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Readers Respond: How Has Stigma Affected You?

Responses: 76


Updated June 29, 2014

From the article: Mental Illness Stigma
Mental illness stigma is something often encountered by people with bipolar disorder. Has it affected your life? Have you been discriminated against, or treated badly just because someone knew you had a mental illness, even when you showed no symptoms? Tell your story.

"Lucky Me"

I am a 14 year old girl and was diagnosed with Bi-Polar when I was just 12, though my family, especially my mother, suspected it ever since I was a very young child..... I received medication (which is still being adjusted) and therapy through our local hospital psychiatrist, and since I had my therapy during school hours, being called out of class frequently, I was always ashamed of my Bi-Polar, especially since I already had been diagnosed with ADD (not ADHD, there is a difference). All through my grade 7 year, and through most of grade 8, I concealed my 'mental illness' until last year, I began telling some of my classmates upon which one admitted OCD while another told me they had a learning disability. They thought my condition was no big deal. Encouraged by their obvious acceptance, I told all of my close friends first, and I was especially glad at my best friends reply: "Meg's, I'm Bi-Polar...." She looked at me for a second, then replied: "Ok. So what?"
—Guest Charly

"Lucky Me"

I was so glad that she simply didn't care whether I was Bi-Polar or not. She has never changed her attitude towards me, and neither has she begun treating me strangely. After this I begun telling my teachers and others. At a drama school I went to during one summer, I admitted both my 'Mental illnesses' to the class, and I found that most of them had some type of mental illness or disability as well, and they all still treated me the same. Now most everyone I know, knows the conditions I have, and I am still treated pretty much the same, and people respect that I had the 'guts' to tell them and come out with it. The reason I was diagnosed this early was probably because of my family's history with Bi-Polar (My father, brother, and grandmother were all diagnosed with it) and I am glad I was diagnosed so very early. I am receiving treatment and feel, well, mostly 'normal' ever since I came out with my little secret. I know most people aren't as lucky, but everyone, there is hope!
—Guest Charly

Educated means understanding?

I was a professor at a state university for six years. Then the depression of bipolar hit and I had to go on leave. When I returned to work I was told I had to sign a statement that I would not disclose my diagnosis or symptoms to other faculty, staff or students. I am sure if I had returned from having a heart attack I would not have been told I had to sign a statement in order to return to work. Are educated people less stigmatizing. Not in my experience.

Relationship Disaster

I have found that men tend to run away when they hear you suffer from severe depression. I also suffer severe mood swings. All my relationships have been disasters. I long for a man who is supportive and just loves me unconditionally, but I have been so unlucky at love due to this condition. Depression is pretty much equal to loneliness.

"Life unworthy of life"

I came from an extremely dysfunctional family upbringing that included substance abuse and domestic violence among numerous other problems. I am now 26, a college graduate, and unemployed, in fact never employed due to my fear of being "found out" and potentially fired. My mother herself was blackballed out of a job and any further employment after she suffered a meltdown caused by my father's abusiveness toward her and the fact he was cheating on her. As such I feel that employers -- especially since this is still "a man's world" -- would be more uncompassionate towards me were I to seek employment simply because I would fit the stereotype of the emotionally labile woman. I am very intelligent, creative, and articulate, as many BP sufferers are, but sadly will never be able to utilize my gifts because I do not fit the paradigm of society. I have since come to agree with the Nazis' evaluation of the mentally ill such as myself: "Lebensuwertes leben," or "Life unworthy of life." :-(
—Guest Anonymous

Turned Down For Volunteer Jobs

When I was in my 20's I tried to volunteer to hold babies with AIDS. I could not hold a regular job due to my instability as a bipolar person but was ecstatic about being able to do something within my reach, love and nurture babies no one else wanted to touch. I was turned down solely on the basis of having bipolar mood disorder. I wish I had not told the coordinator. I cried miserably over this. Another time I was turned down for a volunteer job at a library simply because I was living in a group home for the mentally ill. I have a stellar work record with awards and letters of commendation from those I served. I am a straight A student and have lots of experience working in University libraries. Still, this small town library would not give me a chance. It was humiliating. People make assumptions about us based solely on our diagnoses without considering our individual gifts, talents, and intelligence. I want to find a way to fight this stigma. Thank you.
—Guest Brigitte A. Gleason

Stigma like being in a desert

I once was employed as a college teacher. I wondered why my salary was withheld and i was just advised to apply for a cash advance, only to know later on that i was placed on probation because i was the talk among my colleagues that i have mental illness. Not before long, i was advised to go on leave. To save myself, i resigned. It was a big trauma that since then i have not applied for a job employment. Now, i just live on a meager income from money investment. Being bipolar, i am treated like a criminal. I just pray a lot and trust in the ever goodness of the LORD. I pray to for intercession by the Blessed Mother and esp. to St. Dymphna, who is the patron saint for the mentally ill. Praise and thank GOD i have been in remission for 4 years now and i don't mind anymore what people think of me.
—Guest sandra88


I'm writing from another perspective. A friend of mine has been in denial for over twnety years, has avoided a di I've seen her cycle, see therapists, drop them for one reason or another, go on and off medicines which she now she refuses to take. Though I've always understood, as my mother was bi- polar, I've reached my threshold. either get the proper diagnosis and treatment instead of being afraid of three words , or continue to alienate those around you, continue with a history of job and relationship instability. we all have a choice to change the trajectory of our lives, have healthy relationships. Most sensitive, intelligent people will not reject those with this illness. it's the twenty first century- how lucky! be fair- get treatment so your friends and family are not suffering more than necessary either. at a certain point, they will no longer be willint.
—Guest rosie

hopefully a future bipolar nurse

Well, I'm still working on it- I hope discrimination doesn't put a stop to those dreams. You see, after 20 years, I 'm no longer anonymous. Lithium's anti-cholinergic effects have changed my facial features-my eyelids droop like I have myasthenia gravis* (their's also droop due to anti-cholinergic effects). *No offense to those who suffer from that disease. Weight gain/ metabolic rate syndrome hasn't helped either. I definitely have the grimace (read Dr. Breggin), I don't smile much. Twenty years since I was diagnosed, the last 10 when side-effects caught up w/ me have been the worst. Ten years ago when I was pretty, I dated and married a guy who always said he didn't care if I was bipolar and he still wanted to have kids with me...less than a year into our marriage he said he never wanted to have kids w/ me. Six years of courtship and two of marriage and I divorced him. Now bipolar disorder is always my litmus test- who will marry me and have children w/me when I tell them (?)

"Lucky Me"

The people that are worth it, the important people, they will accept you for who you are, the way you are. The truth is, we all, we with Bi-Polar or ADD, or ADHD, or Anxiety Disorder etc, WE are the normal ones. All those people usually considered 'normal' are the strange ones, because if you think about it, the norm is for people to have or develop some type of disability/illness/deformity. Yes we will be treated as outcasts sometimes; I get that kind of treatment too, by kids my age and actually, by a couple of my teachers etc, but remember and take encouragement from the fact there is hope and that we aren't actually 'crazy' or 'ill' or 'volatile.' (Not usually anyways ;) ) I wish everyone could be as lucky as I have been, but I guess that's just "Lucky Me." I wish all of you good luck. I am glad that I'm not alone with my conditions/disorders, and I hope that soon, we'll all be accepted the way we should be, though it is unlikely. I am Bi-Polar, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. :)
—Guest Charly

Mental Illness Stigmas Time to Grow UP

I grew up always wanting to at least try and see the best in people. When I discovered through many ups and downs I am Bipolar. I even took the time to research it so hoperully better understand and help myself. What I did not antiicipate are the still existing stigmas and total ignorance and where it came from. First my family who assist I should be cured by now ?? (I wish) Then there are others who start off acting like a friend until I comes up then they have no more to do with me then they have to and all of a sudden, keep there distance. My own attorney has done just about everything not to have to do anything to do with me then necessary. All that I am speaking of is so abrupt the change of attitude can not be missed.

stuff em do what i can

I was diagnosed in 2000 after i freaked about the millinium bug ie had psycosis.Went to a family bbq when i got out and mentioned i had bipolar at the dinner table10 people got up so fast and went to the kitchen to wash up. i was the only one left at the table to my amazement. All really nice people but oh so ignorent.Ive tried to talk about my condition since to my inlaw family many times since but they look get realy freaked out.i The trouble is i get so down about it and angry, to the stage where its putting bulk pressure on my 27year fragile mariage, some people are realy nice arseholes,out.
—Guest die hard surfn anzac

Ridiculed, scorned, ripped off.

After my parents died, my abusive siblings, cotrustees of my trust, used my diagnosis as grounds to justify ripping me off my substantial inheritance. I was diagnosed bipolar as a teen. I'm unsure there is such a thing as "bipolar." New studies show there is no scientific evidence "drugs" work. The only thing that helps is surrounding myself with loving people who are not imbeciles, who support my goals, and appreciate who I am as a person. People who spend the most time with me over the years say there is nothing wrong with me; there's something wrong with the bullies. I learned in therapy emotional harm I suffered was caused by familial abuse. My acting out as a young person was learned behavior from older siblings who never grew up. Decades later they claim being bipolar disqualifies me from having inheritance despite the fact there's no legal basis. They drained my trust; bought themselves luxury cars and yachts. I can't find work in this economy and face homelessness.

Guest Girl

I don't follow the majority that BP, or any other illness should be stigmatized. I think 'a large part of the stigma' comes from those diagnosed with any mental illness...if we don't share symptoms and behaviours, then we become those that stigmatize. There is no shame in any mental illness, the shame is in not seeking help, lying to our pdocs, not following medical advice. Why do many people accept the stigma surrounding BP? Cancer patients have no stigma, even those that have been a catalyst in their illness (smokers with lung cancer, sun worshippers with skin cancers). Their illness may be pitied and treatment dealt with compassion. I will not stigmatize my illness, thus refusing to accept it from others. Do you want people that negate your worth, because of something beyond your control, in your life? No thanks, I would rather keep them at a distance, but never permanently exclude them from my life. An eye for an eye makes the world blind.

I hold my breath

I'm 46 and was dx'd at 34. I've heard that I am "overly dramatic", "tiring", "wound up". I am so embarrassed that I hate going to Dr.s, dentists, etc. because I hate having to answer medical questions and disclose my medicine. My husband has said, "do you think it's your pills?", "did you take your pills?", "I didn't sign up for this.";"Why can't you smile?". That makes me just feel great. It seems like "bipolar" is thrown around as a word to encompass anyone who gets angry or does something "crazy" - I hear, "I think they must be bipolar". I secretly cringe because I know that if they knew about my illness, they would feel really embarrased by the things they have said. So, I stay silent. I hate going to the pharmacy and having the pharmacist ask a question about a med loud enough for everyone to hear. I hate having a moment of panic/anxiety/rage - and feeling in that moment that I have no control- but then 1/2 hour later feeling fine. I hate me sometimes!
—Guest Segerfan

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