“Reflecting on 2020” by Heidi (@heidwella)

Welcome to Shattering Stigmas 2020! I am so excited to welcome friends, authors and bloggers to my website over the next two weeks to talk honestly and freely about mental health and mental health issues. We’re going to kick off these two weeks with an incredibly raw, but important post from Heidi, who’s someone I associate with being kind and caring to everyone who needs it. You can find Heidi on Twitter @heidwella.

It’s clear to everyone that 2020 is, well, a shit show of a year. Between COVID-19, the nasty political mudslinging, the BLM movement and all of the violence on all sides, it’s been a disgusting pill to swallow. For me, a person with medication-resistant depression and severe anxiety, 2020 will forever be synonymous with grief and some of the most difficult dark episodes I’ve ever experienced.

On March 8th, I submitted my final document for my Masters degree. On March 11th, I received two pieces of news – one, I had officially passed my final class and earned my degree, and two, COVID-19 was officially declared a global pandemic. I work for the Infection Prevention department in a fairly large hospital, so I watched as all of my coworkers were sent to work from home and my department was left to be the subject matter experts. As the administrative assistant, my job became solely to man the phones and screen out the calls that were non-urgent. I was no longer allowed to see my family, my support network, or anyone who wasn’t my husband or my teammate.

On April 14, my dad texted me and my sisters to tell us that Gramma was back in the hospital fighting an infection in her leg, and it wasn’t looking good. At 9:17 PM PST, I lost the most important person in my entire world. I couldn’t even go see her in the hospital, so I had to say my goodbyes over an Instagram video chat. I lost the platonic love of my life, and I couldn’t even say goodbye the way she deserved.

 I am incredibly lucky to have a partner who has been there every step of the way, holding my hand the entire day of the service and holding me when I can’t bear the thought of life without my Gramma. My grandpa, her husband, was moved into a memory care facility about two months after her memorial service, and the first time I walked into their home without either of them being there, my husband let me sob on his shoulder, grieving the loss of my childhood home and the two people who I love the most. 

What Does This Have to Do with Shattering Stigmas?

This year is also the year of facing hard truths. I’ve been questioning my identity, what my life goals/dreams are, and I have been hit, yet again, with the reality that I tend to fall hard and fast in friend-love with the wrong people who end up making me feel like I am not good enough. I was broken up with by a friend group of 2+ years, and that same week, my closest high school friend lost her mom to cancer and I witnessed firsthand just how far my grandfather has decompensated in his dementia. 

My depression has hit new lows this year. I experienced my first ever episode where I could not drag myself out of my bed. Normally, even when I am at my lowest point, I am able to get up and put on a face for work. This is the first time I ever hit the lowest of lows. My medication wasn’t able to hold up to the strain of this year. 

(Caveat: I have three incredibly beautiful women I consider my best friends, and they have all been there for a decade or more, and this year has shown me how incredibly strong and supportive they are.)

I have opened up more on social media about my struggles (shameless Instagram plug: find me at @heidwella, @heidwellahitsthebooks, @heidwellamoves, @heidwellaeats, or @heidwellashealthymind) and the reception has been unbelievably kind and understanding.

2020. The year of grief, the year of reckoning, the year of ALL. THE. THINGS. It’s the year of breaking my silence on my mental health for more than just my immediately circle. It’s the year where all the ugly has come out in our world. It’s the year of pain, the year of growth, the year of “uhhhh………what the hell??”. 

I started this post with one plan in mind, but much like this whackadoodle year, I apparently decided to go a different direction…. 

Here’s What I Want to Say About Shattering Stigmas : 

When I was in the 4th grade, I sat on the grassy hill outside my classroom door, watching a ragtag game of soccer on the playground, as I mentioned to my best friend that I honestly wondered if anyone would even notice if I wasn’t here. 

In high school, I spent many hours sitting in the hot shower, sobbing and thinking that maybe my parents SHOULD have stopped at two, maybe I shouldn’t have been born. 

In college, I had several episodes where I only got out of bed to keep my roommate from calling my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint them. 

When we first got married, my partner literally picked me up off our bedroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably and telling him everyone in my life would be better off without me causing problems. 

Today, I have an incredible therapist, amazing friends, a family who won’t give up on me, medications for my depression and anxiety, and for the first time in my life, I haven’t had thoughts of “what if I wasn’t here” in months.

Please check on your friends. Some don’t reach out specifically because they don’t want to be a burden. Ask them to be honest. Check in, especially in this burning shit show of a world.

Check in. We’re not okay, but we’re too scared to say it.  

Remember to enter our giveaway for three chances to win a mental health read of YOUR choice!

Announcing Shattering Stigmas 2020

Well, 2020 has been a strange and collectively traumatic year. Although it still feels like it was *just* March, this year has been one tragedy after another: the COVID-19, protests in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black Americans by police, extreme weather exacerbated by climate change in the form of wildfires and hurricanes and an American government that continues to disregard the ideals of equity and justice in favor of greed and “personal liberty,” but is also the culmination on this country being founded on four centuries of systematic exploitation. Due to this barrage of tragedies, our collective mental health has been challenged in unprecedented ways.

A lot has also changed for me that made me question whether Shattering Stigmas would happen this year, between my own mental health being impacted by the events of this year and my move away from blogging in order to focus on my writing career. However, ultimately I cannot let this event go and I hope that Shattering Stigmas finds a new home on my author website this year and beyond. 2020 has seen spikes in acute mental health issues across demographics, and more than ever, it is crucial to have a space where we can discuss mental health and mental health representation openly.

This year on Shattering Stigmas, my goal is to intentionally honor the authors whose debut or publication year has been affected by the global pandemic as well as offer a space and platform for a diverse range of participants to discuss their mental health.

So what is Shattering Stigmas? Five years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.

Four years ago, during the second year of Shattering Stigmas, I did a guest post for Holly @ The Fox’s Hideaway, which you can find here. It was such a fantastic experience. It gave me a platform and a voice to talk about my mental health story that mattered to me so much that I volunteered to co-host two years ago and then officially took on Shattering Stigmas last year. Check out last year’s content here.

This event means the world to me and I want to ensure its ongoing success and expansion within the YA blogging community, Shattering Stigmas 5.0 will run November 7-21, 2020. While the event typically runs in October, I have shifted the event, which is comprised largely of American participants, to right after the 2020 election when, regardless of the outcome, we will be in need of collective healing.

Right now, I am looking for co-hosts and guest posters to assist with this year’s event.

Co-Hosting for Shattering Stigmas

This year, we’re working with a new type of hosting structure. Some of us will still be co-hosting on our blogs and posting daily or near-daily content during the two weeks that Shattering Stigmas runs. In order to do so, we reach out to friends, bloggers and authors we know and admire. Please note this is a bit of a time commitment, but I am happy to help and answer any questions or concerns you might have. If this is something you might be interested in doing for Shattering Stigmas 2020, please email me.

In addition to this type of co-hosting, we are also reaching out to some of our favorite friends and platforms in the community to see if they would like to host mental health awareness content on their blogs as a part of Shattering Stigmas, whether it’s a blog post, video, make-up look, etc. Be on the lookout for when we boost these co-hosts in November. 🙂

Guest Posting for Shattering Stigmas

In terms of guest postsI am actively seeking authors, bloggers, writers and readers to write posts (personal essays, top ten lists, letters, etc.) about mental illness, stigma and mental health awareness. You may write about any topic connected to mental health (bookish or not), at any length, in any format as long as I can figure out how to put it on my blog. To see some prior Shattering Stigmas posts from past hosts, click herehere and here.

Some ideas for posts:

  • A book review of a book with mental illness representation
  • A discussion post about a book with mental illness rep that means a lot to you
  • A Q&A (authors, I’m looking at you! I’m always happy to promote authors who write about mental illness and their books)
  • Some kind of list post related to mental health and/or books
  • Discussion posts about identity and mental illness

Please note that I am particularly interested in posts about the intersection of mental health & illness with other marginalized identities based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, neurodiversity, etc. 

If you are interested, you can message me on Twitter or E-MAIL me.

Other Shattering Stigmas Activities

This November, be on the look out for:

  • A new, centralized Shattering Stigmas Twitter account
  • Bookstagram prompts
  • A Shattering Stigmas Reading Bingo Board
  • A Giveaway!

Diversity Statement

This year, we are making an effort to make Shattering Stigmas more diverse on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality orientation, disability and neurodiversity than it has been in the past. The goal of Shattering Stigmas is to offer a space and time to people to continue and raise the volume on discussions regarding mental health and illness, especially but not exclusively in the kidlit space, in order to advocate for empathy, compassion and action breaking down the stigmas against mental illness.

In 2020, this event will also strive to provide a more inclusive space for people to discuss how mental health, mental illness and stigma differs for various populations due to one or more of the following marginalizations: race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, neurodiversity and disability.

In order to provide this space, our goal is that at least 50% of all recommendations will be books by and participants will be people of color and at least 75% of all recommendations will be books by and participants will be members of at least one of the above marginalizations.

This year we are making a conscious effort to put actions to our intentions and help broaden our conversations regarding mental health by giving the (virtual) microphone to as many types of experiences as possible.

A Final Note

Because we are an event run by a handful of bloggers and YA authors, we unfortunately cannot pay our contributors and rely on the generous donation of people’s time and emotional efforts to have this event and hopefully help continue the conversation around mental health and mental health representation in our community. However, this year we want to put action to our advocacy efforts and will be encouraging people who engage with Shattering Stigmas content to donate to one of the following non-profit organizations that strive to provide affordable access to therapy, particularly for Black women and Queer/Trans People of Color:

Let’s keep using the power of words to fight the stigma against mental illness. ♥