BY MEGHAN MONAHAN
A few months ago I wrote an article where I admitted I was going crazy. My decision to tell the entire SNC community about my struggles with mental illness was not an easy one.It took a lot of roommate hugs and fried food therapy to get me through publication day (thanks, Val).
But get through publication day I did, and it turns out writing down my experiences felt really cathartic. What surprised me the most was the responses I got. People that I had no idea had struggled with similar issues emailed me and messaged me on Facebook to tell me how much they appreciated my article. That was when I realized how many people on this campus struggle with problems that the wider campus knows nothing about.
Sharing my story helped me to come to terms with my own past and how suffering from mental illness had made me feel marginalized at St. Norbert College and the community in general.
Last week, I wrote an article about rape culture and was sent a message by an acquaintance informing me how much my article had impacted her. She had been sexually assaulted and did not know whether or not she should come forward.She told me about how the culture of rape acceptance on campus had held her back. She also told me that my article had helped her realize that other people have gone through the same experience and that she was not alone.
That’s the problem. No one talks about what makes them different or how they have been victimized and/or marginalized by the way American culture (and SNC culture) is structured. We are socialized to believe that any experience other than that of a white, heterosexual, middle class male is somehow “the other.” Because of this, we do not share the experiences that society deems as “other.”
These “other” experiences, include (but are not limited to) those of us who have been sexually assaulted, made to feel like an outsider because of our race or sexual orientation, struggled with mental illness or physical disability or come from a less than privileged background.
The ridiculousness of the “other” complex is that almost all of us are part of the “other” in one way or another. The very concept that any kind of human experience is outside of the norm is ludicrous because it presupposes that there is a norm for human experience, which there is not.
I learned through my own experience that the only way one can erase stigma is by refusing to attach stigma to an experience. I made the choice not to be ashamed of the fact that I have overcome mental illness, and it was the best decision I have ever made.
Those of us who have been marginalized should speak up and refuse to let other people define our life story as the “other,” because we are human beings, and our experiences are valid. The way to start transforming how society thinks is to refuse to be ashamed.
This is why I chose to participate in the Take Back the Knight event last Monday, April 7. Everyone has a story to tell, and when we share our stories it makes it easier for other people to share theirs and to start a conversation about what really is “normal.”
We are all different and we need to change the way that society thinks about itself, and the only way to do this is to stand up and say that “no matter what my experience has been, I am a human being and I matter and I have a place in society.”