Stigma. We all feel it at some point, but for those with mental health issues we feel it all the time. At the moment I feel like a prisoner awaiting judgement. I’m sweating in the dock waiting for the axe to fall.
Why? Long, drawn out inadvertent stigma.
That’s what this blog is all about; to raise awareness, and whether people who know me like it or not, I feel that it must be done. We can be helped; we can be saved; we can be a part of society.
It’s not just the uneducated, unexposed or ignorant in society, even those who try to be helpful can inadvertently stigmatise and exacerbate the issue. We self-stigmatise enough thank you. We don’t need you to do it for us.
The level of stigmatisation whether deliberate or inadvertent is alarming when you realise that one in five Australians suffer some sort of mental health disorder at some point in their lives. Whether it is a permanent serious and debilitating disorder, or a temporary and treatable situational induced depression or anxiety.
One in five. Everyone knows five people. One of those five is likely to have a problem and highly likely to be terrified about speaking out because of how it is perceived. Others cease to see us as people; they see darkness; they fear the unknown; they fear something deep within themselves. When we do speak out, we do it with the knowledge that you will label us and treat us differently. We will always be “Well he/she suffers from …” We are a whisper behind closed doors; we are a shame. No wonder most of us dare not speak out.
It’s all around us, all of the time. We are made to feel like monsters, but we are not. People fear us for no reason, we are made to feel dangerous or odd and it is just awful.
All we need is an open mind and an open heart.
I do this because I am the one in five. But I don’t have two heads, I am not scary, I am not dangerous and frankly I’m fed up with people feeling they must ‘explain’ me to others. If others want to know they can get off their collective backsides and get the correct information from the horse’s mouth, not some diluted drip fed, biased, well-meaning clap trap.
One in five. You can’t hide us. You can’t hide from us. You don’t need to. You don’t need to protect the world from us. We’re mostly depressed and anxious sensitive souls who when treated with kindness and compassion, thrive and can lead positive productive lives.
Stop hurting us. It makes it worse.
Don’t explain us; let us explain. Be kind to us. Listen.
Listen with your hearts. Listen with your souls. Open those closed, scared minds of yours please!
Yes, I have a mental illness but I am also strong, resilient, intelligent, articulate, talented, loving, caring, loyal and hardworking. I will move mountains for those I care about.
Stop excusing me, stop explaining me as though I’m an illness instead of a person. Stop punishing me for any inadvertent mistakes I may make; explain to me and guide. Stop ‘protecting’ others from me; I am not dangerous, I mean no person harm. No-one needs protecting from me; no-one needs to ‘explain’ the person that I am.
Because I am a person, just as you are, just as your friends, your spouse, your children are.
Stop referring to me by my illness.
Stop speaking on my behalf.
That attitude, that middle person bullshit is why I walked away from my previous life. It made it too hard to bear.
When people continue to do that, it just piles on the negatives; it piles on the stigma; it piles on the stress; it makes me feel less and less of a person and more of a disease.
Don’t tell me that people who care about me are worried by my self-stigma when your actions, your words, your ‘helpful intervention’ is increasing these feelings in me.
If people have the courage to know me, then I salute them. If they don’t, then so be it.
I measure the individual by who they are as an individual; by their strength to think independently; to show care when they feel it; to show interest; to understand; to listen; to forgive; to show compassion. Those that do that can make a difference. Those are the people that are worth their weight in gold. Those are the people the world needs.
Each of us has free choice, free heart, free conscience and that uniqueness, that beauty within each person should be allowed to shine through unfettered by the hidden, secret fears and stigma of the ‘helpful’, ‘educational’ spokespeople/middlemen around them.
At the moment I feel like a some evil monstrous being standing in the dock waiting whilst the jury deliberates my fate. I’m locked; chained; waiting in fear of further judgement, further stigma, further rejection, further abandonment, further grief, further loss. My life is not my own whilst I sit and wait for the axe to fall.
All anyone needs to do, all anyone needs to say is “Yeah she does have an illness but I think she’s a great person and of value with a lot to contribute to our lives. Talk to her with an open mind. You’ll see.”
It really is that simple.