Views expressed in this blog are mine alone and are not intended to represent Williamson County policy nor intended as legal advice.
I’ve spoken before here about mental health and my own experiences. I am a strong proponent of mental health and its destigmatization. Our court is constantly looking for ways we can assist those who enter our building by taking care of their mental health. In particular, I’ve looked for ways to provide help to our juveniles. I’ve created self-help guides, researched practitioners and software-as-a-service to bring new ways of helping youth and parents in our court.
I’ve also spoken here about the idea of terminal uniqueness that plagues many people dealing with mental health issues. How easy it is to get caught up in your issues and think there is no way out and no one who can understand. With that in mind, I’ve reached out to the Williamson County and Cities Health District to look at ways we can improve our county’s suicide rate. We’re hoping to implement new systems to help stem the tide.
Through it all, I have been reminded of my own journey towards mental health and the things I’ve learned that work for me. No matter what I do to innovate or gather resources, like everyone else, at the end of the day I still must live with myself and my own inner demons. So, I share with you today one technique I’ve found that works for me.
I spent nearly 15 years attending an Episcopal church. There is something to be said for the comfort of ritual. Part of that ritual is found in the recitation of the Nicene Creed and the Confession of Sin that happens every service in an Episcopal church. When I would sit in church and we got to the part about confessing our sins, I would often wonder about this line, “we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”. How can I confess this when I don’t love myself? That self-love took a long time to come for me. It’s only been in the last ten years or so that I’ve gotten there. So, trust me when I say, I know it isn’t easy. What worked for me was one simple phrase.
I am who I am.
Not arrogantly thinking I don’t need to change or improve, but accepting of who I am. It means I may not be everyone’s favorite person. It surely means I’m not perfect. But I’m not interested in being someone else, certainly not because someone else thinks I need to change or conform to some ridiculous standard.
When I was campaigning and someone suggested I dye my hair back to its natural color, what did I think? I am who I am. Why hide that? Why change my hair in hopes of gaining a few votes? I’d rather be true to myself and honest with voters. When someone tells me I should try to be less forceful in my speech when I speak at Commissioners Court or at a rally or anywhere where I’m speaking my mind, what do I think? I am who I am. Sure, I might be able to win friends and influence people with honeyed words and polite temper, but that’s not me. When I am passionate about something, that passion drives me, focuses my thoughts and words. Without it, I will not be nearly as coherent or eloquent. Reining it in, then, would be less effective. Besides, if I can keep the cursing to a minimum I consider it a win. I’m not yet in a place where I can fully control my emotions while I speak. I may never be.
I am who I am also means that when I came to understand I was Queer, I chose not to hide. I am who I am. Specifically, that means that I identify as Grey-Asexual. (I use the identifier of Queer instead of Asexual or Ace because asexuality is often misunderstood or completely unknown to most. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.asexuality.org.)
Reminding myself that I am who I am doesn’t mean I don’t try to improve myself. If you’d told me back when I was in the pews at St Richard’s that I would one day be a Justice of the Peace, testify before the Texas Legislature and speak in public about varied concerns, I most likely would have fallen down laughing, thinking you were confusing me with someone else. That me wouldn’t recognize the me I am today. The me I was 30 years ago would be in shock.
I am who I am is all about acceptance and self-love. It’s about recognizing my strengths and my weaknesses. Learning that doing what is hard is always worth the effort. I may not always succeed, but the effort is truly what counts. Sometimes, we succeed in spite of ourselves. Sometimes, we fail even we give it our full effort. Either way, it’s the action that’s important.
The world needs people like me. Not because I’m a Judge or a Christian or Queer. Not because I’ve struggled with mental illness or fought to pay my monthly bills at times. The world needs people who can look beyond the restrictions our culture places on each of us. Who tries to do what they truly believe is right. Someone who will speak truth to power, stand up for the underdog and seek justice for all.
Someone who doesn’t just strive to think outside the box but rejects the box entirely.
I’m no one special, in the end. Just someone who works to accept themselves every day. Who wants the best for others. Someone who believes that we are all God’s children, no matter who we are, who we love or what we believe.
I am who I am.