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Readers Respond: How Has Stigma Affected You?

Responses: 84

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Updated October 22, 2009

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. Share Your Stories

"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

I really value your comments

I've been lucky that I had my job 11 years before being diagnosed and didn't lose it but retired. With 1 in 6 having mental issues.it's easy to find ones with the same issue in a setting where you don't worry about being fired. I have tried to be a voice but the barracades are growing with the ignorance at a all time level. Our mental health advocacy groups jumping on the backs of evil to get federal funding passed is not helping us out. They may get their funding but the barracades are pushing us back to the dark ages. We need a voice. We need it now. If your meds don't work, change them and change them until you get it right. Don't hesitate to complain. People are acting crazy when it comes to us. The public has you wearing it but don't wear it in your view of yourself. I made the mistake of letting my physicians know I was bipolar. My psychiatrist said that is a stupid thing to do. they are very ignorant when it comes to mental illness. As a story above shows; she suffered greatly
—Guest Debby Hamidian

Some stigma

Although I have told people I am bipolar and they seem understanding, I still think they would be more sympathetic with my not being at work, etc., if I had a physical illness. I'd give anything not have panic attacks and cry all the time.
—Guest Guest

Discrimination in the nursing field

I am a nurse in the Southeastern United States. I have had bipolar disorder for the last 2 decades. I also happen to be a mother, a wife, a daughter, etc. Because I was honest about my disorder when I applied for my license, I was deemed automatically "impaired", and subjected to a program in which I am supposed to acheive "recovery" through invasive reports and meetings. In this program are medical professionals (anyone one from a nurse to a doctor) who have stolen drugs from patients, had numerous DUIs, and other real crimes. My crime is having a psychiatric illness which has been stable for a very long time. It's hard to find a job because people automatically assume that you are going to be an issue. I'm a great nurse, and want to be judged on my merits! You can't treat people with substance abuse the way you treat people with psychiatric illnesses. I wish more people were better informed.
—Guest Bipolar nurse

Pemmy

I had an eye opening experiece over the past 2 months. For 2 years, I had so much pain in my chest, that I was sent to the coronary care unit for 2 days. I had every test under the sun and they were all negative. I knew something was physical was wrong. I saw 4 diffrent doctors , excluding my pdoc. My pdoc said it was anxiety and put me on lexapro. Every other doctor I saw frustrated me; as soon as they saw my bipolar 1 diagmosis, they dismissed my complaints and told me it was either from anxiety or my bipolar meds. I had alot of ativan and was eating them like candy, cause the pain was overwhelming. I thought that this is how the rest of my life was going to be. When I was rushed to the ER with a possible heart attack, it was the greatest thing thst has happenef lately. My GP orderef an ultrasound and Hida Scan of my gallbladder. I had a non funvtioning gallbladder. I went those years suffering due to stigma
—Guest Penny D'Andrea

life-long fight

I have battled mental illness since I was eight. I wanted to die. I was called stupid and different. I felt alone even though I wasn't always. But even with a parent and a sibling with even more extreme bipolarity than me, I felt misunderstood. I am also a recovering alcoholic, and the saddest moments of my new found recovery have been when sometimes people consider the medications I take as dangerous as alcoholism because it's "altering substance." These are some of the most tolerant people I have ever known, but then it's "Lithium's dangerous." (yes, it is if you don't have good med management, which I do.) "Taking a benzo is like taking a drink." Perhaps if I took it for emotional effect. But I take it so I can breathe and think and be civil, and I don't do it unless I absolutely need to and I've exhausted other means. It's hard to be different because people can figure it out, but it does not make me or anyone else any less, even the people who give me grief about my illness. -MF
—Guest Mondefalke

Losing my job

I had always wanted to work as a writer. I finally got my chance when hired as a medical writer for a training company. I worked there seven years and was promoted and given several good raises. Then, I develped an allergy to the one med I had been taking for ten years and that had been so effective. I tried new meds, but the first two didn't have any effect. After several weeks, my new boss, who was an RN, asked me what was wrong. I foolishly broke down and told her I had bipolar disorder and that I couldn't find a med that would work. That was the end for me. I was first demoted, then fired. Afterwards, I chose not so sue because of the ordeal I knew it would be. I had to go on disability, but I was able to write my memoir then, Sugar and Salt. Since then I have written two more boos about heipng bipolar. My lats is Reboot: A Novel of Bipolar Disorder
—Guest Jane Thompson

Wildflower

My first thought of suicide was when I was 12. My family was very dysfunctional and the only attention I got was negative. I didn't know that I was a stigma until I was diagnosed at age 37. Now that it's a known fact, I have lost my career, friends, family, the love of my life and my purpose. I don't feel worthy of anyone ever wanting to love these damaged goods that I posses. Doctors, nurses, police, everyone stigmatizes this disorder. I have been hospitalized several times for medication errors, and I have had 4 very serious suicide attempts. My neighbors talk, point and stare. They were home when the ambulances came for me. I have gotten in contact with some of the friends I lost and tried to educate them, but it's the same old story... you did it for attention, snap out of it, get over it. I say to these people... walk a day in my shoes and in my head and see what it's like before you judge me! To all of my BP family, you are who you are and that's what makes you beautiful!
—Guest BiPolar Bug

dumped due to recovered BPD

i was in a great relationship once, since i had made so much progress with my mental health and BPD i can almost say im recoverd, no more bad coping habbits, although i have my bad days, but they are few and far between, so i told my boyfreind, why i have so many old scars and why i some times had bad days. i told him what i've already writen and he dumps me the next day, he says i should of told him earlyer, but in my mind i dont see whats changed i was never horrible, never dangerously impulsive, manipulative ect, and he loved me before i told him, it was always there and i entered into a relationship AFTER i had got my head sorted, i just dont understand the change of heart. thats all, any one else had a similar experiences? im guessing he only read the bed things about BPD and thought i was just a ticking time bomb.
—Guest claire

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.
—AnneInside55

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.
—kidchamp69

"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

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