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Breaking the Fear of Stigma
Category: Stigma
Tags: Stigma From Everywhere - Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up

Breaking the Fear of Stigma

When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, the news was earth-shattering. It rang in my ears like an alarm going off - something is very wrong with me. Of course, it was not until the meds worked and my delusions went away that I truly felt the magnitude of the diagnosis, the gravity of it. And my family felt the gravity of it. They were all stunned and just assumed I was angry. But I was delusional. Delusions went away - and so did my anger. This also stunned them. The change in personality. Me getting diagnosed and the change that meds caused in me had my parents not understanding at all.
But it made things clear for me. I realized my mind was tricking me. And that alone was scary, to know something like that can happen to a person, especially me. It was just earth-shattering, receiving my diagnosis. Traumatic to say the very least. Life changing. Perspective changing. Personality changing. Humbling.

After you receive your diagnosis, you have to go around the same people who honestly have not learned much about mental illness. The world is still very much in the dark about it. And these people can be angry over something you said during psychosis or they might just be abusive by nature. I encountered many "mean" people who were downright cruel after I received my diagnosis. Ugh. I hung out with a religious group, and that was where I encountered the "mean" person. He told me that my mom would protect me because after I was diagnosed, I felt like a child again. And I needed my mom. And this person was mean about it. And I was just processing feelings. I couldn't hide my feelings. And I was hanging out with these people at a religious function. And I was trapped with them. Of course, I have never allowed that situation to happen again and avoid those who are "religious" by nature. Because others at this party gave all the credit toward my healing to "Praise Jesus" rather than admit science saved me. If anything, Jesus was part of my delusions and the meds made that part go away. Jesus was clouding my judgment. I'm not religious but I understand it having been raised that way. Now, I'm a free bird. Anyway, I learned to overcome that kind of stigma, and the fear that you experience when you encounter the stigma, by standing tall around those who practice that kind of stigma. I have learned to use science and facts to support my healing and if people want to think I am evil, I let them with joy and even feed into it. I quit caring so much about people who are insignificant in my life.

Learning to overcome stigma after returning to work was something else. For the longest time, I had feelings of being inadequate and that I was an invalid. But I like to learn and I work hard. And I have kept being challenged. I used to think that someone with my diagnosis couldn't work. I used to think that working would be too much because my thoughts or emotions or feelings might get in the way. But after working, I have learned that I excel with a challenge. I deliver. I do well. Work is good for me. And I am good at usiing my mind and working. Work feeds my soul. I have learned to avoid those who don't enjoy a hard day's work because it's a joy only those who enoy working understand. And half my family collects disability and then does drugs. They think I am crazy to work. And I think they are crazy to live their life like that. We are not the same.

Overcoming stigma in relationships is difficult. People who are really untrained in mental health always want to tell you how you behave this way or that and call it mental illness. That is the worst kind of stigma, labeling all behaviors as mental illness. This I have encountered and the only thing to do about that is to cut people off. You don't want to be around someone who is constantly putting you in a box. I have left relationships for this and nothing makes me more proud of myself. I could have stayed and endured further mistreatment. But I left. I moved on. And I didn't look back. This goes for men I've dated as well as family. Learning to walk away from those who don't truly take an interest in my life. It' s their loss.

You will always find others who want to put you in a box because of your mental health disorder. Or who always want to accuse you of missing your meds. These are the people to avoid. They are negative and no one needs that kind of influence in your life. You can enjoy life with a mental health disorder. Religion never saved anyone, especially not me. You can work and excel at work with a severe mental health disorder. The media needs to portray stories of success more often. Homeland is a story of success for someone with bipolar disorder. You can be in a positive relationship with a mental health disorder. And you can walk away from any relationship that does not feed and nurture your soul. It helps if you work to walk away easier. Never settle. Always work on developing yourself. There is always more to learn.

Let's end the stigma associated with mental health disorders. Even if that means walking away from people who you think are "primary" to your life. We live multiple lives. There are always primaries in your life. Who cares? Make yourself your primary and look after yourself non-stop. Walk away from those who practice stigma. They will never feed your soul.

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