Awareness, Bipolar, Mental Health, Musings, Stigma

A Thought About Stigma

6d8be7883823283e73cd4b91bbc40942The issue of stigma involving mental illness is alive and well, but who is responsible to stop it? How can it be stopped? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I don’t even know if I am truly convinced that I have the right to say that I am sick when I really truly am sick. Stigma is often self-inflicted, I have come to believe. Not that I am openly stigmatizing myself, or directly and purposefully  perpetuating it, but by allowing myself to be affected by it. By that I mean by allowing myself to feel or believe, whether unconsciously or not, that what is being implied through stigma is truth. For example, I wasn’t able to continue in my last career because I wasn’t able to maintain a depression/manic free state. Sure, it was a good job and I was able to go on medical leave, but ultimately I left the job that I loved because of instability. Why then, in the back of my mind is my default feeling about this that it is my fault and that I couldn’t keep the job because of some personality flaw, or some other flaw that is in my control. Why do I feel like I screwed up and that in reality, didn’t deserve to keep the job. It makes me feel bad. I know intellectually that I was sick, but I can’t feel that it is true. I don’t feel that I have the right to say that I am sick. It has to stop.

This has got me to thinking. While it is important to educate about mental illness, and that will help combat stigmatization against the mentally ill (I personally don’t see the difference between mental and physical illness, but that is a topic for another time. In fact, I did a post related to that here. ), I think it is probably most important that we focus on ourselves . We need to change the language both in general and in the way we are referring to ourselves and our situations. If we are experiencing depression, anxiety, mania, or are referring to a time that we were, we should boldly and unapologetically say that we are or were sick. That we have a brain disorder. The brain is an organ in our physical bodies and there is an imbalance in the chemicals and therefore it’s functioning. The problem is not some abstract condition that we cannot identify. It is a direct result of our brain chemistry, it’s that simple. It is not up for debate. We are sick. Just as a cancer patient is sick and has a physical illness, one of our organs is not functioning properly so we are sick. That’s it.

The fact that the personality is formed by activity in the brain makes it very obvious that if there is an imbalance, and therefore a disruption, in brain function it only makes sense that the personality would be affected. The personality is not a choice. The fact that a person is suffering from extreme irritability during a depressive or manic state does not mean that they are an irritable person. The personality is not the self, in my opinion. The self is our bodies and the personality is a function of that body. We cannot chose it.

Additionally, our brains create and recreate connections all the time. The creation and recreation of the connections, how the brain is “wired”, is affected by our environment. I believe that the environment can contribute to mental illness insofar as a propensity for mental illness exists. It has been shown that some people who have the predisposition of mental illness may or may not develop such, and that outside stimuli, such as trauma or abuse, can trigger the illness. That is not to say that the person is not really sick and that the person can choose to get over the trauma and move on, back to not having a mental illness. They have a mental illness. Someone might have the propensity to develop a certain type of cancer but never become sick, while someone else in the same situation might participate in a lifestyle that increases their chances of developing the illness. That doesn’t mean, that if latter develops cancer,that the cancer isn’t legitimate. The brain is affected by intangible stimuli. Stress might result in stomach aches and headaches or worse, and it can also trigger a disorder in brain function. Mental illness is nothing more than physical illness, it just has a different manifestation. Sick is sick.

Honestly, until we stop trying to change other peoples’ opinions or impressions of mental illness, and start talking boldly, confidently and unashamedly about our illness just as though we have any other illness, I doubt the problem of stigma is going anywhere very quickly. If we own it, speak openly about it, and expect others to accept it like they accept any other serious illness, then eventually they will.

 

Blogging101, Day1: Introduce Yourself to the World

About Me And Why I Am Here At Blogging 101

I am Amy and I was diagnosed about 7 years ago with Bipolar Disorder. I haven’t shared it with many people. Recently it seems that I am hearing about mental health and mental illness everywhere. I have been afraid for employers, friends and family to find out. I imagined their impression of me would change immediately. I am doing well at the moment. It really is an intense illness, and many people suffer horribly. Then there is the shame because of the stigma associated with people diagnosed with severe mental illnesses. I am blogging as an outlet to clear my mind, as well as to be another voice speaking openly about my illness. I will provide information and support for those with mental health issues as well. (Not there yet). I am hoping to learn valuable tools and tips that I won’t get fumbling along alone, as well as to connect with the community.

Awareness, Bipolar, Information and Resources, Shared, Social Media, Stigma, Video

The Stigma Fighters | Fighting The Stigma Of Mental Illness One Story At A Time

cropped-cropped-cropped-Stigma-Fighters-V1Stigma Fighters is a blog series about real people living with mental illness.

The site aims to raise awareness about mental illness. It addresses stigma by creating a platform for people to share their personal stories and experiences battling mental illness. Sharing personal stories from everyday people, doctors, students, teachers, those who haven’t dared share this part of their lives because of the misconceptions, creates a more realistic representation of the face of mental illness. For those of us battling our illness, reading the struggles of others and sharing our own can be healing, and a way to feel less isolated and alone.

Plus, they have T-Shirts!

[…]I wanted to show the world that there are people living with mental illness who are not just homeless or institutionalized. There are those of us who are living within the confines of society.

There are teachers, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, actors, writers all living with mental illness. These are the stories that need to be told; the people who seem to be “regular” or “normal” people but are actually hiding a big secret. They are living with an invisible illness. They are struggling to function like the rest of society.

I’m using my forum to raise awareness for people (like me) who are seemingly “normal” but actually fighting hard to survive.

~ Sarah Fader

Websites                                                Twitter

The Stigma Fighters                          @stigmafighters

The Stigma Fighters Canada          @stigmafightersc

There are two chapters, US and Canada, created by Sarah Fader (of Old School New School Mom)

The Canadian page is managed by the bipolar dynamic duo, Marisa Lancione (Mad Girl’s Lament) and Nicole Lyons (The Lithium Chronicles).


Awareness, Bipolar, Information and Resources, Shared, Social Media, Stigma, Video

Feisty Stigma Fighter Video

This sassy, to-the-point video exposes the reality of not just stigma surrounding mental health, but blatant neglect and unsympathetic treatment of those suffering from mental illness. It’s almost as though when someone is open enough to share their illness, there is still that lack of certainty about the validity of the claim. Like, does she really have depression, or does she just want attention, or is she just dwelling on something for too long. Is she having a pity party? Is she even trying to not be depressed? I still feel as though I will be perceived this way if I share. I am choosing to be open though. I will not allow anyone to make me feel as though I am allowing this to happen, that it is completely in my control. It 100% is not.

Here is the video. Enjoy!

Awareness, Bipolar, Information and Resources, Social Media, Special Days or Events

Mental Health Twitter Group ~ Come And Connect!

https://twitter.com/MentalHealthTL/status/559708156155396096

Awareness, Bipolar, Shared, Social Media, Stigma, Stories

Fox Business Commentator Tells Caller That Her Bipolar Disorder Is Imaginary

This is an example of blatant and condescending stigmatization of mental illness.

Fox business commentator tells caller that her bipolar disorder is imaginary.

Click here to listen.
Click here to listen.

It is the most ignorant, uneducated, condescending I’ve actually heard. This guy’s arguments are so flawed that I can’t even…ahhh! Please, you have to listen to this!

Bipolar, Shared, Stories

Why I Sometimes, Rarely, Never Tell People I Have Bipolar Disorder

This is a great post by Dori Owen from “The Lithium Chronicles” about how stigma silences and isolates those with mental illness. It has some great descriptions of what people know, or think they know about the illness; and thinking they know means dialogue shuts down. It’s worth a read!

Why I Sometimes, Rarely, Never Tell People I Have Bipolar Disorder.

“Why is it that every organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy except the brain?”―Ruby Wax

Subtitle: It would be so much easier to disclose I have a blood disorder. Which I actually do. But unlike a bipolar disorder it’s not so much of a conversation stopper. Most people have never heard of it so a lengthy explanation on the blood disorder follows. They then become well-educated on what the it is and how it affects me.