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Jackie’s story

“Stigma is extremely isolating.”

What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?

I have bipolar disorder with a comorbid anxiety disorder.

Stigma is extremely isolating. My experiences with bipolar have been a big part of my life (and sometimes the Only Part of my life, during those all-hands-on-deck periods). It’s hard to feel like you’re not allowed to talk about it. In the aftermath of some of the hardest times in my life I felt like I spent a lot of time with my mouth shut, because when people would ask me what I had been up to or how I had been, all I had to talk about was bipolar and I felt like I couldn’t go there. There’s this whole litany of reasons not to talk about it: you don’t want to make people uncomfortable, you don’t want to open yourself up to hearing each person’s dumb opinion about your own mental illness and your treatment, and you don’t want people to treat you differently. So then nobody talks about it, and we all have to sit alone with it.

How did you overcome this experience? 

One thing that’s helped me a lot is rejecting the shame that’s placed on me and others. I feel like there’s a misconception that people with mental illness are weak but that’s the opposite of the truth — people with mental illnesses have to live their lives while navigating tremendous obstacles that people without mental illnesses usually can’t comprehend.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

You are not weak; you are so ridiculously brave and strong. Living with a mental illness doesn’t dictate your character and it isn’t the sum total of your life. Mental illness is rough, and you have to be really brave sometimes. Getting through that is no small thing.

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