The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

Hello mental health champions, how are you doing? 

This week I faced the question of “What is the hardest part about living with a mental disorder?” Well I can name quite a few but two my biggest: People not understanding/pushing me away because of their fears surrounding mental health and how mental disorders can be chronic and it can be heartbreaking. 

The first part I mentioned is the fact that so many people don’t understand since they haven’t gone through it. It can be so easy to judge someone when you have never experienced something like that yourself. Plus, when I have flare ups, I generally feel like the worst person in the world; so why should other people not think that way about me too?  Growing up, mental disorders were so demonized. Any time anything bad would happen, it always fell on the back of someone struggling with “mental illness”. If I am being honest, I don’t even like that phrase because of the stigma tied to it. Crimes are always done by “mentally ill” people. Now I am not saying that they don’t have mental illnesses when people commit heinous crimes, but it has become associated only with the negative and awful part of mental illness. Psychopathy is what most people have that commit horrific crimes and murders. Psychopathy is loosely classified under Antisocial Personality Disorder although the two are different in many ways. However, Psychopaths, as you may already know, lack human emotion. This is why they feel nothing when they commit murders or other heinous crimes. It is a very serious issue and psychopaths are in the DSM-5 under ASPD. The problem is that every crime seems to have the phrase “mental illness” attached to it. This is why when most people hear mental illness, they think of mass murder, murder, rape, and terrorism. The issue is that according to NCBI, less than 1% of males in the U.S. have psychopathy. However, 17% of men in the U.S. have struggled with depression in their lifetime and 14.3% have experienced anxiety. This goes to show that although bad crimes are almost glamourized and are usually committed by psychopaths or sociopaths, less than 1% of people are actually like this. Whereas combined 31.3% of U.S. males have experienced anxiety and depression. So.. why do we only attach psychopathy to mental illness and demonize the term “mental illness” when it encompasses so much more than just psychopathy? It is so frustrating because I feel like that has given words like mental health, mental illness, and mental disorders such bad reputations. 

Lately, I have been mainly using the term “mental disorder” since I feel like the stigma with this word is better than “illness”. Now that I have rambled on about the statistics behind it all, I want to share my personal experience with worrying about judgement. Like I mentioned, a lot of what worried me was the fact that mental illness had this bad rep. How would people think of me if they knew the intrusive thoughts I have had? I knew it wouldn’t be good and therefore I kept my intrusive thoughts to myself since I was pretty much in 7th grade. The only people that knew I was struggling with these were my immediate family. Not once did any of my friends know. Most of them didn’t know until 2020, yes 2020. When we launched Love-Brain, I knew that I had to become more open about my own mental health struggles. I knew that if I was back in 7th grade, and saw that intrusive thoughts are normal for all people and are just heightened for those with OCD, my whole life would have been different. I spent so many fucking years trying to punish myself for the thoughts I had. I thought I deserved death and other horrible things to happen to me because of the thoughts I was having. If 7th grade me knew that they were normal, I would have healed myself a lot faster and saved so much guilt. I knew that by opening up about my mental health and issues, I may help someone like me. I may be the person a young girl looks up to and knows that she’s not a psychopath or a murderer or predator. When you have intrusive thoughts, they can usually have incredibly dark themes. They usually pop up about the people in your life closest to you. Like I have said before, imagine having the worst possible thoughts a person can have and they’re directed at the people you love and care about the most. It is a fucking prison of torture. 

How the hell would I convey that to someone? How would I tell them that I was thinking these things? How could they not leave me after knowing these things? I definitely will be put into an in-patient facility if they knew these thoughts. The guilt I had was probably the worst feeling I could possibly have. There is nothing like the feeling of guilt that eats away at you. So, in knowing that I would lose everyone I love, I kept these to myself. I didn’t tell Vince or my friends, like I said, till about 2019 and 2020 and some don’t even know still (until they read this). It was so incredibly difficult because I was fighting the hardest and worst battle of my entire life and I couldn’t even tell anyone. I was so alone and in such a dark place and not a soul knew. That’s what’s scary, you guys. That is why you always hear of someone who loses their life to suicide and you say “Well they seemed perfectly happy!” or “There was no way they were depressed, they never showed signs!”. Well let me freaking tell you, I got really good at hiding what I was battling. No one would have known. 

I wanted no one to know for so long. I had already told myself they would leave and I would be alone, again. But they all knew something before I did. They KNEW that the thoughts weren’t actually mine and that I couldn’t control them. They were simply a symptom of my disorder. That didn’t mean I was a bad person, it meant the chemicals in my brain weren’t balanced and that was it. It took me about 9 years to finally learn that. And guess what, not one of my friends left after I told them about my Pure OCD and how it manifests for me. See, the way I look at it now is like this: Would I be mad at a diabetic  because they were shaky since their insulin is low? Would I be mad at a cancer patient since they can’t stop the cells from growing? Would I shame an Asthmatic for having trouble breathing? Would I yell at someone who’s blood pressure is elevated because of their heart condition? The answer to all of these is NO. So why would it be okay for people to judge me from a CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN MY EFFING BRAIN? It wouldn’t be okay. With any illness, though, you still have to wake up everyday and fight. I knew that I also had to work to better my mental health and that although I have a chronic condition, I still have to try and heal myself from time to time. I still have to take responsibility for my actions. My disorder isn’t a free pass to just not try. But it is so important to know that there are so many mental illnesses and tying the phrase just to crimes is so detrimental to our community and the stigma around our community. This is the whole reason we launched this company. We want to end the stigma around mental health and show people that having a mental disorder is so common and not as taboo as people think. I want people to know that it is okay to have a mental health disorder and that it doesn’t define your character! 

Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3

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