Outside Stigma's Window I used to stand glaring into Stigma’s Window, trapped and sucked into the view. All those myths about mental health were wrapped around me and written into my mind’s chalkboard. Just recently, that handwritten scribble of beliefs was finally erased. This is when that chalkboard became blank once again, starting fresh - no longer standing outside of Stigma’s Window, only after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder type II, anxiety and social anxiety. My history is long- a history of mood swings, stress, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, poor eating habits and a habit disorder. Although Stigma’s Window is the view for many in the world, intersecting with Stigma Road, I have finally stepped away from its view after my recent experience. Ashamed and made guilty by my diagnosis and bad habits, I felt like I hit the bottom of a valley - and I sunk deeper when confronted. Confronted harshly and sternly by an individual - questioning lies I told while manic along with other signs of mania, though not known at the confrontation and interpersonal struggles - was the day I got stuck at the bottom of the valley and felt like I was sinking into quicksand with no way out. My expression and nervous system was frozen as tears that I trapped, pushed back too far for too long, finally raced down my cheeks. Familiar with the statement - it may get worse before it gets better? That was in the paperwork to get counseling and that was exactly my scenario. That valley I was at the bottom of, stuck in quicksand, the quicksand got deeper dealing with the aftermath of a diagnosis that went undiagnosed for quite some time. Building back trust, re-evaluating relationships, managing stress, and growing as an individual is like climbing the steepest mountain. It was the aftermath, and I had to deal with it all while trying to accept a diagnosis that I barely understood at the time and had trouble dealing with along with the stigma that is associated with the words bipolar and anxiety. Today, I am still climbing up out of that valley. After many therapy sessions I finally opened up about many challenges such as self-harm with cutting and lip-picking, dealing with suicidal thoughts, attempts to purge and problems with body image, verbal and physical abuse, and a history of using medication to make myself feel better before treatment started. After anxiety of opening up about these challenges - I realized it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed by. With the proper treatment, therapy and self-care, I know I can climb out of that valley, move mountains, accept who I am and conquer stigma. My journey with mental health may have started on Stigma Road, standing outside of Stigma’s Window looking directly in with no other view, but now, my mind is clear and open to the possibilities. I have accepted receiving treatment and realized that asking for help is a sign of strength. I have stepped far away from Stigma’s Window, and am now on the road to recovery with a new view of beautiful sunrises and fresh starts. The lesson - it is very possible to take on a new, fresh perspective - to erase stigma. It’s okay to ask for help instead of slipping down into a valley and getting stuck in quicksand. And it is okay to open up about what is really going on and what has happened because it is never too late to admit a challenge or habit. Take a breath, take a moment and step back from looking into Stigma’s Window because the view can be quite amazing and beautiful - the growth of an individual overcoming challenges and the support that should be present in a stigma free world. Let others know that there is hope and understanding about mental health. Together, we can become stigma free. Take the pledge.