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Hidden pain but open healing: Monica breaks through stigma with the help of her husband.

"I was in utter denial of just how bad it was."

Written story

What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?

I’m about to turn 37 years old, am married and have two young children. When I was diagnosed with complex PTSD from developmental trauma (emotional neglect and abuse in my early childhood), I was also experiencing the symptoms of depression, anxiety and OCD. I had been suffering since my 1st child was born and things got really bad after my second child was born. It took 3.5 years to get treatment and an accurate diagnosis, in large part due to stigma.

Here’s why: I believed the cultural norm that mental illness is a weakness and something to be ashamed of. I didn’t tell anyone about it, not even my husband. I fooled myself that I was OK and that what I was experiencing was normal. Of course the mental illness also has a trick of erasing the memory of the experience so I could believe I was OK.

I took my kids to the playground, invited people over for play dates and pretended life was fine. Meanwhile, I suffered in silence. I was in utter denial of just how bad it was.

How did you overcome this experience?

My husband, who really knows me and loves me, helped me break through the stigma and find the therapists and treatment that I needed. Really, it comes down to one person believing in me and sticking by me through the worst of my mental illness. After 2+ years of the right treatment, I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I also see how stigma pushed me to hide my condition from my partner, the person who really wanted to help. Knowing that stigma is that powerful, I want to help “make it OK.”

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Hang in there, help might be on its way any moment. People DO want to help, even if it’s hard to believe. Or, maybe YOU are the help that will bring hope to someone struggling with the stigma of mental illness. It only takes one person to make the difference.