“You’re Mentally Ill, take these pills to make you better” is what I constantly heard growing up. I believed what I was told because the adults said so, and they believed what they were told because the doctor said so, and they believed what they were told because the pharmaceutical rep said so because big pharma paid them to say so, etc.
If you had asked me: “What’s wrong with you?”, I would have rattled off ADHD, Depression, Social Anxiety, Spacial Anxiety, Reactive Detachment Disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, early childhood trauma, PTSD, etc. I was always introduced by my “problem” and my “situation”. “He’s a mentally ill foster child/juvenile delinquent”, as though those titles encompassed all of who I was. I was referred to and treated as though I was a patient and not as a person.
I used to dread being heavily sedated, so numb that I couldn’t process or even feel the trauma I desperately needed to address to heal. I despised the feeling of being different in a bad way, of feeling like I would never be able to fit in, to belong.
I hated the diagnoses because you can’t define the full spectrum of my emotions, my life experiences, my world views, with a diagnoses of a disorder, with a stigma or a label. I’m much more than that, I’m complex, I’m sophisticated, I’m intelligent, I’m weird, I hurt, I heal, I learn, and I love, all so very deeply. Most importantly, I can recover.
At 18 years old, I chose not to take those pills anymore, and on this life-long recovery journey I am still finding myself. I believe there are many paths to recovery and it’s each person’s right to choose which path they take.
I do not accept the stigmas and stereotypes that other people impose on me. I define myself by my ability to transcend pain with Purpose, Resilience and Peace from within. Moral of the story: Don’t believe the hype, you are more than the description of a set of symptoms. You are who YOU CHOOSE to be! Opinions don’t change the world; Actions do.
Giovan Bazan is an internationally recognized motivational speaker who shares a message of empowerment with youth and adults across the globe. As an advocate for youth, Giovan offers his hard-won wisdom about the best interests of children and youth who have been “systemized” in the Foster Care, Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Systems. He has influenced a variety of legislation on topics like running away, homelessness, mental health, truancy, abuse, foster care and juvenile justice. Giovan has inspired thousands of youth and adults, from speaking to teens in Juvenile Detention Centers to working with the White House. He has been featured on National Public Radio, CNN Dialogues, Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, among others. He has consulted for state departments of juvenile justice, mental health, family and children services and the White House Council for Community Solutions. Giovan is a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care .