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Stigma - Recovering from Mental Illness

Let's face it: there are a lot of aspects of mental illness that can be traumatic, and mental health misdiagnosis can also be traumatic. What happens when we don't even have the mental illness we think we have? I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six years ago, found out that diagnosis was incorrect two years ago, and now a huge part of my recovery is dealing with the fallout and trauma of that misdiagnosis.
Recently, I've learned that behavior that is convenient for others is not always healthy behavior for me. I was taught at a young age that my natural reactions to things were "overdramatic" or "wrong" and so I started to hide my real reactions and feelings. I got very good at doing what I was "supposed" to do and being the way I felt I was "supposed" to be. Over time, I became much more concerned with making sure my behavior was convenient for others rather than healthy for me.
Is it possible to be grateful for mental illness? Some days, I hate having mental health issues and would do almost anything to make them go away forever. But other days, on my better recovery days, I'm almost grateful for my mental illness. It feels weird to be grateful for something that makes me so miserable so often, but at the same time, I think it's the natural result of living with a chronic condition. After all, the reality is that I can't make my mental illness go away, so I might as well find some silver linings.
Halloween mental health stigma can be especially harmful and offensive. For some reason, many people still believe "asylum" themes are appropriate for their haunted houses and costumes like "escaped mental patient" are fun because they get to wear a straightjacket. I believe stigmatizing mental illness in your Halloween celebration only serves to ostracize and insult an already vulnerable group of people, and it is time for it to end.
The stigma of attention-seeking behavior is everywhere. How many times have you heard someone dismissively say something like, "They're just doing it for the attention."? We talk about attention-seeking behavior like it's a low, manipulative trick when in reality, it's just the manifestation of a deeply-human need.
It's really okay to be lazy sometimes. Many of us with mental illness have been called lazy at one time or another due to the symptoms of our mental illness. When people don't understand our symptoms, they often try to shame us into simply not being mentally ill anymore by saying we're just being lazy or aren't trying hard enough. "Lazy" then transforms from a simple descriptive word to a powerful tool of shame. "Lazy" becomes the worst thing we could possibly be, and many of us avoid it at any cost. But the truth is, those of us with mental illness can be just as lazy as anybody else.
Unfortunately, stigma is real, and it's dangerous. It is visible in public, and it comes full circle affecting patients and professionals alike. Stigma keeps mental illness in the dark and misunderstood, and often prevents sufferers from seeking the help they need.
My psychosis story is a huge part of my life. I have experienced hallucinations for as long as I can remember. As a teenager and young adult, finding explanations for what I was seeing and hearing became my quest.
My diagnosis validates my experience and makes my mental illness feel real. Schizoaffective disorder accurately describes my symptoms. I wanted a name and to know it can be treated.
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in my early 20s, and since then I’ve received many different reactions when disclosing my mental illness. Many people are supportive. Others are curious. Sometimes I face mental health stigma. Writing for HealthyPlace means my diagnosis is out there for anyone to see. I’m fine with that because I want to help and I want to fight stigma. However, in my day-to-day life, I choose whom I want to tell and when I want to tell them. Here are a few of the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences with disclosing my mental illness diagnosis, not necessarily in that order.