Sir Isaac Newton wrote, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” And I see too many walls as I travel: the graffiti-spattered, tumbledown rubble of industrial graveyards; the whitewashed stretches of sanitary sepulchers; the peach concrete of fleur-de-lis flyovers. And I see, in my mind’s eye, as I listen, too many walls within my peers: “I am my illness”; “I am not capable;” “I am nothing”. Yes, walls protect and defend, but they obscure and isolate. They filch light and rob air. They are not free, nor do they promote freedom.
I see bridges as I travel, as well: the girders and cables strung together in a web of utility; the labor and pain of hundreds of men and women hung together in a line of strength; and the genius and creativity of visionaries rung together in songs of soaring. They are air, earth, water and fire (welding) in an alchemical dance, suspended between the planet and the sky. They are “the most invisible form of public architecture” (Bruce Jackson) and the most essential. They are a metaphor for freedom, symbols of the open road. They are a metaphor for recovery, an opportunity behind me tethered to an opportunity ahead. They span the dark waters of my soul and link me to the light.
And recovery is what the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program is all about. B.R.I.D.G.E.S., which stands for Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support, is a program of educational classes and support groups exclusively designed by and given to individuals who live—as I do—with a mental illness. We compare our experiences with mental health treatment and services. We promote our wellbeing with mental health resource discoveries. We gather; we share; we energize. We are valuable, to ourselves and to the world. Indeed, “The feeling of being valuable—‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline” (M. Scott Peck). Seeing other people seize their own value and accept responsibility for their recovery (a B.R.I.D.G.E.S. cornerstone) is phenomenal. It’s similar to viewing a bridge for the first time as it rises up from the morning mist: breathtaking, majestic, the ultimate WOW.
An unknown author wrote, “The I in illness is isolation, and the crucial letters in wellness are we.” When alone, we are walled up with symptoms. With peers, we create an overpass to health. For our wellness, we must come together. In BRIDGES classes and support groups, available exclusively in Missouri through MHA of Eastern Missouri, we enjoy, overcome, and transform. We dismantle our walls. And dismantled walls make excellent bridges.
This article was contributed by Ramona Taylor, the Program Director of B.R.I.D.G.E.S.