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Melissa’s journey through living with multiple mental health conditions, the stigma and the friends who help her through

"…make sure you have trusted people that you can reach out to for unconditional love."

Written story

Share your stigma experience.

My first experience with mental health stigma that I remember was when a doctor told me that my pain was “all in my head”. From that moment on, I began to second-guess myself and doubt that I was actually feeling pain. Throughout my life, people have underestimated my ability to work hard because they thought I was too emotionally unstable to function on a day to day basis. At first, this stigma made me feel unable to perform my job, and as though I would always be identified by my mental illness instead of other aspects of my personality. Even though I am the only one who knows what experiences I am going through and how they impact my perspective on life.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, binge-eating disorder, and OCD, I think it is extremely important to make people who struggle with mental illness feel validated in their experiences and listen to their stories. Part of the reason that mental health stigma still occurs today is that people internalize these beliefs about people who suffer from mental illnesses, and sometimes unconsciously treat these individuals unfairly based on their psychological symptoms.

As mental health advocates, we need to recognize the ways in which we have internalized stereotypes against individuals with mental illness to prevent re-affirming these stereotypes.

How did you overcome this experience?

I overcame this experience by reaching out to my friends for support, and to have them reassure me that my problems are valid. I also reached out to a therapist to help me cope with my problematic symptoms and encourage building skills to change my behaviors and reorganize my maladaptive thinking. Going to therapy has been extremely valuable for me in constructing a greater awareness of myself and developing coping skills to deal with my mental health issues.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

I would encourage others to find a support system to reach out to and construct meaningful relationships with others. Sometimes conquering mental illness alone can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task, so make sure you have trusted people that you can reach out to for unconditional love.