There was recently a campaign for mental illness awareness called #BellLetsTalk. And most people love this campaign because Bell, the company promoting it in Canada, gives money for every mention of the hashtag and they raise a lot of money.
I tell people I have Major Depressive Disorder. And that it is treated with medication. I make several tweets and share other tweets to promote the campaign.
I encountered a few random people that are rather full of stigma and unaware they are in fact belittling the experience of mental illness.
One said there was no stigma. Nope. No stigma. So every experience you have had where you have been stigmatized due to mental illness was just some guy or woman being a dick. Not that mental illness like chronic pain like chronic illness… comes with stigma.
Anyway, besides that randomness I had another say we were weak, faking it, wanting attention, and not really mentally ill. And this was shortly after the fellow who said there was no stigma. I was like, this dude exemplifies stigma. So can’t say it isn’t there when literally you get a random dude like that saying exactly the sort of stigma we often face… namely:
- We are weaker if we take medication for mental illness
- We are faking it for attention
- We are not mentally ill at all… just sad or worry. That we exaggerate.
We are not weak for having a mental illness. It takes a lot of energy and strength to combat your own brain and thoughts. And we are never weak for needing medication to help. I wrote about that in Depression: Don’t med shame me.
I mentioned to the fellow that this stigma is harmful. It is one of the stigmas we turn onto ourselves until we feel weak that we cannot deal with it on our own. It can delay treatment for a long time because we feel we need to handle it ourselves.
And I know for a fact every person has known suffering. Every person has known that we are stronger than we think and weaker than anyone knows. And if they have ever felt that way they should understand the battle of mental illness. We are strong. But we feel very weak. It is a human feeling. And this stigma that we have weakness others do not have is a fallacy. We have all suffered through something and felt weak.
Well, this one disgusts me. Faking it for… attention? I doubt they know how well we hide our mental illness, for years sometimes, before admitting we may need help. People often do not see it. We have our facades like everyone does. And we use them. So what Attention? When I couldn’t hide my depression and had a suicide attempt I couldn’t hide. So yeah people know and they impress upon you your importance in their lives. And you feel shame and embarrassment and weak. No one rolls around in that Attention like it feels good. It doesn’t feel good. It feels like failure. This is what I wrote about this subject: Chronic illness ‘You’re faking it’
You know what I faked with depression? Happiness. Laughter. I joked my way through it. Sometimes with really dark jokes and I suppose that was about the only red flag I showed. But faking being fine is something that is a lot easier than you think. A smile hides a lot. No one looks beyond that.
It is difficult when you cannot fake it anymore. Because you have to accept you will be judged on it. In various ways.
“Everyone gets sad sometimes”
“Everyone worries sometimes”
“Everyone feels tired sometimes.”
Sometimes, dude, sometimes. Not all the time. And sadness isn’t depression. Worrying isn’t anxiety. Tired isn’t fatigue.
We don’t exaggerate. We try to ‘push through’. Because we don’t want it to affect us and our lives… even though, it does, it really, really does. If anything we undermine our own feelings and the problem itself. We can manage it. We can control it. It isn’t as bad as we think it is. It is only really bad sometimes, so surely it isn’t that bad at all, eh?
Anyway, stigma can be found with douchenozzles like that fellow I encountered. Yeah, they are around. And yeah we want to throat punch them for being so willfully ignorant. But it can also occur in co-workers, employers, and medical professionals. It is pervasive and stigma can impact many aspects of our lives.
I remember a co-worker with depression, as I had, but was hiding it so exceptionally. And she was referred to as ‘crazy’ and ‘lazy’ and ‘seeking attention’. And it was so vile. I talked with her about it a bit because I understood her struggle.
And I have encountered medical stigma due to my depression. I had these chest pains one day. Sharper than my usual fibromyalgia chest wall pain. And standing up made me very dizzy. I wasn’t too worried about it but I went to the ER by work. And the speculated it was inflammation around my heart or a more severe version of my fibro pain (chest wall pain in fibromyalgia is costochondritis and is also inflammation). But it seemed sure it was the inflammation around the heart due to symptoms and told me to come back in if it didn’t go away on a certain timeline, due to the fact I cannot take NSAIDs. I went to the local ER when it didn’t go away… just to see if anything needed to be done. THAT doctor looked at my file. Said I had anxiety. And gave me Ativan. I tossed it. He ran no tests and cut me off when I tried to explain what the pains were. I was pissed. And people wonder why I don’t go to the ER for chest pains.
So we can come across stigma anywhere, anyplace. And those that do not believe it exists have never experienced it. Kudos to them. But it is there whether you have experienced it or not. And it is because when people do not understand something, it just isn’t in the realm of their experience, then we get things like stigma, stereotypes, and discrimination. Not always because people are also capable of being open-minded and empathetic.