I was trying to find a way to start off this blog post and I thought what better way to start a blog post about stigma, then defining it.
a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.
The word “stigma” is negative and it just matches with the definition, itself. So the real question is.. Why do we even have stigma?
What’s the point of a stigma, when it just brings more negativity to an already negative thing (mental illness, addiction, etc.)
I don’t get people sometimes, it’s just not fair to have this stigma around something you don’t know anything about or have never felt before. That’s called ignorance. And that’s not cool either.
So, I just want to stomp on some stigmas that I could find online from The Centre for Addiction and Mental health (CAMH)
“Just snap out of it.”
OOH, I hate this one SO SO much. This gets under my skin! One cannot snap out of a mental illness… Can anyone snap out of cancer or a broken leg? No. Well, just because a illness is inside your brain and you physically cannot see it, doesn’t mean it’s not serious or painful. Living with depression, I cannot just “snap out” of my episodes. No matter how much I want to, I can’t. I just came back from an amazing vacation with some friends and one night, I had an episode. And all my friends were worried about me and kept trying to talk to me about it and help me. But, as usual, I put a wall up. I couldn’t just snap out of that episode, I wanted to, I wanted to have a fun time with my friends. But I physically or mentally CAN NOT just snap out of it. I just had to let it pass.
If mental illnesses are easy enough to “snap away,” tons of people wouldn’t have anxiety, depression or be suicidal. Thousands wouldn’t be in mental torture or dead by suicide if mental illnesses were easy to “snap away.”
“Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself.”
OH, my. I literally have no words. It’s not feeling sorry for yourself when you are struggling with a mental illness. AGAIN, would you EVER say to someone who has cancer, a broken leg or any other life threatening illness (YES, mental illnesses can be life threatening.. ~ 121 people die from suicide a day)?
No, no you wouldn’t. If you did, that’s really a rude thing to say. So why has society deem it wrong to say that to someone with cancer, etc but not to someone who is suffering mentally?
Physical pain heals a lot less easier and faster than mental pain. Because mental pain can and will effect every part of your life and can change it for the worst. Think about it, what is one of the MOST important parts of your body? I believe its the brain. Yes, the heart is important but the Medulla… which is in your head, controlled by the brain, is the reason why you don’t need to think about breathing or beating your heart.
I feel that when these people are feeling that others who have a mental illness that they are “feeling sorry for themselves, ” are not educated enough about mental illnesses. Because I can not come to any time through my depression episodes or anxiety attacks when I ever “felt sorry for myself.” I’ve hated myself for a long time and that’s so FAR from feeling sorry for yourself. Huge difference, hating yourself is literal torture. Because nothing will ever transfer as being good enough in your head. It’s a negative perspective which comes with the illness (AND CAN NOT BE FIXED WITH JUST BEING POSITIVE. It takes a lot of time and effort to self love then people think and then steps need to be taken to be more positive. ONE CANNOT just be positive when they hate themselves or have depression)
“Don’t Worry. It’s Just a Phase” – But for some, it can last a lifetime
This takes me back to the “Mom, it’s not a phase” meme about that part in your life when you have the punk/rock/”emo”/goth stage. Well, we all go through phases in life. Sometimes, you’ll hit a really rough spot in life… well some people can get out of it, some people cannot. It’s not a phase. It’s a mental illness. Mental Illnesses are super common, more common then what people know/believe/want to be. Sorry, to break it to you, but no matter if you like it or not, 1 in 4 people have depression. It’s not a phase, yes. Some people can have depression and a few months or years later, can not have it anymore. Still doesn’t mean it’s a “phase.” Phases are for clothes, music and attitudes, not for Mental Illnesses.
“Everyone Feels Like That At Your Age.”
I took a communications class last year and I wrote a speech about the difference feeling sad and depression. If I could just send a link to a video of me giving that speech, I feel like this would help with this stigma. But I can sum it up for you guys (It was a great speech).
Sadness is a natural feeling, it’s normal to get/be sad. Depression isn’t. Depression isn’t just sad, it’s so much more. How can I best describe Depression… mhmmm. Depression feels like my demons that haunt my mind and tell me all these negative stuff has taken over my body and mind. Instead of haunting it and just making me feel crummy, I feel miserable, every single moment of the day. I feel like I physically cannot leave my bed or move. Like my demons are controlling me and holding me down. It’s not even me anymore, it’s those demons. It can feel like a storm cloud of sadness, worthlessness, numbness, etc. all over my body. Depression is really hard for me to explain, I’ve tried my best but it’s not really accurate and it’s so much more worst then I can ever explain (and I’m honestly not trying to romanticize it, either).
But, if it was Bob (generic name) and myself standing next to each other. Bob and I are both 20 years old, sitting next to each other in class. Let’s say we both for F’s on a test (hey, it was a hard test). Bob is sad he got such a low score. But he’s going to work harder and go out with his friends and forget about it. He’ll think “Hey, one bad grade isn’t that bad. I’ll just study more and bring it up.”
While myself, I cry. I think that I’m stupid and I’m worthless. I shouldn’t even continue school to be a counselor because I will just fail and I won’t be able to help anyone. That will ruin my mood all day, I’ll be upset all day. Maybe, even just lay in bed for the rest of the day. I’ll keep thinking and repeating how stupid I am, how worthless I am.
You might think it’s an extreme, but it’s my reality. It’s what I honestly think when I get a bad grade. And I’m not the only one who feels that way or similar to what I tried to describe. Remember 1 in 4. So no, Not everyone feels the way I do.
Also it’s physically impossible to ever feel anything anyone else feels because your feelings are YOUR feelings and emotions. You can’t feel what anyone feels unless you are them or in their brain. So no, not everyone feels the way you or I do.
“Seriously, Can’t you cheer the Hell up?”
No. No. No. NO. I can’t stand this. I really can’t. Ugh, why do people say this stuff. You can’t just be positive when you have anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, etc. Especially, when you’re suicidal. I don’t know how many times, I’ve heard this myself, when I was at my worst part of my depression. And this annoys me so much. I can’t just cheer up or just be positive when I’m in an episode. How about I tell you to just walk it off when you break your leg? It’s the same thing. Nothing bothers me more than someone referring that a mental illness is nothing or just telling someone to be positive or just to cheer up. It just boils me up with anger, honestly. And I wish that they could feel what I do, but I can’t wish this on anyone else ever. You CAN’T just cheer up when you have a depression. If I could just cheer up when I’m now, I wouldn’t have clinical depression, now would I?
Seriously, can’t you just get educated on this stuff before you say anything ignorant?
“It’s All in your head”
If someone said this this me, I’d replied with a “haha, it is just in my head.. that’s why it’s called a MENTAL illness.”
The thing is that no two people can feel the exactly the same… or can they..? The point is that we don’t know if two people can totally feel the exact same. Your emotions are something that only you can perceive and I believe that we can never completely feel what another person feels. We can feel similar but we will never fully understand.
So yes, my mental illness or my problems are in my head… where else would they be? If it was anything physical… this wouldn’t even be said.
“Quit being such a Downer”
I’m just going to quote “Is it any wonder why 2 out of 4 people living with mental illness suffer in silence?”
Because these are just absolutely terrible things to say to someone who is struggling, no matter what they are struggling with… especially a mental illness. Like this is mentally and emotionally kicking someone when they are already down. This isn’t cool. This isn’t funny. This isn’t something to be ignored.
People really do suffer with mental illness and being alone and in silence is making it 2x worst. It makes them feel like they really don’t matter, that they aren’t worth it.
So please, please, please. Get educated on mental illnesses, learn about the symptoms, talk to them.. and REALLY talk to them. Don’t use such negative phrases or thoughts because it like putting more air in a balloon full of negativity. People who have a mental illness already have so much negativity on their own and they really don’t need it externally from someone else, especially someone they love, care for and trust.
If you or someone you know is needing tips and help with trying to communicate a loved one with a mental illness, I found a great resource (which is right below⇓) that gives DOs and DON’Ts tips!
Tips on Communicating with someone with a Mental Illness
• Relax and stay calm.
• Start a conversation with the expectation that things will go smoothly.
• Minimize distractions; ask if you can turn off the TV for example.
• Listen and make eye-contact (unless this is threatening).
• Simplify. One topic at a time.
• Use “I-statements” not “you-statements”.
• Acknowledge what the other person says and how they feel, even if you don’t agree.
• Paraphrase; “If I understand you correctly, you and I…” “Is that what you’re saying?”
• Engage the person in the process by asking for opinions and suggestions.
• Watch out for contradictory messages between verbal and non-verbal messages.
• Look for common ground. Focus on observable facts; things you both saw or heard “You say you have trouble concentrating at school if you don’t take your medication?”
• Honestly sharing your own feelings can reduce defensiveness on both sides.
• Stick to present issues.
• Use humor in easy situations.
• A touch on the shoulder can be comforting to some, but anxiety-provoking to others. Just ask; for example, “Can I hug you?” or “Can I hold your hand?”.
• Acknowledge your own responsibility; don’t wait for the other person to do it first.
• Don’t start a conversation expecting a confrontation. Approaching a person with your defenses up will likely make the communication difficult.
• Don’t take it personally; remember that your loved one’s illness can affect their behavior and communication skills.
• Don’t criticize, accuse or blame.
• Don’t assume. Clarify by asking questions.
• Don’t expect the other person to “just understand it” if you cannot explain it.
• Avoid bringing up the diagnosis.
• Don’t raise your voice or attempt to intimidate or “discipline” the person.
• Don’t use general and loaded words such as “always” or “never”. Use specific words instead.
• Don’t use sarcasm and avoid humor in difficult situations
• Avoid sounding patronizing or condescending. If someone treated YOU like a child, would you take them seriously?
Join me and be Pledge to be Stigma Free with NAMI at https://www.nami.org/stigmafree
With Lots of Love,