"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us." ~ Marianne Williamson

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mentally Ill: The Disposable People of 2015

Today's post is inspired by President Obama's historical visit to a federal prison. As the first sitting President to ever to do so, it highlights a serious issue that often remains silenced behind stone walls. A high number of individuals incarcerated have a mental illness. 55% of male inmates and 73% of female inmates suffer from at least one form of mental illness.

This is a severe and inhumane way that our country treats the mentally ill. There is NO other illness in which this would be tolerated. Image the uproar to know that someone going through dialysis or chemotherapy was handcuffed, arrested, and put in jail. Yet, every day in America thousands of youth, men, and women are incarcerated rather than being treated. The cost of incarcerating as opposed to treatment is far more expensive and only increases the rate as to which these individuals will be imprisoned again when released. However, mental health services and resources are among the first to be threatened for funding cuts nationally and among states individually. Nationally, mental health services have suffered a 25% cut, meaning less opportunity for access to quality care, services, and professional treatment. For individuals living in high rural states finding a place to go and get help diminishes even less. 

These men and woman have no voice and their rights are continuously violated. This is great injustice and we should all be enraged. Especially, when 1 out of every 5 American will suffer from mental illness at least once in their life, it is an issue that should be of concern to us all. What if this was you or your loved one? The mentally ill are not disposable people. They are humans that deserve compassion, dignity, support, and access to services and treatment. 

President Obama is correct in noting that mass incarceration is not normal. It is not something we should be so accepting of. A few years ago, I traveled to Venice, Italy to meet with officials from their national Mental Health Department. Their approach to incarceration was one that was both humane and also compassionate. Nationally, Italy has some of the world's lowest suicide rates, and the recidivism rate for someone becoming a repeat offender and ending up in jail is less than 20%. Thanks to their national policies, individuals who are incarcerated receive a number of services intended to treat the whole person and depending on the length of the their sentence, they are required to complete a variety of programs to help integrate them back into society. One official noted that if you treat someone like a criminal long enough, soon they will have no other choice to see themselves as anything else--especially one who suffers from mental illness.

Jails and prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill and it is time we band together as a nation to realize that cutting funding for mental health and limiting access to treatment is not the solution. How you treat those who can do nothing for you in return, speaks volumes about leadership. Fighting for justice on behalf of the mentally ill is what I believe to be the Civil Rights movement of today. What will future generations think of us, when they look back and see how mentally ill were treated in 2015? Is it something you would be proud of?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Love & Marriage

Well, this is my first blog post as a married woman! Trust me, no one is as surprised as me. Growing up I was never that little girl who dreamed about her wedding day and finding prince charming. No, I was the little girl who dreamed of going to Miss America and working on Capitol Hill. Love? Who has time for that nonsense? The concept of marriage was like a beautiful song in a foreign language--you love the melody, but can't comprehend the lyrics.Besides, people have a tendency to change, regardless of how well meaning their intentions were, so why on Earth would anyone take a chance on something so risky?

It is often said that in order for any relationship to work, there is a substantial level of compromise and, "give and take." I often witnessed as two people met, dated, committed their undying love towards each other and then somewhere down the line, someone was expected to change--change the way they dressed, change their friends, change their career, change hair style and on and on. Tragic. I had reached a point in my life where I truly loved my life and who I was and there was no way I was about to give any of that up--not even for love. I had the career of my dreams, lived in the city of my dreams, and was fortunate enough to have accomplished every life goal I set-out to achieve, including going to Miss America and working on Capitol Hill. Marriage was never part of my life plan and I was content and at peace with that.

So, how did I end up married? Well, I ask myself this question every night and every morning as I lovingly look at my husband's handsome face. He was not part of, "the plan,"so why is my finger adorned with the most beautiful ring, why did I just spend a year conflicted about table settings and floral arrangements, and why do I feel so much more in love with my life and who I am? Honestly, I have no clue. You see, my husband is truly the greatest thing to ever happen to me. He is my truth, my best friend, and the one constant in my life outside of my family. Not once has he ever asked or expected me to compromise, change, or give up any part of who I am. He believes in me far more than I do and no matter how difficult the situation, he tells it like it is while reminding me of how far worse things could be and always seems to find the positive side of things. His love is humbling and I have realized that before him, I never truly knew what love was. Prior to my husband, love was a concept. With him, it is a reality. 

I have learned a lot about the meaning of marriage in these past two weeks since saying, "I do," and for that I feel truly grateful to have entered this unexpected stage in life. Walking down the isle was the most effortless thing I have ever done--like breathing. My husband truly amazes me with the stoic way he has taken on his new role. It's as if there's a superhero living under my roof. Yet, I have to remember that at the end of the day he is just as human as I am. Therefore, I must never take for granted, not just what he does for me and our marriage, but for the crystal clear way he loves me. I won't profess to be a pro at love or marriage, but I think there is definitely truth to the old adage to, "stay true to who you are." Anyone worth having your heart will accept it as is and 100% for who you are. The gift of loving, honoring, and respecting ourselves--creates the manifestation in realizing our true life's journey. 

Today, I asked my husband if he thinks I've changed at all since the first day we met. He simply looked at me, grinned, and shook his head no. I feel exactly the same ways about him. For me the most important vow a couple can make is to, "stay true," not to each other, but to themselves as individuals. When you can walk through life, "staying true," to who YOU are, you create the strongest foundation needed to build and start a life on. When you think you have found love, ask yourself if he/she loves, respects, and honors themselves. If they are still struggling in any of these areas, then they probably aren't ready. When you can stay true to who you are, you can stay true to those you love, the promises you have made, and the life you want to live. Love yourself always and that which is meant to be will find its way. 

With love, 
Mrs. Ane :)