Reflections on stigma

I am a good scanner of people. That is not a good thing. It means that when standing next to someone who is just talking about the weather, I can pick up stuff from them, vibes, call them what you will. When the vibes I pick up show traces of aspects that I distrust, I steer clear of those people. They scare me and set off my anxiety. It’s hard to explain this to others. It’s enough to make it very difficult to go out and about and meet people, and especially interact with them on a regular basis (say, a colleague at work).

So I have given up trying to find work outside the house. I don’t know how long I’ll have that luxury, but I’m indulging in it while I can.

Working at home as a translator, the first time I had a nervous breakdown I actually told a couple of people (clients, agencies I worked for): I wasn’t taking any work at the moment because I had had a nervous breakdown. There was no stigma: it is a well known fact in the world of translation that every translator will, at some point, have a nervous breakdown, suffer from exhaustion and so on. So it was ok to say it. The stigma, for that particular aspect of mental health in that particular business, is already gone.

I know of the stigma of rape. I still won’t tell anybody, there is nobody who knows all the times and ways I was raped. I barely acknowledge it myself. It is only since I have had children that I look back at some stuff and say oh, that was definitely rape/sexual abuse too. Hmm. There is stigma because half the time people will say you were to blame. If they won’t say it, they’ll think it: You asked for it. If they don’t, you do.

If I got a job, I wouldn’t tell anyone of my mental health conditions. Partly because when I have an interview mania kicks in and I am super-confident and nothing stands in my way and I forget I even ever have any problems. Partly I know that… this is pointless, anything relating to interviews and work is in the past. I accept that now.

Stigma is my husband not realising that when he is condemning and thinking so little of a woman who stays with a man who physically and emotionally abuses her, he is putting me in a position of having to defend myself. He will say “your case was different”. Was it? No it really wasn’t. My ex husband was one of the reasons why I ruled out any idea of telling anybody about my mental health problems. Not only because anything I’d told him he’d turn around and use against me like sharpened knives when he was in his demon state, but also because as a friendly acquaintance pointed out to me, you don’t want to let social services know that these kids live with a violent alcoholic father and a mother who doesn’t have a steady job. They will take them away.

I know I can trust my current husband. I know I can. But tell that to my traumatised mind. Well, I am.  Since realising my mental health issues may go further than he understands, he has been more careful.

But going to speak to a psychotherapist, having my chat with the counsellor potentially shared with a GP, having all of this on my record, terrifies me beyond belief. It terrifies me to think that should I have a strong relapse into an episode, THIS time I could potentially be (I can’t even remember the word!!) forced into a mental health ward. It terrifies me that if we were ever to split up, before my daughter is 18, he could become the monster so many people become and take her from me: and with no steady job and notes on record he would have no trouble doing that.

I am terrified of how vulnerable being open about your mental health makes you. On the other hand, now that I know I can finally have that answer, I NEED to know a name for my mind, and I would love to have access to drugs that will help if stuff starts to happen that I can’t handle.

I’d like us to get to a point where understanding and knowledge kills the prejudice. When my hypermobility plays up and my left foot shoots in pain and becomes useless, I lean on my right foot a little more. I know that will mean my right foot will begin to hurt soon, but I just keep the walking down, and keep off my feet, and stop feeling guilty or even sad about it.

You would trust me to know best what to do to avoid causing myself pain through my hypermobility, wouldn’t you? So trust me on my mental condition, and respect it. That’s all it would take to make me feel less helpless. But I am painfully aware that when you are not in the protective ovum I have found for myself at the moment that is virtually impossible. You either change your whole surroundings by removing, one by one, all the elements that make it worse for you, or you persevere and use what you can to take you forward and keep your fingers constantly crossed.

I want to help a younger me. There will be countless others growing up in confusion and pain not knowing what’s wrong with them, and making their condition worse through the lack of knowledge. (SOoooooo many people are hypermobile, they don’t know that wearing heels will make their condition impossibly painful later on!).

So, when I do finish my revision, and finish translating, that’s where I am going to put my energy: in finding and helping those people who like me are thrashing about in a world they feel alien to them, and showing them they are not alone, and give them those answers I am finally finding which I’d been asking my whole life.

Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
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10 thoughts on “Reflections on stigma

  1. […] Maybe it was that hated expression that set me off. I don’t know. But the point was, I want to be an advocate for abolishing stigmas about mental health? How. Hah. I can’t even remember what I get delirious and angry and riled up about. I have no […]

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  2. I, too, am a scanner. I can read people instantly, like a book, even when what comes out of their mouth doesn’t match what I know they’re *really* feeling.

    The stigma attached to mental health issues/mental illness is profound. I work in mental health, and I see it every day. People like you who courageously share your truth are helping combat that stigma. In sharing your story, you’re helping others who struggle know they’re not alone. You’re showing the world that people living with mental illness aren’t to be looked down upon – they are worthy of respect and love, always.

    Thank you for being so brave.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, although… I’m not there yet. I am still only writing about it, and sharing with those who choose to read me. I’m only just recently starting to be more open with people who know me in real life. I’ve always been very good at defending others, but I need to learn to defend myself if I want to help others fight their battles.
      I’ll get there 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. When you spoke of the woman who thought you were drunk, I thought of another customer of ours, and how my young colleague immediately assumed the same. If you’re drunk I can smell it a mile: she was just ill and frustrated with herself :/

      Liked by 1 person

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