Friday, March 8, 2013

Self Stigma??? Me? Never!

I find it ironic that I'm here promoting mental health awareness and trying to shatter the stigma of mental illness because I'm a hypocrit. I really have no right to say any of the things I'm saying, because I perpetuate the stigma just as much as anyone else.

Recently, I was interviewed for a volunteer position with an organization. One of the people on the panel knew of my major depressive disorder and asked "are you certain you can carry out your responsibilities given your illness?" Not only was it an inappropriate question, for future reference, no potential employer or supervisor is allowed to ask you about your race, religion, age, or disability and that right is protected in the Labour Act, but even worse, I defended myself! I began humbly reassuring  the committee that my illness would not be a problem, that once I make a commitment, I'm in till the end, and I was practically begging them to believe me! So not only was I victimized by society's stigma of the mentally ill as being unreliable and unrealistic about their limitations, but then I re-victimized myself by agreeing that their concerns were legitimate! The stigma is so insidious that I didn't even realize what had happened till I got home!! When I did realize what they had done and as a result, what I had done to myself, I felt so inadequate, lesser than, and stupid for not realizing what was happening! I eventually penned a letter addressing the inappropriate line of questioning at the interview, as well as reminding them of the Labour Act and requesting a reply. I needed to regain some self-respect, I wasn't letting it go.

This is not uncommon for those with mental illness. Yesterday, I was reading a blog where the writer referred to herself as being "silly", "stupid", and "wimpy" because of her phobias. In the distant past, before I learned how my illness affects my behaviour, I've even gotten into heated debates with friends who are also mentally ill and called them "crazy" or "losing it" and for that I'm ashamed, but I have learned to forgive myself for finding them guilty of the very thing that affects me too. I often hear people demean themselves because of their illness...so why in the world would anyone what to admit they are mentally ill? Who in their right mind (no pun intended) wants to expose themselves to that kind of judgement? It is so much easier just to stay hidden and suffer in silence, but we are NOT second class citizens! The civil rights movement was for ALL individuals and groups who are not treated equally in society, we are one of those groups, and clearly there is still much work to do!

So the next time you find yourself preparing to judge or criticize yourself for an illness related symptom, stop, rethink. Do you really deserve that? No, you don't, so away with the negative self talk and recognize the beautiful, strong individual you are perhaps because of your illness. You deserve it!

DO IT ALL!!! NO REGRETS!!

Do the stuff people say you shouldn't. Do the stuff that seems impossible, silly, difficult, immature, irrelevant. We can creat...