Times/ Stigma


Interesting find in the Times today. I’ve met plenty of people who have given up the hope of ever being anything thanks to a mental illness. Beyond the illness lies the stigma, and the treatment providers that don’t provide much hope. On the flip side, I’ve met some incredibly smart, talented people who are in challenging careers. Sadly, the first group far outweighs the second. One can hope, as this political landscape shifts and mental illness takes a more prominent place in our nation’s conscience, that people will learn there are so many exceptional people out there fighting the battle every day. One day it will be out there in the open, no need to hide. More articles like this need to permeate that invisible wall erected in fear by a public that understands so little. I don’t know that events like Newtown help people when it comes to stigma, though it clearly has shifted the focus toward changing the mental health system. Why does it take the slaughter of innocent children to come to the realization there is a problem? So while it is going to be the impetus for some change, the fact remains, mental illness still strikes fear in most people. It is still talked about, and treated, behind closed doors. Spoken in soft voices, unheard over noise machines. It is a world of privacy and boundaries. A world a lot of people know about, but rarely openly share. Believe me, it is hard. I’m not exactly shy, and I don’t often disclose anything about my treatment. There are a few people close to me, but beyond that, most people think of me a slightly standoffish and a bit odd. That’s fine. We are not yet in a world where people don’t recoil from the words depression, bipolar, or the least used of all suicide. I know, it’s a tough word to spit out. Vastly easier after inpatient treatment, since they pepper you with it liberally. But again, that is behind locked doors. I don’t know how things will change. I really don’t see it. Sure, Hollywood can release films like Silver Linings Playbook, and hope the public is intelligent enough to get it. Sadly most will lose focus as soon as they lay eyes on Jennifer Lawrence. Just kidding, but seriously, how many people can get it? Though I do feel mainstream media, and Hollywood can contribute to the push toward more awareness. I guess at the end of the day I find myself a bit conflicted here. I do think there needs to be a openess and honesty to push the dialog past people’s comfort zone and into a place of learning and understanding. I do not however think I’d want to be the one doing it. There is something so deeply personal to the experience of mental illness and the effects it has on one’s life. It is hard not to hold tight to it and hope nobody looks too hard. Tough to rebound off a hospital stay and explain to people where exactly you’ve been. (they should put in tanning beds, least then we could lie about being on vacation) Again, I’m kidding. See, it is uncomfortable enough for me to be cracking bad jokes. Pretty easy to see thru that one. Seriously though, you come out of the hospital for a medical issue and there are people waiting with casseroles and offers to help around the house. Come out of the nut hut and you could hear a pin drop. nada. People are terrified they will say the wrong thing, or that somehow you’ve changed. Well, yeah that is always true. But it’s still me. No need for the quarantine treatment. No Typhoid Mary here, really it isn’t contagious. I don’t think that is true, but what is true is that people are terrified because in each of us they catch a glimpse of themselves. That time when they skirted out along the edge. when their mind wandered away, when they had given up all hope. In each of us there is humanity. There is no denying we all hold a piece of the puzzle of mental illness. It is not just those of us that have spent time on a couch, or in a locked unit. I am you. Not much difference. There in lies the fear and the stigma. The distance allows people to convince themselves, that could never happen to me. It is a breath away. Always. The reality of mental illness does need to become known. Though I doubt anyone really wants to see that.


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