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Chris’ Story

“Talking about my mental illness has really helped me.”

Share your stigma experience.

I have heard many people describe the onset of mental illness, often in their teens. For me my anxiety has always been there and always lots of it. I didn’t know there was any other way to be. Unfortunately neither my parents nor teachers recognized my anxiety or my depression.

The anxiety led to real social problems for me. Because I was so keyed up all the time I would often bungle the complicated social rules and norms of kids and later (and worse) teenagers. And then try to do it better or apologize because I was second guessing all of my behavior, all the time.

I was known as the “crazy” kid at school. My recourse was often self enforced isolation. I would hide from all the other kids at school during breaks.

As I got older I learned to lean into my “crazy” kid persona. Making it more of a badge of honor. But that strategy works really well with teenagers and not so well in the workplace. So in fear I resorted to hiding and avoiding all social interaction at work. I didn’t want anyone to know that I wasn’t “normal”

It took a long time for me to realize that I was applying the words “crazy” and not “normal” to myself. So really, I found that the person who was stigmatizing my mental illness the most… was me!

How did you overcome this experience?

Realizing that I was stigmatizing my own mental illness came late to me, I was in my mid thirties. Part of that was getting effective treatment. In my case medication and talk therapy.

Two things helped me to realize that I don’t have to be ashamed.

My therapist and the podcast “The Hilarious World of Depression.” Having someone tell me that I have nothing to be ashamed of, helped me discover that talking to people around me, honestly, about my mental illness has really made me feel like I don’t have to hide.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Talking about my mental illness has really helped me. People have told me they respect my honesty, are often surprised, and have questions.

Many have come out to me about their mental illness and then we all get to be a little less alone. And a lot less shamed.

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