Behind the scenes at it’s me, my computer, and conversations with another mother or father or sibling. Most of the stories I post are because I read them somewhere and ask the writer if they’re willing to let me share them on my blog. Often the writer says, “Yes.” Sometimes, “No.” Once in a while, “Maybe later. I’m not ready right now.” Or, “Please post my story anonymously.”

Whatever the answer, I respect it. If the answer is positive, I ask if it’s okay if I make a few edits (most of these stories weren’t written with publishing in mind). I promise to send the writer any changes I make for her to review before I post the story. Sometimes, when the writer reads my edits (mostly punctuation) he makes further changes. Frequently, the response is “Thank you for making this better.”

Once in a while, a story is sent to me, unsolicited, through my website or through email. Usually, these stories are thoughtful, require minimum editing on my part, and present material not seen before. I love receiving unsolicited stories. I hope more of you will consider sending them to me.

Sharing our stories takes courage and it’s complicated. We worry about betraying the confidence of our ill loved one. We might fear retribution — from a doctor, from a social worker, or from a prison guard. And we know, from first-hand experience, that public reception can be judgmental. Not kind.

Nevertheless, sharing our stories is imperative. As I say on my home page, “We have to do this. Nothing else is working. Not healthcare. Not government. Not prisons. Not advocacy organizations. Everything's fraught with hidden agendas, bureaucratic incompetence, and self-interest. Or lack of interest.”

If we want to see change, we can’t hide. We have to stand up, speak up, and let the world know what’s really going on. The failures of our mental illness system (indolence, greed, lack of will) count on our being cowed. On our being silent. The system doesn’t want the public to know just how criminal it is. It’s been this way since the 1800s when Dorothea Dix was fighting for the mentally ill in prisons and institutions. It will be this way for another two-hundred years if it’s not called out.

Where am I going with this? One writer recently said to me, when I asked her about adding photos to go with her story, “Pick the photo you like the best. I trust you.”

“I trust you.” Three little words that make all the difference. Your trust is the currency I must use as I solicit stories and cultivate readers. Especially for this blog and for these stories. Most of us are new to this concept — publicly sharing our stories of serious mental illness. Usually, our stories are hidden away in private support groups, on secret Facebook pages, and behind closed doors and shuttered windows.

Bottom line: Sharing our stories is hard enough and without trust nearly impossible. On my blog, your trust is my gold standard. I try, with every story, to earn it and honor it.

Me and The Jazz

Me and The Jazz