It may seem absurd that someone who is living day in and day out with a mental illness would actually have their own stigma toward the illness, though this is absolutely capable. Did I in any way actually think that I (an advocate for equality in mental health care and understanding) would have a stigma toward mental illness? Absolutely not! Though this was the case. It can be a very insidious and challenging thought.
So I did recently go through a decompensation period due to the changing of some of my medications. During my lengthy recovery period, I was able to go to a partial hospitalization program. When I was there, I did an exercise to understand my current thoughts about my recent illness. During this I was putting myself down and stating “how could I be so stupid” toward some of my previous behaviors during my manic phase. It was made aware to me that I was mad at myself for some of the behaviors that occurred due to my illness. It was my own stigma toward my illness that was bringing me down.
When I was asked if I could have controlled what happened during my illness, that was an absolute “no” from me. I was responding due to my illness. I was trying to help myself to sleep, and was searching for someone to help me (to no avail). I ended up in the hospital and in a delirium state. The decrease of my meds, and lack of sleep, along with our ignorance to the escalating problem caused the problem to come to a head and get out of control. I did not have control over my illness without the help of medications, at that point. What had occurred and my behaviors were beyond my control. And becoming aware that I also had my own stigma was an eye-opening awareness.
Realizing that I also had fears and stigma based thoughts toward my illness ironically helped me to be more understanding of myself. It is not helping myself to be mad or ashamed of behaviors that I had no control over. And now that I am in a healthier state, I can reflect and see my own ignorance. It is the illness that I can be upset with, not the person suffering from the illness. Understanding and compassion, even for myself, is a wonderful way to help me to be an even more effective advocate toward the stigma related to Mental Illness.
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