The first time I was hospitalized I was 25. I was not diagnosed until I was 35. I didn’t tell anyone about my symptoms because I was afraid I would be labeled or locked up for the rest of my life.

Eventually, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I am now 47 and  have just recently returned home from another hospital stay. Mental illness runs in my family, so I walk for them, too.

I walk because I want to help fight the stigma that can come with mental illness. I want to help others who live with mental illness, or know someone who does. I want to raise awareness that mental illness is an illness just like diabetes, epilepsy, or any other.

Those of us living with mental illness don’t choose it – it’s the way our brains are wired.

I’m ready to start accepting myself for who I am.

I am ready to stop being silent.

– Joni English