Stigma: Come at Me, If You Can!

Boxing gloves in spotlightMental illness stigma is out of control. In past years we have been to Iraq; businesses have been bailed out; crazy oil spills have destroyed underwater life; people are just now waking up to climate change … and we have yet to really discuss mental illnesses or mental health on a broad scale.

It’s the saying that everyone knows, but no one wants to admit: out of sight, out of mind.

Is this really true, though? How many people know someone with a mental health issue? Or have one themselves? If any one of these people would come out of their mental health closets and just tell one other person just how much they suffer day to day, would the world be stigma free? How “out” can mental illness be before people stop seeing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and freaking out?

Let me use myself as an example: I am 28 years old. I was diagnosed Christmas of 2012 with bipolar disorder. Before I was diagnosed I was an independent, adventurous, fun-loving woman with so many dreams and aspirations. Now, my mental illness makes me feel depressed and angry most of my days.  I have taken about six medications in my life and I have hated all of them but one, so now I self-medicate with my own methods—which doesn’t help me at all.

My illness gets in the way of everything I do. I cannot hold a job because after a couple of months I hate going, I hate waking up for it, and I hate myself when I’m there. I feel like my illness is a cop-out, but it affects my life so much that I always succumb to it. I am Dr. Jekyll. I am Mr. Hyde.

I have only told a couple of people in my life about my illness; I use an alias online when I blog about my illness. I feel like the POSER of the mental health world. It’s so hard for me to use my name and let people know who I really am. Although my diagnosis isn’t as severe as some, I still feel as scared to even put down my symptoms.

This is stigma. Stigma stops you from applying for jobs because of the fear of getting caught taking meds at work. Stigma stops you from telling your friends why you have to take time out of school. Stigma kills. We, unfortunately, can’t kill stigma. We can’t Chuck-Norris it with a roundhouse kick, because mental illness stigma will never go away. I know some of you are ready to send messages saying, “How dare you! We can take down stigma!” You are correct. We can take it down, but we can never kill it.

As long as media portrays mental illness as the bad guy every time someone—who may not have been taking his or her medications and probably didn’t get the help he or she needed—goes into a place with a gun or does something horrible, the stigma will never go away. Stigma is here for the long run, but so are we. My advice to our mental health community is to join together to make our community even stronger—stronger than the stigma. This is the way we can weaken it.

Bringing people who don’t experience mental health issues to a better understanding about what we go through will help make it easier for the world to portray us better. Not being ashamed of something you couldn’t help in the beginning or the end will help, too. These are ways we can make it better for our future soldiers who will fight the stigma fight.

I hope to raise awareness to all people about mental health, because mental health isn’t about illnesses; it’s about how to grow and maintain the best our minds can be. The stigma of mental illness will always plague me, but it will not overpower me anymore. So …

Hi. My name is Tempus Bell; my stigma alias is OhTemp. I have a mental illness, and this is my declaration to fight!

What’s yours?

OhTemp writes a blog called Bipolar, Unemployed, and Lost, which you can read at bipolarunemployedlost.com.

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  • Jeff M

    Jeff M

    November 23rd, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    What you’ve done here takes a lot of courage and I must ingratiate you for that. I have social anxiety myself and go through the stigma too. I cannot tell the people around me about it and always find excuses to not hang out or see new people.Sometimes it gets too much but I manage.

    Thanks to your article now I feel like telling the people I know about my problem. Maybe the best way to get rid of a problem is to grab it by its horns!Kidos to you and I hope I am able to gather this same courage real soon. Thank you so much for this inspiration from you!

  • Mike

    Mike

    November 23rd, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    I’ve recently started posting publicly with my real name that I have OCD. I haven’t gotten to admitting bipolar yet, as the stigma with that is greater. People might think I will be a “moody” person who’s hard to deal with… actually with the help of therapy I think I’m more level-headed than most, and the medication helps a lot too. Kudos Tempus, fight on!

  • marshall

    marshall

    November 24th, 2014 at 3:40 AM

    It is often hard to explain to others what they have no experience with and have no real understanding of. I am glad that there are sites and stories such as these which are dedicated to getting the truth out there so that hopefully we can help others to know what it feels like to live with this in our lives and also that there is nothing to be afraid of, just aware of. Do not place shame on us for the things which we simply cannot control, we ask instead for your patience and your love.

  • Walt

    Walt

    November 24th, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    But you can see how easily people make that correlation between mental illness and inherent instability?

  • tory

    tory

    November 24th, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    Wow what a strong voice for the bipolar community. Thank you for sharing this!! My brother was diagnosed with bipolar 8 years ago and committed suicide 4 years ago and its like my family has been in hiding about his struggles all along because other Ppl just DON’T get it. Ppl don’t want to talk about it. or don’t listen when ppl with bipolar an other mental illness actually try to speak up about it.

    You are strong and a good role model I hope other ppl actually listen here.

  • Molly

    Molly

    November 25th, 2014 at 3:59 AM

    Walt- the terrible thing is that yes, it is easy to see but at the same time it is still a gross stereotype of the mentally ill as a whole. Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean that he or she will go out and commit some horrific crime and at the same time just because someone has not been diagnosed does not mean that they are not capable of something terrible.

  • paul

    paul

    November 25th, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    The problem continues to be that we always want that issue to have a name, to be able to point to it and and say that THIS is why it happened… when sometimes there just are no easy answers.

  • Blakely

    Blakely

    November 27th, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    I wish that I had the strength to fight that stigma that I feel surrounds us most days but there are rarely those days. Most of the time it feels as if it totally sucks all of the energy out of me.

  • Forrest

    Forrest

    November 29th, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    Why should I let what others think be what brings me down? I know enough about myself that I shouldn’t have to deal with false things that others feel about me. Who cares?

  • Michael Blackwell

    Michael Blackwell

    December 4th, 2014 at 1:08 AM

    How does a square explain itself to a line? And in our crazy world, its more like -how does a cube explain itself to a proud square(so aware of its superiority to the few existing lines out there)

    I want to tell and then allow myself to be schizophrenic all the time, because its real, and like John Nash in beautiful mind, I can usually say, ” I choose not to acknowledge you person no one else can see” but why would they be with me if they didn’t need heard?

    To those who say, “surely, you can understand why non mentally ill people associate what we do with mental” …. I say thanks for reading(for it shows you’re trying to learn :) ), and what you say is true,…and so much more

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