What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?
I have had major depression since I was a child. I started drinking in college and I was able to interact with people for the first time. It was great and life changing. Until it no longer helped. My therapist advised treatment. But after treatment my depression still was crippling.
I went to meetings and stuck with therapy. I made friends and had a best friend for the first time in my life. When newer antidepressants came out I tried many and found they helped a lot. It took many years to find the right combination and amounts. I was diagnosed with ADD and solved another part of the puzzle. The medication, education and support groups helped.
Since then I have gotten better — then worse — then better again. Sometimes life’s losses would overwhelm me and I’d slip back into a sort of frozen existence. I never doubted that if I did everything I was advised to do I would get well and be able to catch up with life. I feel saner when I accept life than when I want to escape it.
Stigma: when I am around people -even friends – no one asks or wants to hear about my life with mental illness.
Stigma: When I was 30, sober and going to many support groups and to therapy my parents never asked about what I was going through.
I’m aware that no one has ever asked me any questions about my illness. I have in the last few years tried to bringing up the subject of mental illness. Not too successfully.
Years ago a very close friend said I was exaggerating to get attention. That was devastating. Another friend, when I said I was mentally ill, said — oh I don’t believe that for a minute. — she meant it as reassurance or support — not an insult. I told her that that’s because it doesn’t affect you.
Around people, I automatically try to be pleasant or helpful. Not needy for sure. I’m also good at helping people.
People think they know what mental illness looks like and I don’t fit. I’m not delusional, or dangerous or invasive or inconvenient. So now I’m working on that in therapy. I’m willing to talk, but I need support and advice to start.
How did you overcome this experience?
I can’t say I’ve overcome stigma. I would love to talk about my mental illness with someone who isn’t a therapist. And I’m hoping to get some help to start the conversation with people in my life. I’ve always been smart, a bit humorous and quick in conversation.
Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.
Never stop trying. At times it seems hopeless, but that’s because I want a different reality. When my medications finally worked I could move on to living in reality. Everyone has challenges. This is a tough one– but you can’t trade or barter. This is our challenge.