Why Our Family is Traveling the USA in a Converted School Bus for Mental Health Awareness
I like being “in control.” My goal has always been to avert risk at absolutely any cost. So why on earth are we selling our home, packing up all our belongings, homeschooling our tweens, converting a school bus into a tiny home, and traveling the United States?
It’s a question I have been asking myself constantly. Especially this week, as we start off our journey in our new temporary home—our converted Thomas school bus. Am I really going to allow this to happen? Am I really going to be okay traveling on a converted school bus across the USA—with my husband Tim driving the bus? With our children and dog along for the ride? Really?
Deep breath. Yes, I am. And here’s why…
I’m tired of the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction that prevents people like you and me from getting the help we need. I know the humiliation and the shame that often accompany these conditions first-hand. I’ve seen the pitying look in people’s eyes who have no understanding of mental health. And I’ve even had to overcome stigma towards myself.
As someone in long-term recovery, I still fight stigma. I’ve fallen into the trap that I should be better simply because I am a mental health advocate. That I should not have to ask for help anymore, that I shouldn’t struggle with flare-ups, or that I shouldn't need meds. The recognition of my personal stigma led me to the question, “If I, a mental health advocate, feel stigma, even though I am highly educated in most things mental health and in long-term recovery, how must my peers feel?”
Stigma is what stands in the way of people seeking and accessing treatment. We—you and I—are responsible for breaking down the barriers of the stigma that gets in the way of someone living a full life with their mental illness. Yes, it is possible! We must be willing to reject the stigma and the shame surrounding mental health and addiction by talking about it out loud. Together. By sharing our stories, our family’s stories, and our community’s stories, we can bring these issues out of the darkness of shame and into the light.
We can no longer allow other people to define us because of our silence.
So many of us have resisted sharing our stories because it has felt like too much—too uncomfortable, too personal, too risky. I know I have. But Tim and I have reached a point in our lives where it’s no longer acceptable for us to sit back; no matter how unsettling it is to leave the familiar, predictable, and reliable, we know we must move.
So, we’re taking matters into our own hands and becoming the change we want to see. In a little less than two weeks, our family will leave Denver, Colorado and all that we have known behind, traveling to communities near you with messages of hope and change.
We’ve stopped in Dallas and Austin TX and shortly we will be arriving in Los Angeles, CA. We won’t stop there! Our bus and grassroots effort, Wide Wonder, will offer up community events across the United States to inspire new perspectives and introduce new language that helps communicate effectively about mental health and addiction, asking all involved to take the the Wide Wonder Zero Stigma pledge #WW0Stigma
In addition to these events, Tim and I will be meeting with mayors, community leaders, organizations, and community influences to discuss how we can all work together. I’ll be blogging about my own breakthroughs on the road and sharing personal self-care for my mental health. Tim will be interviewing leaders for his podcast, “Get On The Bus.” I’ll be training professionals along the way, too, helping them recognize co-occurring mental health issues in the populations they treat.
And, we will be sharing all of it along the way—on the road—with you. We want you to witness the communities, the way we observe them. I’ll share my personal breakthroughs happening inside the bus, and Tim and I will bring you new perspectives from outside of the bus too. Not just the ones the media brings you. The hopeful, real ones! The ones where you see people, families, and communities in recovery; the stories that let you know you are not alone. The encounters that share the narrative of those in long-term recovery living their most productive lives and contributing massively to their communities. You deserve that. Wedeserve that.
It is our hope that you will join us in changing the way we speak about mental health and addiction so that all those in need will, in turn, feel safe asking for help. Real and lasting change begins within each of us. Then it moves to our families, then out into our communities, and finally throughout our country. So, yes, I am an anxious person, and right now, anxiety seems to be my constant companion, but I can’t let that stop me—us. Besides, we are not alone in taking this journey.
The outpouring of well wishes and resources from people all over the country is inspiring and humbling. We certainly couldn’t do this without Eating Recovery Center. Their support, sponsorship, and encouragement for this cause reminds even those of us long into recovery that we are never alone. Asking for help is one of the most courageous things we can ever do in life, regardless of the obstacles we face. The truth is, we all get to be the change we want to see.
Be sure to reach out to us if you would like to support an event in your community.
Follow us @widewonder.life and #getonthebus with us to help create #ww0stigma