“We can either allow mental illness to teach us about ourselves, or we can allow mental illness to let us hide from ourselves.” It is a choice that many of us make every day. Many people with mental illness must make that choice by popping open a prescription bottle and taking medication that comes with so many warnings that it can make you cry a little inside because you know it’s the only way you can participate in your life. But the bottle is not a fix, it is another tool that helps make the future a possibility.
I was diagnosed with a mental illness after trying to hide it for many years. I suppose I didn’t reach out for help sooner because it felt more like a label, and less like an illness, and that people in my life would see me differently. And secretly, that people with mental illness have less worth; and yes, some things did change in a negative way, but still, it’s is a mistake to try hiding mental illness, because hiding connoted darkness, and I was trying to climb out of the darkness. It’s like trying to deny it’s raining outside just because you haven’t gotten wet. The rain is real. It will stop; it will come back, and sometimes, it cannot be controlled. Mental illness is like that, not under our control as to when it will return or disappear. It is not a phase, it’s an illness that all too many face. And sometimes, there is no amount of reasoning a way out of it’s symptoms, even though someone on the outside of the illness thinks we can control it if we wanted to.
I have spent too many hours in a car; reading, drinking coffee, eating meals, napping until eventually returning home. Because of what mental illness was doing to me, I was separating myself from others and world a little bit more every day. I was creating a blank wall for my future. Tearing down that blank wall, and replacing it with hope took many years, and more doctor and therapy sessions than I can count. I needed help getting out of the life that mental illness had cornered me into. My mental illness struggle will always be with me, but it is not all of me, and it will not define the person I work towards becoming every day. Right now my life is about rebuilding, and I’ve stepped into a feeling of future, and not just to exist.
Now I experience a more positive life with the aid of my service dog, General. He has been my constant companion since 2014. He is my strength and stability, and accompanies me into situations that alone, I could not have gone. And most of all, he has technically pulled me out of my car.
Anne Cummings Studios was born out of my struggle with Mental Illness. Creating support cards and music about life experiences, especially about the issues that affect people with mental illness. The idea started with my first shopping trip to the grocery store with General. We were in the ice cream aisle of Whole Foods, when, as I was reaching for a box of Mango bars, a woman in a wheel chair came up beside me. She wanted a carton of ice cream from a top shelf and obviously couldn’t reach it. I realized in that moment how the both of us saw the world in world in almost the same way, to her everything was out of reach, to me, living a life without mental illness was also out of reach. So these cards are about life experiences, challenges, healing and celebrations using humor, hope, understanding, and with always a love for living.