A stigma as defined by dictionary.com is "a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person."
The most stigmatized things I deal with are actually way more common than society wants to admit. One in four people in the world deal with mental illnesses...so around 450 million people! That is a lot of people, so why is mental health and illness so stigmatized? Some people do not even believe it to be a real thing.
Mental illness is defined as "any of the various forms of psychosis or severe neurosis."
When you break a bone do you just go on acting like it’s not real? NO.
How could you possibly function normally if you broke a bone. The pain and effect it has on the rest of your body is something you can't ignore or control. So what do you do? I can only assume that a hospital visit would be in order. So when the hormones and nerves in your brain are not balanced and cause you pain that affect the rest of your body. Do you ignore it? How do you ignore something that affects your everyday normal life? Your brain is a vital part of you just as much as the bones and other organs that make you up.
What am I getting at here? Well I want to talk just a little about the things I deal with and break the stigma. There should be no disgrace in talking about something I can't help.
I am 25-years-old. I, similar to many of the people around my age, known to the rest of the world as Millennial's, have a lot of things constantly going on. I struggle with knowing what or how I want to do things because growing up I was told "you can do anything you set your mind to." As lovely as that sounds it makes for a complicated future because it’s not as simple as it sounds—not for someone like me.
My thing is I never feel certain about any decision I make, whether that is choosing what to eat or deciding what career I want to follow. I am bipolar. I live on a constant ride of ups and downs never knowing where on my spectrum of "crazy" I will be. In one moment I can be happy and hyper ready to take on the world and do whatever I want. The next hour I am crying for no reason known to me except that I feel hopeless like I'm lost in the dark and nobody understands me not even myself. I am depressed more than manic.
My manic is feeling unstoppable and usually I get bursts of confidence and normally care very little about consequences of my actions. It feels to me as though I am on a high with no real sense of what happens when I come down. My depression is feeling like a weight is bearing down on me that will never leave. The image of a rain cloud only following me around while the rest of the world is full of sunshine, plays in my mind when I think about my lows. I have no motivation to do anything at all breathing takes effort. The dark thoughts that swirl are relentless and I often become reclusive. I hide myself away not being able to deal with being around others at all.
Feeling lost inside myself is one of the biggest things I deal with on the regular. I enjoy singing, acting, and writing but I rarely feel good enough to do any of those things. I want to help others like me and I am passionate about psychology, but the voice that tells me I can't is loudly listing reasons it is not the right choice. So I am stuck feeling like I can't do whatever I put my mind to because my mind can't decide. So I fight with myself as I write this. Part of me wants to write everything I have ever dreamed about writing while the voice inside is screaming I can't or that I am not good enough.
Often, while in lows I deal with self-harm. Self-harm is a lot more than just cutting. It is skipping meals because you don't feel like you deserve to eat, this feeds my eating disorder as well, its hitting things when you’re angry to hurt yourself, it's choices that you know are dangerous and that you hope end badly, it's seeking out triggering material, it's all the ways you punish yourself for existing. Sometimes self-harm happens when you put effort into depriving yourself of things you like or need, and sometimes it happens when you don’t put any effort into doing the things you like or need. It’s a pattern of self-destructive behavior, and it doesn’t only happen in one way. During my lows my mind tricks me into thinking that living while purposefully being destructive towards myself is the only way. For a long time growing up, I didn't have a name for what I was doing I had no clue what I was doing. I felt pain and numbness and let my mind tell me how to deal with those things.
That is just a little example of how my own struggle with being bipolar affects me on a daily basis.
I personally feel my bipolarity feeds directly into my horrible eating habits and stomach issues. Few people in my life know I have an eating disorder that I struggle with constantly.
An eating disorder is defined as a severally unhealthy disturbance or imbalance in a person’s eating habits that is harmful for a person's body.
If I could live without having to eat at all, I would. Psychologically, I am positive at this point in my life that my stomach constantly hurting whether I eat or not is in my head. I have been tested for everything you can think of and nothing has come back abnormal. The one problem I have with this is that my stomach has hurt my entire life I don't remember a time when it didn't bother me.
When I was around the age of four I refused to eat or drink anything, because I didn't feel good until I was so dehydrated I had to be hospitalized. As a child I refused to eat a lot, I never finished my food and was very picky. I hardly ever drank anything but water. How often do you come across a child who says no to soda or juice? My parents would try everything and anything to get me to eat but my stubborn ways made it hard for them to keep up with. I got so used to saying "I'm not hungry or my tummy hurts" that those words would leave my mouth even if I did want to eat. Still, to this day I struggle to fight the words leaving my mouth involuntarily. If I do happen to succeed in acknowledging I am hungry then I have to battle the war in my head of what to eat. One of the hardest questions for me to answer is "what do you want to eat?" My subconscious screams to say that I lied that I am not hungry or that I don't want anything. If I get past that I fight with trying to pick something healthy that I feel won’t make my stomach more upset than it is. I honestly wish I had a person who just made me what I needed to eat to be healthy and forced me to eat it. If someone could just take all the responsibility away from me I might not have to fight with myself so much just to get as far as deciding what to eat.
The thing is I deal with these things constantly they are a part of me, but they are not what defines me. So why is there so much stigma around mental illness? Why is it still looked at so negatively that people are ashamed and even scared to be open about having mental illnesses? How is it that in today's world with everything at our fingertips that we are still stuck in the past with so many things.
We can start to break the stigma by talking about it especially with our youth, education is the greatest way to help. The education system is truly lacking in America with educating our youth on real life things. Sex education taught me nothing. I was never even told about mental illness let alone taught what it was. In a world that allows us to learn things on our own that may not always be the most accurate it is vital we teach some real truth.
I hope that my story resonated with some of you or inspire you to talk to someone about your issues. The best thing I ever did was talk about it and seek help. Mindfulness self-compassionate meditations are a wonderful way to help you live happier and healthier lives.