Many people have a skewed perception of what mental illness is. This skewed perception comes from people making generalized and uneducated statements about mental illness. Negative terms are used to describe or make fun of people with mental illness. People use mental illness related terms to describe someone or something in a negative and belittling way. For example, “She is so bipolar.” This demeans mental illness and the people who live with it. This is stigma.
Stigma is a mark of disgrace and shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Stigma causes people who live with a mental illness to be biased, shamed and discriminated against for an illness they never wanted to have. Mental illness has nothing to do with a person’s character, or determination, yet people are blamed for getting the illness and not being able to make it go away.
Getting a mental illness diagnosis is forever life changing. Living with a mental illness is daunting and debilitating. Learning to cope with the symptoms of mental illness become a life-long struggle. Facing the stigma related to mental illness is degrading and instills shame and fear hindering many people’s wellness and treatment.
Imagine finding out you have a chronic illness. Besides just having to live with the struggles and pain of having a severe illness you also have to face the daily stigma associated with the name of your illness. You are scrutinized, belittled, discriminated and shamed for the type of illness you have. My ex-husband and his wife called me names repeatedly telling me I was a horrible mother, a loser and I was crazy (and worse things) just because of the name of my illness.
They tried to take my children away from me for over thirteen years until my children turned eighteen. I went to court repeatedly to fight my ex-husband for custody because of the name of my illness. I had to spend money I didn’t have on court fees just because of the name of my illness. I had to prove I was a better mother than most just because of the name of my illness. As hard as they tried they never won. They lost every time, but I had to live with their cruelty, nastiness and the trauma of going to court to defend myself and the illness I have only because of the name of my illness.
The name of my primary mental illness is bipolar 1 disorder and I also live with generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. I must live with the stigma related to the fact that I am a numerous suicide attempt survivor. As debilitating as my mental illnesses are and have been, stigma became another destructive illness I had to face and live with every day and continue to live with today.
I was fired from a special education teaching position and am no longer able to teach in the area I live because of the name of my illness. I won a wrongful termination suit and the school attorney admitted that school districts do not want teachers who have severe mental illness in their schools because parents do not want teachers teaching their children who have a mental illness. The money I won was only a band-aide because the humiliation, shame, pain and the damage was already done.
Cut stigma out of our lives.
Stigma needs to stop yesterday. We can help end stigma by educating others. One way to educate others is by telling our stories. There is a ripple effect that occurs after one person shares their story. One person shares and then another person says #Icantoo. They share too and it continues until everyone is sharing their stories about mental illness and soon conversations about mental illness become the norm and accepted as a good dialog and conversation. Soon mental illness will not need to be feared or shamed.
The ripple effect will turn into waves of glory.
I think it is imperative that we aren’t afraid to share our stories. If we have fear and shame of ourselves and our own stories than we become part of the stigma. When we are uncomfortable with our own illness and story, how can we expect others to be comfortable with us. Each time we share our story it becomes easier to tell. Each time we read a story it helps us know we are not alone.
I started my campaign to find ways to get people to share their stories. I even said they did not have to disclose their names because just sharing your story is very freeing. It is a great release to share what you may be afraid to disclose.
We will never end the stigma if we do not stop being part of the stigma. I understand the fear of not disclosing stems from stigma. This has become a vicious cycle that we need to break. Just start out by sharing a little at a time and I promise you it will get easier and will be a very integral part of your recovery.
For those of you that have already shared your stories on my blog, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I greatly appreciate all of you.
I appreciate all of you who are still reading.
We celebrate all of you.
Please join my campaign.
Be a part of the solution to end stigma.
Share your beautiful story and help change lives.
“There’s Glory in Sharing Your Story”
Your story is an account of past events in your life.
Your Glory is something that secures praise,
worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving,
a distinguished quality or asset,
great beauty and splendor,
magnificence and a height of prosperity or achievement.
“There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou
No matter what your story is,
you should be praised and honored for sharing your story,
for surviving the life you live,
and for the amazing person you are.
You need to be celebrated and I want to celebrate you.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
and in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month
I want to celebrate you by sharing your story on my blog.
During the month of May my goal is to share one story per day.
I will share more stories after May as often as I get them.
Please let me know if you are interested.
Here is a link for the directions and suggestions on writing your story.
When we share our stories it’s an opportunity to educate about mental illness, reduce stigma, reduce fear and reduce shame. It teaches people what it is like to live with a mental illness.
When we share our stories, we show our support of others who may be going through similar struggles. It allows others to see that they are not alone. We can share advice, suggestions and examples of what helped us the most to achieve recovery. Sharing our stories is very therapeutic for ourselves.
Sharing our stories will help more people feel comfortable about mental illness. It will fire up the conversations about mental health, which will ultimately help end stigma.
By sharing our stories we can be an inspiration to others to never give up. We can be an example of courage, strength, survival, perseverance and resiliency. By sharing our own stories we can help end stigma and save lives.
Let’s celebrate each other.
Please reblog this to get the word out
so we can all share and read more glorious stories.
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