What Courage Really Looks Like

OCT. 07, 2016

By Danei Edelen


"Thank you for sharing your story; you are so courageous," a woman said to me at one of my “In Our Own Voice” presentations. As usual, I smiled and thanked her. It always surprises me when people thank me for speaking out—that the “speaking out” aspect is what they believe is most courageous. Yes, speaking out is cathartic. But when you’re like me, living with mental illness, what’s far more courageous is the journey to speaking out.

  • Courage is telling someone you are hearing voices in your head.
  • Courage is deciding to stop self-medicating and ask for help.
  • Courage is allowing someone to drive you to the hospital so you can voluntarily check yourself into the psych ward.
  • Courage is walking into a room of concerned relatives only weeks after your psychotic break, even though your body feels like it consists solely of egg shells shaped like bones.
  • Courage is getting up and taking a shower, after days in bed.
  • Courage is learning to let negative thoughts just float out of your head.
  • Courage is talking yourself into going to the gym just for today.
  • Courage is getting out of bed, exercising and collapsing back into bed thinking, “I tried.”
  • Courage is searching for a new psychiatrist that your insurance will cover after relocating to a new city.
  • Courage is believing that this time, this new medication will lighten your depression.
  • Courage is finally feeling good enough to change your hair style.
  • Courage is saying "no" to a beer when all your buddies are drinking.
  • Courage is saying: "I was sick, but now I am better," on a job interview.
  • Courage is clenching your teeth when a colleague calls someone "crazy."
  • Courage is asking an acquaintance to lunch.
  • Courage is explaining to your friends that you have a mental health condition.

Is speaking out courageous? Maybe to you. Speaking out is a relief. Speaking out is sharing my story with others so they can understand how many people fight invisible battles every day. I am thankful that I have the ability and opportunity to speak; I know so many people who live with mental illness who cannot speak out. But it is far from my most courageous act.


Danei Edelen is married and lives with her husband and son in Cincinnati, Ohio. Danei owns Instant Marketing LLC. Danei has a bachelor's degree and over 20 years in marketing. She is also a NAMI presenter for the Southwestern Ohio chapter speaking to groups of all ages to help end the stigma. She blogs for the Challenge the Storm, and the Mighty. Danei enjoys, reading, writing, exercise and learning about nutrition.


JAN, 17, 2017 08:38:00 AM
Suzan Norton
Our beautiful son also stolen by schizophrenia. He had insight and tried so hard for 5 years living as well as he could. He was so courageous and finally took his life at the age of 27 in Dec 2016. It is a monster that never gave up taking everything he once had. I was so blessed to be his mom and so glad he was living with us. He loved his physically disabled brother and was a caregiver for him. Don't know how we are going to manage without him. A creative and beautiful souls he was. He was my sunshine.

OCT, 30, 2016 02:55:06 PM
thank you Judy! i will continue to pray over his soul.

OCT, 24, 2016 08:19:02 AM
Hello Sweet Diana,
My dear sister was about 30 yrs old when she was diagnosed with Schizophrenia-later Schizoaffective disorder. She and I were very close-11 months a part..
I have learned a lot about Schizophrenia since 1979. It does rob them of their dreams, motivation, and creates unorganized thinking along with depressing their sweet spirit. But Diana NOT their Soul. Pray fervently over them and don't give into the disease. There're Good days and Bad.
God will reveal his beautiful soul to you through your journey with our Lord. God Bless! I just lost my sister to Lung Cancer last week. She lived to 62 years old-New meds were helpful.
PS. Early in life my sister was in Student government, Champion Twirler, Varsity Cheer, Won awards for Secretarial skills, Played the Piano, Homecoming Princess and Legal secretary-exceptionally bright and well liked and loved!

OCT, 13, 2016 01:01:35 PM
This is such a great breakdown and reminder of what it takes sometimes to get out of bed, the door, or in front of a podium. Thank you. This is very useful to share with family and friends. Bip/Anxiety Disorder.

OCT, 12, 2016 12:26:14 PM
Conni Marcum
Through my tears I say "thank you" for writing so beautifully about this.

OCT, 11, 2016 06:20:46 AM
Sylvia Burns
My son was snatched away to we have a hard time communicating now, we were so close and schizophrenia stole him from me. I hate what is happening and need to learn what to do now. I need my son back I miss him

OCT, 09, 2016 03:57:47 PM
Danei Edelen
Audrey: Thank you.

Diana: I am sorry for your loss.

OCT, 07, 2016 06:04:56 PM
What a fantastic (and accurate) depiction of what courage means to someone living with a mental illness. While we all see courage differently, the strength you've found by challenging the storms of everyday life have, no doubt, allowed you to be an inspiration to others through your presentations and your writing. Keep up the great work!

OCT, 07, 2016 04:22:13 PM
Bill George
Very open and honest. This is the way. One can then say and feel: I am stigma free

OCT, 07, 2016 03:09:28 PM
Very validating! Thank you and well done :)

OCT, 07, 2016 02:44:31 PM
Courage is my handsome intelligent grandson 22 year old grandson, snatched away by Schizophrenia the killer of souls and minds.
Dam you to hell you miserable voices who torture him at will.

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