Stigma and the F. Word
Every day in the world of mental health, the word stigma is thrown around. What is stigma anyway. Everyone uses it, but i stopped to think about it today and even I didn’t understand the true meaning of the word so I looked it up
Stigma – A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.
Yep, the world still looks at mentally ill people as a disgrace.. Marked by an invisible illness and shunned by society. I am bi polar and I don’t hide what I have, but others do, in fear that society that doesn’t understand mental illness. By this definition of stigma, I am seen as a disgrace by people who dont understand why I act so fucked up sometimes. I am able to deal with it from society in general. sometimes I miss out on jobs, sometimes its hard to keep a job, its hard to study and its hard to be accepted but at the end of the day this stigma or mark I’m given by the general public doesnt really bother me, I have learned to deal with it over the years and brush it off. But it isnt so easy for everyone struggling through mental health issues or illness. The fact that stigma can adversly effect so many is the reason we fight to reduce stigma through awareness. Its why I personally blog and try to normalise mental illness and suicidal thoughts not to glorify it but to make it acceptable to talk about it without judgment because so many of us go through it. However there is a stigma that we rarely talk about, a stigma that is so subtle its never spoken about but us as sufferers are quite familiar with it and its a word that either makes us warm and fuzzy or makes us cringe.
Now unless you are mentally ill, the odd one out or black sheep so to speak you may not fully understand what I am about to say and for that reason I urge you to read on till the very end.
Our Families may love us, they may not, they may be supportive and they may not. But either way without even knowing it they are perpetrating one of the worst stigmas we have to deal with being mentally ill.
Our family sometimes silently exclude us from things, worried we may cause a scene and embarress them, I am certainly guilty of doing this in the past so I understand why this occurs
Our families sometimes dont support us in our ventures because we have failed so many times in the past by trying to do the hair brained schemes and ideas we have come up with while manic and slightly delusional.
It is understandable that our families turn their back on us ever so slightly now and again and in some cases all together. Do they know they do it? Do they know why they do it,? If they realise they know they do it? In most cases the answers NO. No family member would intentionally exclude a family member, however they do exclude us for fear we will cause that scene or my personal favorite. when the rest of your Immediate family is invited to a wedding by an extended family member and you are the only one left out not invited. Not being invited is usually not an issue, probably because you’re not that close with the person getting married so its not big deal. But when your entire immediate family keeps it from you then attends together only for you to find out on a social media post they where all there. It is then you feel excluded. They didnt tell you because they didnt want to upset you its understandable but it hurts. Hurts to see your entire family together smiling happy at the wedding and you didnt even know the extended family member was even engaged let alone getting married. Your family has excluded you and hurt you by trying to protect you and avoid a reaction they assumed was going to happen.
For so many of us this happens, and it happens often. Our family in our minds have ditched us, while in their minds they are protecting us.
When this happens we need to focus on the good, focus on the friends and family who include you no matter what, the ones that constantly back you up and are never ashamed, the friends and family who look at us and see us not the illness, the ones who see us pushing through the mental illness to try and make something of ourselves, the ones who will support our good ideas but also be honest enough to tell us straight when its a load of rubbish thats been forged in a manic mind. In our lives family will always be family and we would hope they always want to protect us and help us when the shit hits the fan. But it seems only a select few will be there not only during crisis but also there to support us and help us reach our goals like the people we are. Hold onto those relationships, put your energy in to these connections that are always there to support you – this means when you are good, you give back to these peoples cups like they gave to you while you where down and in a bad place. Do not put any energy into family or friends who see you as a burden.
Family members if you are still here reading thank you. We know sometimes we can cause a scene and sometimes get irrationally upset over what looks like nothing . But we are still people, please take the time to talk to us and learn the difference between Us and our mental illness, who we really are as a person. Communicating with us you will learn to pick the differences in us being well and unwell. Communication is and human connection are a massive part of becoming well managed in our illnesess. But in general life its extreamly important aswell. communication is the key from removing this stigma from the F word. We start with our families and those effected by mental illness. we learn to communicate to a point that we are no longer a bad mark on our families lives. If we can manage to make our families better understand us to a point we no longer get shoved in the corner because we may cause a scene and embarass them is that not the perfect example for the rest of the world to look in on and start to make change.
Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello 2019