One of my favorite books last year was The Center Cannot Hold a story about a life filled with madness. I lent it to one of the people I work with in my career as a peer support specialist. I told her that the title was based upon a famous poem. Probably by Keats. And I said that I used the phrase to signal friends that I was having trouble.
In an interview this week I remarked how resilient I have become. I have faced numerous difficulties, most recently last year when I was struggling with my social work field work. Ultimately I decided that the assignment was not working for me. I also needed to return to my veterans’ safety net. There were certain things that I received that i decided I no longer needed and felt uncomfortable with.
I teach people how to help overcome stigma resulting from mental health issues. And I am very aware, as a black male, vet, how pervasive stigma is.Stigma means that we feel shame. It was not until I talked with my mother and sister that I came to understand the role of mental illness. If we can accept there are times when we need help, we can begin to heal. The center will hold. Not through religion alone, not by saying "suck it up" but by peers helping peers, by gaining knowledge and by blacks and others entering the mental health profession.