Sometimes you don’t help.
Sometimes you are the reason people with mental health issues are stigmatized.
You create stigma when you label yourself as experts. Claiming that you know more about my life than I do. You are the reason every person who took a psychology course at one point in their life feels they can now diagnose everyone and understand what mental illness is. I hate it when random people play “expert” and tell me what my symptoms are and what treatments I should consider because “I took a psychology class once.” If you have not lived it you will never get it. When you don’t listen to me when I say that something isn’t working because you can’t trust the judgement of someone who is “crazy”. You create stigma by taking away my right to choose all because you are the “expert”.
When you withhold valuable information on side effects you are creating stigma. You are keeping all knowledge to yourself and not sharing it with those who deserve to hear it; those taking the medications and treatments you offer. You keep us in the dark so we need to look up to you and trust you because we don’t have access to this information ourselves. You have the power. We become powerless.
When you blame the disease and not the drug, you are creating stigma. It is a horrible feeling to think that you are so sick that not even the industries “wonder drugs” can help you. This leads to “common” knowledge being that these medications WILL help and if they do not then you are a lost cause. This also creates a fear for those who have mental health issues but are not on psychiatric medication, such as myself. “Rarer than corpses are the unmedicated Mad” (Terrence McKenna). We must be truly crazy and out of control since we are not on medication. Maybe this is because we’re thrown into an industry that can’t admit it’s flaws. Only patients fail. The Industry can only succeed. Stop spreading this lie.
“Experts”, when you don’t take us seriously you create stigma. I was talking to my Mother last night about my Prozac-induced suicide attempt at 16 years old and how I’m afraid to talk about it on national TV. She began telling me that the hospital just waved off my attempt. They had always waved me off claiming it wasn’t a big deal. I got worse. If those who are supposed to help us cannot take us seriously then who will? And why should they?
What, you may ask, should you do about this? “Experts”, stop being experts. Value our insight, value our knowledge, value our lives. See us as equals, see us as valid. We should be your partners, your answers to everything you want to know.
We cannot be helped, we cannot recover if those who help us are apart of the problem.
I’m teaching character education at work and while looking for activities or games to teach things like trust and courage I stumbled across a list entitled “25 Good Things About Having ADHD” (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I stop and took in what I was seeing! I was very surprised to see a list of positives about something that is usually extremely negative! I have a few children at work that are labelled ADD and ADHD and when they are constantly interrupting and not listening the frustrations run high. These are NOT bad children! This is why I’m glad we have this list available for staff!
25 Good Things About Having ADHD
Compiled from families with children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Lots of energy
- Willing to try things-take risks
- Ready to talk, can talk a lot
- Gets along well with adults
- Can do several things at one time
- Need less sleep
- Good sense of humor
- Very good at taking care of younger kids
- See details other people miss
- Understand what it’s like to be teased or to be in trouble so are understanding of other kids
- Can think of different and new ways to do things
- Volunteer to help others
- Happy and enthusiastic
- Imaginative creative
- Articulate- can say things well
- Sensitive- compassionate
- Eager to make new friends
- Great memory
- More fun to be with than most kids
- Warm and loving
- Care a lot about families
ALL MENTAL ILLNESSES NEED A “Good Things” LIST!
I mentioned some good things about being labelled borderline in a past blog (http://prideinmadness.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/how-borderline-personality-disorder-possibly-saved-my-life/). Things such as splitting and anger, for me, have been very beneficial for me. Splitting allows me to let go of things and people that are not good for me. Anger allows me to express myself and keep myself self emotionally which is something I couldn’t do before.
Majority of mental health is negative. The diagnosis specifically focuses on what is “flawed” about us and we become so engrossed in that negative because that’s all we’ve been given. If we can focus on the positives that are still in our lives than managing and recovering can begin to occur!
By recognizing positives in having a mental illness you can combat both social and self stigma!
What is a positive that you have been in experiencing your specific mental illness/addiction?
I’m seeing from a different perspective the damage of having a victim mentality/identity. It is where all the blackness comes from when you have mental health issues. It’s just this hopeless, damning, oppressive identity and way of thinking that I can’t see a way for anyone to recover or manage while embracing the victim so willingly.
I may piss people off by saying that they willingly embrace being so damn unhappy but how can I say otherwise when I went from victim to in control? I can’t! Part of my point for writing this blog is to show people, “sane” and “insane”, that change is possible and actually, not just possible, 100% achievable.
We are victims of one thing that I know for sure and that is living in a society and being apart of a system that sees us as victims, as weak, as doomed and as predominantly stuck. We in turn believe this bullshit and embrace the victim identity and mentality because no one is giving us anything else! I believe this is why we need to go outside of our current mental health system and find those groups and people who see our true potential. We need to get positive thinking into mental health. There’s no point in having all these suicide awareness campaigns and pumping money into suicide prevention if the message is still “without my medication, without professional help for the rest of my life I will become nothing.”
It hurt me to hear “I can’t be happy” and even worse “this is how I am”. I do ascribe to the believe of neurodiversity that I have spoken about in a past blog (http://prideinmadness.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/neurodiversity-stigma/) but I do NOT believe that human beings are unchanging, unable to improve and not in control of their minds. Those beliefs create a victim. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!
We can almost literally change everything about us deemed to be controlled by genetics. I can dye my hair, I can change my eye colour, my skin colour, my voice, my height, my weight, for fuck sakes we live in a beautiful world where we can change our biological sex! Why should anyone believe that we are at the mercy of our emotions and behaivours? What is so concrete about our emotions and behaviours that they should be excluded from this list?! There is no reason!
I cannot sit by and let people think and be slaves to their illness! If people with other illnesses did this it would be a disaster and people would think that they are being silly! If you have difficulty walking or do not have any use of your legs what do you do? Not ever walk? NO! You get a wheelchair, a walker, crutches, a cane, a service animal! You get something that makes it easier for you to live! You DO NOT sit there and think that you will never be able to walk when there are resources out there for you to use to get you moving!
I try every day. It’s not like I decided to be happy and functional one day and I’ve been in that state since that moment. NO ONE STAYS HAPPY AND NO ONE STAYS FUNCTIONAL! I expect to get upset, I expect to get really upset but I also expect to be happy but I decide when that is or at the least decide how to deal with those emotions and behaviours if there is a slip.
I have friends who do the exact same as me! I have friends who have experienced things that I don’t want to imagine (although I do not like to compare pain) and have come out on top or are climbing to the top! They inspire me and I inspire them! Let yourself be inspired!
If you think you’re hopeless you will get no where and that is not fair to you! Don’t do that to yourself! If I had done that….well….let’s just say I’m happier here. I don’t care that it was hard, that’s not an excuse. It was worth everything for me to get to where I am now.
I’m watching a show called The Agenda on TVO and tonight they are talking about mental illness in universities and colleges. Overall this is a good show, the host is very liberal and I agree with a lot of what he says (the episode on SlutWalk was fantastic) but unfortunately he made a statement that made me cringe.
A woman from the University of Western Ontario was talking generally about the strategies post secondary institutions have in place to help students with mental health issues. The host asked her, “How can professors tell the difference between someone just failing academically and someone failing as a human.”
Failing as a human….so someone with mental health issues is a failure as a human…..
I know I have felt like a failure and people have thought I was a failure.
It upsets me that we can equate success with being “normal” and failure with mental illness. To have a mental illness is to not be a failure! We do not call people with cancer or diabetes failures as humans and we would never dream to do so. This needs to be translated into how society views mental illness.
It all eventually becomes a self fulfilled prophecy! When you hear society say that because you have a mental illness you are a failure as a human, then you internalize that and say it to yourself everyday and then you will not succeed, you will not see a point: you are a failure and everyone thinks you are.
We are not failures! We are great successes because we have the world against us but yet we still keep going.
I applaud all of you for whatever you are capable of doing each day! If all you can do is get up and sit on the couch then I applaud you because you’ve succeeded at that! You need to appreciate the little successes because that will then encourage you to continue improving.
The more we speak out and people see who we are the more society will see that all of the myths about mental illness are WRONG! We are great human beings and if you can’t see the value in those with mental health issues then YOU are the failure!
Remember: YOU ARE AMAZING!
The societal stigma exerpeienced by those with mental health issues is painful but nothing is more painful than internalizing that stigma and believing you are in fact the negative things society says you are. You discriminate against yourself.
When you believe you are crazy, stupid, inadequate blah blah blah then what else do you really have? People come and go which is why you need to be able to find it within yourself to keep going.
The best way for me to show you what self stigma is, is through excerpts from my journals I wrote as a teenager which are rampant with stigma that I internalized.
“I’m fucked up.”
“I don’t want to quit [cutting] anymore. I can’t do it!…I’m totally insane! I’m going to tell my counsellor that I think I belong in a mental hospital…I’m sick…I’m a sad little whore.”
“I’m just fucking stupid and fucked in the head!”
“I hate how I go crazy like that.”
“…this demon creature inside of me.”
“Sick little bitch”
“Just a sick little mind is what I have.”
“I’m not even Kristen right now, I’m someone else, I’m a monster.”
“If I was [my boyfriend] I would leave me.”
“I never thought of myself as selfish, but I guess I am.”
“Just a hopeless girl living in a hopeless world she put too much hope in.”
“I’m a shitty person, a shitty girlfriend, NO ONE CAN FUCKING LOVE ME!”
One of my journals is covered in words: Fake, Insane, Worthless, Ugly, Broken, Twised, Failure, Mental, Sick, Unwanted, Unloved and more.
You can see how believing these horrible things about youself can make recovering from a mental illness or a difficult experience near impossible. It’s this stigma that will lead to suicidal thoughts, attempts and unfortunately successful deaths.
When we help others build the strength to be confident in themselves and toss aside these destructive labels and beliefs then recovery can begin. When you believe in yourself then you’ll want to recover and it’s only through wanting recovery that it can actually happen.
Remember this isnt an individual problem. Soceity plays the biggest role in creating and keeping mental illness stigma alive. Stigma is damaging. People can’t go through life encountering barrier after barrier and not let it get to them. Do not think that when you call someone “crazy” or say things like, “mentally ill people scare me” that you are not hurting someone. You are. You are telling people to hate themselves and then we become sad when individuals, especially youth, commit suicide.
We can stop this. We need to do it together.