People are very quick and eager to judge an individual's perspective that they might not understand. I found myself wanting to jump off my bed and raise my coffee to the air and yell "Go get 'em Cheryl, change societal views!" Then I realized (albeit I have several friends that aren't 'conventional' and have fallen in love with someone of the same sex and support them wholeheartedly) I wasn't passionate about this story because this little boy might be gay or might just love girls' clothing and is chastised for it. I was passionate about this story because someone was defending an individual that society doesn't understand.
This past weekend I flew to Chicago to see my dear friend Aly. On my flight I sat next to a young woman that from the minute she sat down was very...well, chatty. Sure, I'll admit that in most instances I like to put my headphones on, open my book and enjoy an hour of uninterrupted "me" time. The woman started with "why are you flying? Well, I'm headed out of town because I need a break. My husband has a mental illness and we have two young kids and I'm just done. I can't do it anymore." That was my cue. I closed my book, put my iPod in my purse and settled in for an opportunity to talk about mental illness; I knew we had been seated to each other for a good reason. The woman began spouting out frustrations and emotions that were all too familiar. I said, "I understand, my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia years ago. I won't lie to you, it's an uphill battle that you just can't stop fighting." Her response? "You understand. No one understands, but you really understand." I had that gut wrenching feeling in my stomach that made me want to burst into tears. I bit my tongue, the only thing I could do to allow this woman to tell her story and keep myself from crying. We shared stories, frustrations with hospitals, medications, laws and family members that just don't get it. I provided her with names of websites, support groups and urged her to keep talking. She was so open, so willing to share her story, even when she didn't think I understood.
My point in sharing this story with you, readers, is that it's easier to stand up for someone when you understand where they may be coming from. Moms all over the nation aren't standing behind Cheryl Kilodavis because their sons also prefer a tiara to a football; they are standing behind Cheryl because of her message: that we must provide unconditional love and not allow societal notions to shape our own perspective and understanding.
Readers, continue conversation! Purchase books! Watch movies! Urge your friends to learn more about mental health issues. There are so many amazing resources today that no one knows about because we're hesitant to talk about mental health. I encourage you to sit down on a plane, strike up a conversation, and make a connection. Allowing someone an open ear is worth so much.
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Got an extra ten minutes? Read Cheryl Kilodavis' story as well: http://myprincessboy.com/
Thanks for reading!