I just wanted to take a few moments to write this personal letter to you all and share some things with everyone here at the Austin Clubhouse:
Though it has been years since I was an active member at the Clubhouse, I cannot express easily enough how moving and touching the welcome has been since picking back up with the Clubhouse the last few days. Everyone, between all the members and staff who I have spoken with, are frankly just about the nicest, warmest human beings I can imagine coming into contact with.
This past year and a half has been rough on the world over. For me, it has been no exception. Having received my mental health diagnosis at the age of 18 years old, and now nearing turning 38 this coming April, I realize now that I have spent almost two decades of my life wrestling with and attempting to manage this ongoing question of “what does it mean to live with a mental health diagnosis?” When global pandemics, fiercely debated politics, and natural disasters are added to this daily mix, I feel the answers to such a question becomes even more important as the days go by.
I think many in our community, which is to say, people all over, know far too well regardless of diagnosis or not, at least part of this question. We all have had up days, and down. We all have struggled, and wrestled, and strived to better ourselves even in the face of adverse events and situations. Life is as difficult for most of us as it is beautiful. It is as agonizing for many, as it is a miracle.
Regardless of my diagnosis, or another’s, or even someone’s lack of diagnosis, this is the main thing I want to share: Namely that, though it is true darkness can take many twisted forms as it tries to make its presence known in our lives, such shadows hold absolutely no candle to the sheer brilliancy that the light of hope and love can produce in even its tiniest of sparks. Our world finds healing then, not merely in grand elaborate gestures, but in the humbling truth of simple everyday kindnesses.
It is to be found in the warmth and kindness written upon the eyes and smiles of strangers, turned instant friends and “family.” It is in the seeds of encouragement which shall, in my belief, always bear fruit no matter how hard caked the soil of one’s heart is. Such light is found always readily enough when one chooses to not count the apparent cost of life, or tally the darkness and grief of the world, but instead looks to lay claim to every moment of gratefulness that can possibly be had.
My life has always been one, more blessed than cursed. Even with my struggles with mental health, even with my own daily ups and downs, I have always had a roof over my head, food enough in my belly, love enough to see me through even my own darkest days. And yet, stepping back into the Clubhouse these past two days, I find myself more hopeful than I have truly felt in months, if not years.
Returning to this lovely community, in turn, draws me full circle round to this question “what does it mean to live with a mental health diagnosis?” The answer I am finding, however in my eyes, means for me, to actually rewrite the question in the first place.
For me, it means to not ask how to live with and suffer through this immense unbearable thing. Because life despite all appearances I feel is not truly meant to suffer through. It is not merely survival, or at least I don’t think ultimately it is supposed to be only this.
It is here amongst a great group of committed staff, amongst members so in common and so cut from my same heartstrings, that I instead look to the question “What does it mean to truly live?”
Living then for me is everything that is found at the Clubhouse. Living for me is, what i’ve so easily seen in innumerable countless ways in less than 48 short hours. Living for me means simply: Love.
Love is yes a noun, but it is also a verb, an actionable thing. To Love, is not just a name of an emotion, it is a call to action, it is something which asks of us not only to do but also consequently, it asks us TO BE.
I see love at the Austin Clubhouse. I see light here. I see people here. Humans in community, in growth, in daily relationships. I see kindness, warmth, compassion, acceptance, patience. In abundance.
The world is one of shadows, but if you seek hope, light, and life…might I suggest it is to be found for us all, sometimes right when we need it most. In the light of work and service, such as what I have so easily and effortlessly seen displayed here at the Clubhouse.
This is why, I take this simple action to write this letter: Because in a world which so often tries to measure and scrutinize the size and scope of every blemish and shadow that scurries across it, how lucky a man am I…to find such a source of light and love?
How lucky are we then to be counted, not as the dark things we sometimes fear we are, but instead be proven that our truest deepest nature, shall always be steeped in such brilliant, abiding light?
How lucky are we all indeed, to be just such a light as this, which so refuses to go out.
How lucky are we then, that we have this opportunity to shine!
With warmth and love,
from a new but very proud member of the Austin Clubhouse,
Jason Graham Kelley,
just one light standing among many