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Jess’ Story

“Asking for help is hard but the stigma is reduced every time you speak out.”

Share your stigma experience.

My older sister passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She, even in death, remains to be the only human who had thus far understood me and accepted me unconditionally. I was sent into a spiral of PTSD, depression, alcohol misuse; have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (I believe diagnoses can be helpful, but I do not subscribe to categorical classifications of mental illness, and am not 100% sure how much I ascribe to these diagnoses). Needless to say, I needed help. I was previously very career-driven and suddenly work was very difficult. I previously had no trouble maintaining relationships, but suddenly I was afraid of everyone leaving me, which didn’t work out too well, especially when attempting to date as a single woman in New York City. I found it hard to not divulge what had happened to me because it felt like such an integral part of me— and nearly everyone pulled away. My graduate school advisors told me that my depression was “self-indulgent.” People told me I was intolerable to be around when I was drinking (which was probably true), but I was just doing everything I could to escape from my pain. Feeling so unaccepted and stigmatized made me feel even more ashamed and more of a failure, and like I needed to hide my emotions more, which turned into a vicious cycle

How did you overcome this experience?

I asked for help. I got off social media. I started taking medication for alcohol misuse, I took a break from work, worked as a nanny for a while (which gave me a more tangible sense of purpose), and I cut out toxic people in my life (hard as it was to do, given that I was terrified of losing people). I learned to prioritize myself. Honestly it has taken an enormous amount of work and therapy to reduce shame, and I realize not everyone has these resources— I also texted a free crisis line, a lot.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Asking for help is hard but the stigma is reduced every time you speak out. You’re loved, you’re not alone, and it’s ok to show your emotions and be honest about how you’re doing. In fact, it’s imperative for you to be honest about that (for everyone who is struggling).

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