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Lisa’s Story

“My biggest message to others suffering is to try hard to find your voice and let go of shame in whatever form you can.”

Share your stigma experience.

I’ve been mentally ill since I was a child. Coming from a violent home affected by alcoholism, domestic violence as well as parental lack of concern for myself and my siblings and our wellbeing. Stigma started to form around and in me before I even had cognitive ability to form memories, and the memories I would try to recall from that time were suppressed or distorted. I suffered different types of abuse, from physical beatings, to being screamed at, to watching my parents physically beat one another, to neglect such as hunger, access to health care, clean clothing and clean living conditions; having a mother and father single me out as a target for a lot of abuse that other siblings weren’t getting was a huge issue. Living in a home that was violent caused many problems that carried into adolescence and into my adulthood. My early mental health developed alongside all 10 of the 10 causes of early childhood trauma on the ACE indicator. No one knew what to do for us back then, nor did many even realize it was happening, and those who did recognize this as a problem for myself or my siblings, didn’t act to help us. Most the time no one was around to notice or address my mental health, it was hidden. At 9, I was sexually abused by a teacher at school just months after losing my father to a drunk driving accident, both situations of course lead to compounding my existing mental health issues, leading to even more problems such as substance abuse and alcohol addiction by age 16, multiple types of compulsive behavior problems, and more mental health issues. Today, I live with Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, C-PTSD and Panic disorder, eating disorders, and social skills that are hard to deal with by not only myself, but others around me. The biggest stigma for me, was not wanting to ask for help that led to a lot of years of suffering that could have been spent getting better. I’m 52, life is just beginning now that I am fighting back and seeking help without letting stigma take my life away. Stigma caused me to become someone I didn’t like, someone I couldn’t go on living as, someone I was never meant to be, someone I never dreamed I’d become. I decided to start telling the truth no matter who was listening, my end goal being to open up dialog about mental health and dispel the assumptions and misinformation people have about all kinds of mental illnesses and to give opportunity for conversations that informed people, encouraged people to become part of the solution instead of the problem, if they turned away, I didn’t care. The biggest reason I started doing this was for myself, to stop living in shame for things that weren’t my fault. I am a survivor not a victim, an activist instead of living silenced.

How did you overcome this experience?

Self help mostly, but eventually I chose to seek medication and therapy. The answer to how I overcame this isn’t simple, and it certainly can’t be summed up in 100 words. The biggest help in my recovery was a friend met by chance, who stayed and listened to every word of my pain, didn’t judge me, didn’t leave or abandon me like everyone else had. I found love from this person led to the rest of the steps needed to get where I am today. I think we all need at least one person to stay no matter what.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

My biggest message to others suffering is to try hard to find your voice and let go of shame in whatever form you can. If you can’t share it with another person, start by writing it down or making a video diary for yourself. Access online support.

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