The Stigma of Mental Illness

“The challenge we all face is how to integrate after loss or conflict and return to a greater wholeness of self. This is accomplished through social supports, coping, and other resources. This we call the process of emotional healing…” – from People Can Recover From Mental Illness, an article by Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. and Laurie Ahern

When it comes to mental illness what can I say that has not already been said? Not that it matters. Maybe it does. I don’t know. All I know is that I have it and so do others – others like me, who are stigmatized by the ignorance of those who don’t have it; by those who have it but don’t know it; by those who have it but act like they don’t.

How can one understand an experience if they can’t experience it first hand? I don’t believe they can. Intellectually they may be able to comprehend the phenomenon, but bodily, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, they cannot.

In my experience, except for three people in my life (one being my therapist), others do not even want to understand. It is so far beyond their comprehension that they don’t even ask questions, research, or read about mental illness. Only one other in addition to the above three shows sincere concern for my symptoms and experiences with mental illness. I am grateful that I at least have four people who care. I probably have more but they either don’t know how to show it or don’t know enough to know they should show it.

I don’t think the stigma of mental illness will ever go away outside of those who actually have it. If people could only open their minds and their hearts to see beyond the craziness, the depression, the manic behaviors, the anger, the insecurities, the social anxiety, and the dissociation – all of which most people have to some degree or another, though they’d never admit it – then maybe they would see a soul; souls who just like them are doing the best they can within the physical limitations of their bodies and minds. Maybe then they would learn how to validate rather than ignore or worse, shun or even worse, judge. Maybe then they could become allies to our healing journeys rather than obstacles.


8 thoughts on “The Stigma of Mental Illness

  1. Pingback: Walking for A Cause…Stigma Busting | Lara: On the Weigh Down

  2. Pingback: I Love This! | Infinite Sadness… or what?

  3. Okay, WIL,
    here’s my take on the stigma:
    it’s narrow-minded, uneducated, unenlightened, self-serving bullshit.
    EVERYone knows what it feels like to be down either in or below the dumps.
    EVERYone knows what it feels like to be anxious.
    EVERYone knows what it feels like to have a song going through their mind that they just can’t shake.
    With Mental Illness, it’s all of that and some other things, but it starts out with thoughts and feelings that ANYone should be familiar with.
    It’s just a matter of extremes, a matter of intensity.
    I’ve actually been reduced to a slobbery, blubbering, sobbing mess over a ‘smores commercial. You read me right: a graham cracker, a slice of chocolate and a marshmallow and it took me three days to fully recover. That’s the depression.
    Some people get really anxious speaking in front of crowds. I can start shaking and crying if there’s too many people in a WalMart. That’s the anxiety.
    That song “Happy”, the Pharrell Williams tune we’ve all heard over and over and over and over and over again (“Because I’m happy – Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof, Because I’m happy- Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth… etc., etc.”) and it’s a catchy, delightful song that can bring me to tears.
    There are people who can’t get the thought out of their minds to cut themselves, to take too many pills, to open their veins.
    Same thing, kiddies, whether you like it or not.
    It’s just extremes.
    One time at work at a meeting with the bosses about my ADD and suffering performance, I was told to “just ignore the noise around you and focus on your work”. I told the lady who shared that epiphany with me to “put down your Twinkies and grab celery sticks instead.”
    This was a lady who had a gastric bypass scheduled, and she was the Assistant Director of our office.
    But it made the point. She actually started to understand that someone fifteen feet away clicking their gum could throw me off track.
    here it is in a nutshell:

    Thanks for being out there for so many of us, sharing your thoughts and feelings and insight when so many others – even families at times – cannot or will not listen long enough to understand.



Shine Your Light!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s