I Am NOT a Stigma
stigmata (plural noun) · stigmas (plural noun)
a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person
The stigma around mental illness can be really tough and painful. It prevents a lot of people from opening up and getting help. Before I really knew the depth of what was going on with me as far as being depressed, I had my first experience with this stigma.
It happened in the year 2000, the second semester of my first year of college and I started dating this girl. Everything was going good, but back then only being 18 and dealing with depression I didn't handle my emotions well. I can't remember what happened, but we got into a disagreement, I was angry and hung up the phone. I called back eventually to apologize and settle things. She laughed and called me "Crazy." She then proceeded to say "I was acting Crazy." Interesting thing about the whole situation was that she was working in a therapist office at the time. Looking back at that situation today it could have gone horribly wrong with me after that. Thank you God. Now the story was much more detailed and intense when it happened, but that was my first experience with the stigma of mental illness.
Throughout the years after that first experienced I definitely had others. I noticed in my life as I've gotten older, the stigma got tougher because society tells us once you're an adult or at certain points in your life you should have your "shit together." So, I had to get my "shit together," while hiding the other "shit." Now I'm caught up in the stigma, trying to run away from it, but at the same time carrying it on my back. I shamed myself while trying to hide my mental illness and preventing others from doing it. That's "Crazy" huh???? There's that word again, "Crazy."
I've talked several times about how I've beaten myself up over the years, so I'm not going to go into it now, but you get how I used that stigma against myself. Since opening up about my mental illness, I've received a lot of support and have felt the cold shoulder from others. It also has allowed me to speak with others that still deal with the stigma. There are a lot of people that want to break free from mental illness, but feel they can't because of what their family, significant other, and friends may think or do.
I'll say this forever......No one is immune to Mental Illness, statistics prove it. We need to start having compassion and empathy for others. We need to open up and have a conversation. We all need healing in our lives, no one is walking around perfect. BE KIND to others because you never know what someone is going through.
Derek M. Silver