When I activated my first blog in 2005, it focused on humorous articles only. During that time I was struggling with major depression, yet amazingly I was competent enough to write posts, and surprisingly these articles were a remarkable success.
I continued on and gathered many followers, all the time questioning whether to write about my mental illness, yet frankly, I was very embarrassed and uncomfortable to share my thoughts and life of hell with any of my blogging buddies, the blogging world, or should if anyone in my circle of “personal people” were ever to uncover my ‘secret’, I’d be devastated.
I eventually mentioned it to two trusted blogging friends my apprehension, and them replying, “why are you so embarrassed, it not your fault you were ill, write about it, who cares if people don’t like it, go by ‘anonymous’, not using your real name this time”. And so I did, in 2007, I began this blog. It’s been an enormous success from day one, with so much support from the blogging community and it was the stigma that held me back from starting this blog sooner.
I was living in stigma (shame) thus the name “Living in Stigma” –Deb
This article below appeared in The Huffington Post.com:
It’s 2015. Come over to the cool side and stop stigmatizing people with mental illness. Just like when you sold your tapes, cut off your mullet, and canceled your MySpace account, you need to say goodbye to your stigma, stereotypes, and judgment. They are out of style and mean.
We all have to stop because the consequences of mental illness stigma are devastating.
You might say, “Wait… me? I don’t stigmatize people with mental illness! Why am I even reading this right now?” Well, you might be surprised at how our culture and the media’s view has seeped into your consciousness in ways you don’t even realize. (That sounded creepier than I meant it to) Very kind-hearted friends have said things to me about mental health to “help” that felt like more like a punch in the stomach. Even I need to work on the way I see myself and others who have mental health conditions (Hey, I’m calling myself out here, too!)
Here are nine reasons why you (and I, and every else) need to stop stigmatizing people with mental illness.
1. It makes people resist getting help.
I remember how hard it was to admit that I needed help. When the words finally escaped from my mouth, they were disguised in a lot of, “I thinks” and “maybes.” When we make people feel like there is something odd/shameful about struggling with a mental health issue, we make it extremely hard for them to ask for help. When they finally do, often the effects of the illness have already wreaked havoc in their lives. When getting help should have been their first step, it’s their last resort. Adding shame, guilt and fear on top of already unbearable emotional pain is the worst thing we can do. When people don’t ask for help they continue to suffer and suffering is exhausting. It can lead to suicide.
2. It makes people feel like monsters.
The stigma can cause people with mental illness to feel like scary monsters instead of the awesome human beings that they are; human beings who should be celebrated for their courage and resilience! The media falsely links mental illness with violence and never shows you all the people with mental illness that are doing phenomenal things in this world. Fear gets higher ratings than brilliance so the positive stories aren’t shared. The media does such a disservice to those to suffer with mental illness and continually misrepresents who they really are.
Studies show that people with mental illness, as a group, are no more violent than the general population. They are more likely to be victims of crimes. Stop shaming. Shame is poison to the human spirit, both to those who shame and those who internalize shame. Shame, guilt, and fear corrode our dreams that need to be nourished to become reality. (Sorry, I get really Indigo Child sometimes)
3. It makes you accidentally hurt people you care about. (And you look uneducated about the topic)
Recently I heard a professional joke, “Someone didn’t take their meds this morning!” I was offended because this joke always describes someone acting like a total tool. People who forget to take their medication don’t suddenly act like the people you’re insulting for acting “crazy.” No one jokes about medications for physical problems because it’s not funny. Think of all the people you interact with and care about in your life. Ok, so one out of four of them have a mental illness. You never know who is listening and how your joking or comments affect them.
Educate yourself about mental illness before you make hurtful jokes or get on your soapbox. All the cool kids are not stigmatizing anymore, so you don’t want to look like a goober. (All the cool kids are also not saying goober… Opps) Anyway, you don’t see me writing an article about astronomy because I haven’t read any research about it and I’m not an astronomer… Don’t preach about what you don’t know.
4. It makes people feel alone.
Person 1: (tentatively) Well, I’ve been struggling with depression. Person 2: (awkwardly) Oh.. Cheer up! You’ve got a great life. You shouldn’t be (whispered) depressed. Try thinking positive. Well…. I have to get going! When people don’t talk about mental illness (or whisper it like the word itself is dirty and ugly) it makes people feel like it’s uncommon and that they are a total anomaly for not being cray-cray happy all the time. It makes them feel like freaks because they can’t, “Just smile!” and like they are the only ones who have ever felt this way since the beginning of time. It’s isolating when community and connection are so important in healing.