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Warning: Self Stigma

written by Bethan Marsh 03/04/2017

Ill mental health can sometimes creep up on you or it can also smack you in the face. It knocks your self esteem back in both cases, and you find yourself struggling to focus on the positives in life, moving from bed doesn’t seem worthwhile. Distraction seems to be key, but finding that motivation and distraction can be both tough, and mentally draining. After a while you see no point in painting on a smile, and hiding behind a lie. You say you’re ok all the time, but it’s not true. You don’t believe it. It just seems easier than admitting the truth to others, and yourself.

Why you lie in bed motivationless is sometimes beyond your control. The worst part is you don’t believe your ‘excuse’, so why should anyone else. You can sometimes be too hard on yourself. I’m aware that I am, but changing the way I think isn’t as easy as acknowledging it. Self-stigma is real, and for me personally it’s always been the biggest battle of all. Nobody ever warned me about self-stigma. As awful as it sounds I was prepared to face negativity from others regarding disclosing my struggles. I had built myself up to believe they would all be dismissive and judgmental, and for the most part I’ve been lucky as that has not been the case. Friends and family have always been there, and supported me. Although I may have faced a few negative comments about how maybe I shouldn’t make my mental health issues public knowledge because it brands me as unsafe and unreliable, I managed to brush that under the carpet. It was somehow easier to deal with than the stigma I’ve faced from myself for as long as I can remember.text_head_copy.jpg

You could say my self-stigma has given me a tough skin, because I spent so long thinking so lowly of myself and my issues, it meant that when others did it, it didn’t surprise me. For so long I thought I was weak, and a lesser person for being unable to deal with my issues in a non-destructive way. I would tell myself that I’ve accepted the bad times, my ragged past, emotional breakdowns, my instabilities, and the pit of anxiety I feel far too regularly. But the truth is, I don’t believe it. I would rather turn a blind eye to those things, brush them under the carpet, pretend they don’t exist. I convince myself I can go on through my day, without having to confront these parts of me. I’ve always seen my mental health issues as a burden to me, a barrier, a restriction, a secret. It’s not healthy. I think to myself, that I must hide my struggles away, deal with them alone, in a way I know I can’t cope with, because of the fear of making others uncomfortable. I don’t want other people to feel like they’re dealing with a ticking time bomb, unsure of when I’m going to be triggered.

For the most part I’m a happy go lucky, come and go, type of person. Always busy, trying to keep my mind active. It works. But sometimes I find myself filling my time table as a distraction. Not allowing myself time to confront the things going on in my head. I start paying less attention to myself, and what my body physically needs. Running on very little sleep, and falling out of a regular eating pattern. I’m always aware when this starts to happen. But whether I admit it to myself is another thing.

Self-stigma, is an issue I am yet to overcome. I shut people out, and isolate myself because of the shame I feel, at being unable to cope with things, as others seem to. I don’t like admitting when I don’t have it under control. I don’t like admitting when my emotions become too much. I don’t like admitting the warning signs are there. I register it, when I’m slipping into a depressive state, but I don’t act on it nor do I work myself out of the situation, I become numb and shut off, like a computer slipping into sleep mode.

Self-stigma, is what stops a lot of people who suffer with ill mental health from reaching out and talking about it. It’s why I didn’t address my issues, until I had no choice. For me, it shouldn’t have ever gotten as bad as it did, but due to the worries I was having about how my friends and family would react negatively to me admitting I wasn’t well, was exactly how I was reacting to myself. I couldn’t see it at the time, but my self-stigma, has been worse than any external stigma I have ever faced. It’s restricted and isolated me.

"I buried myself under my own wall of shame for far too long, and I don’t want others to do the same."

Coming out and talking about it, has never been easy for me. Even today I find it easier to write about things when I’m feeling down. It’s the best way for me personally to get it all out on paper, and make my feelings more profound. It’s a way to validate and acknowledge my feelings, rather than bottling them up and shutting them down. It’s important to validate your feelings. I was my own worst enemy for far too long.

It’s important to remember that sometimes things are under control, and sometimes they’re not.  Although that’s ok, that’s something I still find hard to come to terms with. It’s something I face almost every day. The trouble is self-stigma, is something that will often bubble to the surface, unlike a negative comment from an outsider, it’s harder to shut down.

Through this blog I just wanted to raise awareness about how much of a serious issue self-stigma is. I wish I was warned about the damages it can cause. Reaching out and talking it out as a Time to Change Wales Champion, has really helped me ease some of my self-doubt.

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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