Stigma: A mark burned into the skin of a criminal or slave.

5 07 2010

I remember my mother crying  because she couldn’t afford shoes for us kids for the summer. Secretly, I rejoiced. I hated wearing shoes. I loved the feel of cool grass and hot pavement, the bare wooden steps that led upstairs, the sappy branches of trees as I climbed them, even the squishy barnyard mud that squeezed up between my toes after a rain. This taught me the lesson of the silver lining. I hurt for my mother, but revelled in my freedom.

The view from here …

I’ve come to believe that success has more to do with perspective than achievement. My greatest test of this has been in the last few months. I’ve struggled with my mental health. Often in my life I was unable to leave behind the feeling that I was different. I felt inadequate in some ways, just not in any ways that were important. I was always able to look on the bright side.

Depression robs you of that ability, rendering you incapable of holding on to optimism. I’m not ready to discuss my therapy here or recap the things that may have impacted my life, at least not yet. Instead, I want to discuss the stigma that attaches to someone suffering from a mental health problem.

Define the difference

I find it amazing that a world that celebrates the uniquely creative individual ostracizes the individual who cannot hide their uniquenesses that are revealed in their everyday lives. Far worse is the treatment of those who are unique without a creative outlet, without any perceived “obvious value”. A man who cannot bring himself to live at home for whatever reason is called homeless, but thought of as a “bum”. Someone who is able to rationalize their own demise is considered mentally unstable, but no one makes the effort to admire that person’s ability to arrive at a conclusion that is so much departed from our everyday way of thinking.

Don’t get me wrong here …

I’m not saying that someone who is suicidal should be left to their own devices, I’m saying brilliance is where we find it. If we can begin to admire the sheer mental strength of someone who can rationalize their own end, perhaps we can muster the respect that people suffering from mental health issues deserve. If that respect can be made the norm, maybe then people will be able to seek the help they need without the burden of shame holding them back.

What about me?

I didn’t seek help immediately, but not because I care about what people might think. I’m not a normal person. No, I held off to give my mind a chance to heal with time. That wasn’t happening, or it wasn’t happening fast enough for me. Eventually, I sought help. And to prove that I couldn’t be less affected by the stigma it may cause, I’m telling anyone who may wander here to this site. I’m currently suffering from depression and am currently getting professional help. Think of me what you will, I’m not about to start caring about the negative thoughts of others, I have my own to deal with. Those who love me embrace my uniqueness, suffer my oddities and support me in my search for peace of mind.

So here it is …

But again, I’m not the norm. I ask for respect for those whose lives could be positively impacted by your acceptance of their plight. Please take a stance that shows respect for all people including those with mental health problems. Therapy is such a valuable thing, it is a shame that those who might benefit from it could be denied that benefit due to fear of being ridiculed. Additionally, what a wonderful gift you could give if you could see your way clear to supporting and respecting those who could use therapy to assist and guide them to becoming happy and fulfilled.  When we help one person up we elevate our entire community, we all benefit. That’s something of value, wouldn’t you say?

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