Stigma Free and Me

Did you know that 1 in 5 people lives with a mental illness? And 1 out of 17 people has a severe mental illness such as Bipolar or Schizophrenia? When we use percentages, the numbers don’t sound as astonishing. 80% of people don’t have a mental illness. Sounds like a hefty majority, right? But when we start talking in terms of people, (1 out of  5 and 1 out of 17) mental illness touches every family and every social circle. There’s no need for stigma. Let’s end it.

There are those spans of time when I forget I have a mental illness. Life moves along in a comfortable way, where it’s not necessary to think about every step. It’s during these spans of time that I am free–free of the illness and free from the stigma.  And I gratefully enjoy the same highs and lows common to everyone.

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But then it happens. That moment that takes you right back to the shame. And you feel your eyes cast downward. Most recently, that moment came when I had to tell the perfectly friendly young pharmacy tech that I was switching my medication.

“Nope, I don’t need the anti-seizure medicine anymore, (you know, that kind drug that also conveniently happens to treat Bipolar so no one has to know), I’m switching to the anti-psychotic. (yup, I said psychotic).”

And on my walk home it hit me. I’m not stigma free. I live like I am, most of the time. And I want to be free. But I’m still carrying the shame. I’m determined to get there, though, and to help the world get there.

With Love,

Alyssa


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