in her own recovery and for her professional aspirations. She incorporates breath, meditation, and alignment through conscious body awareness in her classes, preferring more gentle flows and philosophical teaching. For her, the combination of yoga and writing is a journey of self, and is always evolving. She teaches private and corporate classes in-person and online, and also collaborates with health and wellness companies worldwide, through social media, writing, marketing, and instruction. Encouraging acceptance for all is her mission. Just "keep shining"...