I had to write this quote as it reminded me of a relative who visited me in the hospital. Perhaps she assumed I lost my marbles along with the depression? Perfect example of stigma.
What is stigma?
When someone appears to be different than us, we may view him or her in a negative stereotyped manner. People who have identities that society values negatively are said to be stigmatized.
Stigma is a reality for people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life. Society feels uncomfortable about mental illness. It is not seen like other illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
In my opinion, for years now, whenever bipolar disorder is revealed on social media it relates to some heinous, horrid crime. Mass shootings or some horrific crime such as a vicious assault, or violent murders. Less often is anything else said about bipolar, such as research or how the average person struggling with this disorder lives.
No surprise there is a stigma with mental illness, let alone bipolar disorder or depression. I was diagnosed with BP in the late 1990’s due to a few hypomanic episodes, however, my history shows I’m usually in the “basement”, staggering through the muck, fighting depression. I wonder how thorough that test was for the doctor to diagnose me as Bipolar?For me, it’s a label, but I hate to even divulge I have BP. Shame really….imagine being ashamed of an illness?
Written and copyrighted by Deb McCarthy/2017
Dictionary: Judgement: the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.
Stigma: a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation; a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: the stigmata of leprosy.
In my opinion, judgment intertwines with stigma. Why do we judge?
I have voiced previously about encounters with both judgment and stigma, however, this is an example of stigma from a family member. Not long after my hospitalizations years ago with major depression, my brother-in-law severed ties with my spouse and me fearing for his children (or so he claimed). I really questioned at times if he believed I was going to attack him with a knife!
What kind of question is that? Who would ask someone that? Mental illness stigma at it’s best.
There are still so many comments made by society concerning mental illness, striking close to home with me and my struggles with depression.
Dusting off some old journals, back from my days in the hospital, I came across one stay where I “interviewed” informally some fellow patients enduring their experiences. While there were many more stories; I only selected these three:
These are samples of mental illness stigma and what society perceives.
*Denise in her early ‘20’s gave a rather heartrending account of an outing just that evening with her mother.
Denise’s mother picked her up from the hospital for dinner at a mid-priced restaurant. It was trivial talk mostly, due to the fact that she had just undergone an ECT the day prior and depression was relentless. After dinner, they both drove to the mall where they shopped for a new outfit, but it was on the drive home that anger and that feeling of failure set in.
For nine years I struggled with depression, resulting in repeated hospitalizations, and scraping by on disability. Life was bleak and meaningless, but long story short, I recovered enough to return to the workplace.
At work, still battling depression every so often, I managed to hang onto my position for six years without divulging my secret: mental illness. There is stigma in the workplace and taking a risk to discuss my depression, unquestionably would have cost me my job in the end, and so, I kept my trap shut.
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