Once in a while there is good news like the Charlotte Observer article featuring Mike Weaver, a former teacher from Charlotte who has learned to live with bipolar disease. After battling with his disease for a while, Weaver switched to a career in mental health in order to help others cope with mental health issues. He has been invited to the White House along with four others to attend a July 26, 2010 event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Weaver was recently elected Consumer Council Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He hopes to use this position to help demonstrate that people with mental illness are able to shape their own futures. “I’d like people with mental health diagnoses not to be viewed as problems to be fixed,” he said, “but as fellow humans who have hopes and aspirations and dreams…..and can achieve them.”
As both a teacher and a writer, I have encountered fellow humans with mental health diagnoses whose hopes, aspirations, dreams and yes, achievements far surpass normal expectations. Sometimes the way these individuals look, sound, or act may not seem “normal.” So what is normal anyway? Is it normal to be a real estate agent with Tourette’s Syndrome? Or a classroom teacher with ADHD or bipolar disease? How about a minister with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? These, and countless other examples are far from normal. They are exceptional, and the outcomes of such exceptions often reap products, results, and succsesses far superior to the norm.
Kudos to those in real life who overcome the stigma and obstacles associated with mental illness, and who fashion a future of hope and promise for themselves. And kudos to reporters and writers who give such individuals a fair shake in books and the news media.