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 Post subject: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:19 pm 
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There doesn't seem to be a catch-all thread that this fits in to, so I'm starting a new one. If I'm mistaken, mods, please feel free to move this. I just read this heartbreaking article about a British GP who wrote candidly on her blog about having bipolar disorder. One of her patients complained (presumably under the foolish belief that someone with bipolar could not be an effective healthcare provider), she was suspended, and she took her own life.

I think the last 10 years or so have been really powerful in terms of breaking down the walls of silence and shame around mental illness, but like so many struggles, there are tragic incidences like this that show how far we still have to go. I think shame and stigma played an enormous role in exacerbating my mental illness and in hindering my journey towards effective treatment, and I think there are many others who can say the same. While certainly the doctor's suspension was only one of many factors in the suicide, I can't help but hurt for this person who was bravely being honest about who she was, only to be rejected and punished.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:18 pm 
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Goodness, that article is horrifying. She lived in my area too, apparently. I guess my area is particularly bad stigma wise.

I came across this article last week when researching my GP. The basics - a young woman with mental illness was ignored and not taken seriously when she was very sick, she died just days after seeing the GP. The GP who, as of now, is still running the same practice. The result of the hearing? The GP in question is "caring and conscientious" therefore no action needed be taken.

Really shocks me the attitude to mental health in this country. Just in this thread we have two stories relating to mental health stigma both in the same vicinity!

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 3:15 pm 
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I just read today about a vet who shot himself in the parking lot of a VA hospital because (according to anon sources) he couldn’t be seen in the ER for a mental health issue.

It is heartbreaking how many vets kill themselves because they don’t want to believe they have a mental disorder. CTE presents as a mental health issue, I wish that emphasis could be made while the guys are active duty.

And Hope Solo, not to excuse her actions which are horrid but I would put money on her having CTE.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 5:18 pm 
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Stigma is a massive part of why I get so unwell. And it all comes from mental health professionals. I done part of my postgrad work on barriers to mental health recovery and stigma was a big part of it.

I'm hoping to do a blog on mental health difficulties, working in mental health and stigma at some point for a national anti stigma campaign.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:27 pm 
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Same, DC. I get that stigma is being actively broken down, but I still experience it in my daily life. I am terrified to disclose to my employer about my disorder, or tell them when I can't make it in sometimes it's because I am literally paralyzed in panic and can't move. I always just say I have a migraine or the flu.

I wish that I could talk more candidly about it all. The shame I feel around it is so real and is definitely a contributing factor to me letting it get so bad that I'm near hospitalization sometimes.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 6:43 pm 
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stigma and employment is so so huge.

Saying that, in my new job I had the option of disclosing that I had a disability and what type it was on my application for a guaranteed interview. So I did and disclosed it was recurrent depression. I not only got the interview but I left pretty much sure I probably got it and had the offer the next morning. Because work were being asparagi and not agreeing to discuss my sick leave with new employer (all they wanted to know was that it was fully certified and policy was followed) that my own GP had to write a letter, well he offered. Anyway, it gave the full nature of my sick leave, my diagnosis, the management plan and the prognosis (which will improve dramatically when I move). The email from the manager stated she had absolutely no concerns about my health and that if I could start as soon as I liked as it sounded like I really needed the move.

So, there's a positive one to give some hope!

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2016 5:40 pm 
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Yes, this. I've been feeling this a lot lately. I work in disability and it still feels like such a huge thing to deal with - I've been feeling revolting with tapering off meds recently, and instead of telling my clients what's actually going on (because they've noticed I've been a bit off) I've been saying "Oh, I just haven't been sleeping well" or something. I'm so scared that they'll lose trust in my abilities as a support worker if they know that I have some pretty severe mental illness going on.

One of my clients also recently characterised mental illness as "not coping well with things" (he was talking about a family member who is mentally ill, in a way that requires pretty consistent care from social workers etc). He talked about his family member's diagnosis, which is also the same as my own brother has, and it's very likely that it's one of the issues I have too. It just made my heart sink, because it's not "not coping well", it's a forking illness that you can't really control without lots of help. I actually have incredibly good coping skills, considering the huge heaping of nonsense my brain serves me on a daily basis, and I'm proud that I've developed much healthier coping mechanisms than I used to have.

I'm tired of casual lies like, "Oh I'm not available for that shift unfortunately because I have a meeting [aka counselling appointment]". Because somehow having a meeting makes it sound more legitimate? Or when clients ask what I've been up to, I've been "busy with meetings and work" instead of "struggling to get out of bed on my days off". Of course I feel like it's unprofessional to unload on my clients, but it is also exhausting to essentially pretend to be someone I'm not so consistently.

Feeling for everyone else in this thread who's also dealing with stigma, especially managing that in the workplace. DC, it sounds like it's been so horrendous for you and I'm so stoked that you're getting out of that environment!

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:23 pm 
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I hate it when people without mental health issues talks about mental illness/mental health problems. I was at a dinner party the other night, and this girl talked about a woman in science who did some pretty illegal and immoral stuff in her research and then was on a television show where she acted super strange.
And then she said "I'm sure she has a personality disorder". This girl is going to be a doctor in a year. WHAT THE fork. I have a personality disorder and I don't do shiitake like that. And you really can't diagnose people like that. Sure, something might be wrong with her. But equating doing forked up stuff with mental illness is SUCH a stigmatizing thing to do.

My list of mental health problems is pretty long (eating disorder, depression, anxiety, a few hypomanic episodes, personality disorder, clinical stress and the list goes on, I've basically been in therapy on and off for 15 and I'm 27) and I still manage to get along with my life without lying and cheating or being a bad person.
Some stuff is just harder to do, and sometimes I need help finding a balance (it can be medical help or therapeutic help) because I get off balance easier than other people. And sometimes I struggle more than most people experience.
But I also manage to live a fulfilling life, I'm good at my job, I have friends, relationships, I am ambitious and well liked both in school and at my job. I care about other people, the environment and leaving the planet better of than when I arrived here.
People rarely guess that I have mental health issues. And I really have to get past my own reluctance to disclose it, when people say shiitake like "I'm sure she has a personality disorder" about criminals.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 10:02 pm 
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I always feel like I am floating in no man's land with mental illness. I grew up in a family deeply affected by my sister's paranoid schizophrenia. My sister's illness was the center of everything. She was in and out of hospitals, group homes, treatments. My sister was never "normal". She needed so much help. And she was very very angry at me, the younger sister, because she thought I had everything she wanted. She thought I was normal. I was the younger sister, the quiet one who did everything she was told, who sacrificed her own needs for her sister (going to family therapy, helping out around the house so my parents could juggle work and my sister's needs, putting my emotional needs aside because the family was too taxed to deal with any more). I was the "easy" kid to take care of. My Dad and my sister fought terribly. My Dad did not understand my sister. My Dad, with PTSD and obsessive compulsive disorder. My sister didn't fit into his neat little world of compulsions and order. My mother, with multiple personality disorder, dealing with her past trauma and PSTD. I was the "normal" kid, so shy, quiet, nice, together. Oh, but I didn't have it together. I was beaten by my sister when we were alone, with a knife to my throat once, and choked so hard my necklace broke off another time. I was forcibly locked out of the house by my sister when we were alone, which was often because my parents were divorced, Dad lived in his own world, Mom was earning her PhD and working full time, babysitters we had were teenagers more interested in phone conversations with friends when they showed up at all. I kept quiet because I was terrified of my sister and of the world and my Dad. I kept quiet because I was expected to. That's how I dealt with everything. It worked until I entered adulthood. My fears, my avoidant personality disorder, my terrible anxiety got the best of me so that I could not complete college. I could not hold down a job more than a few months. In and out of hospitals, halfway houses, shiitake jobs. I fell into alcohol abuse for a few years, went through countless detoxes and treatments, and finally got the attention of my parents, albeit only briefly, and they were quite angry at me for being so rebellious and awful. Later it was anorexia, and literally physically disappearing. I was no stranger to sacrifice. I held the illusion I had it all together, but I wore my illness literally on my sleeve. And of course, misunderstood illness that anorexia is, I was called "vain", and "people pleaser". Doesn't matter. Eventually, after years of self deprivation and starving, bulimia became inevitable, and with it, even worse shame. It took a long hard battle to overcome my eating disorder, but deep down I am still that vulnerable little girl, terrified of everything, dealing with life by avoiding, though I have gotten better at facing life head on (I am going for my second coding certification in two weeks for example, and sick with fear of failing). I still need my parents, anyone, to love me, to notice I exist, but to be kind and gentle with me because I still feel so very fragile. The more visible (ie weight restored) I am, the more invisible I seem to have become, back to being the "strong" one in the family. The anxiety of dealing with social situations daily, of worrying about people finding out the true failure and stupid idiot I really am, is exhausting.

Hence, I don't quite fit the "mentally ill" label that my sister has, yet I don't feel I really fit with "normal" either. I seem to need more down time than a bat to function in society the rest of the time. I need three hours in the morning to work myself up to facing work, the gym, life. I need to self destruct and punish (I'm an ankle cutter but keep it discreet and wear socks a lot) to bear the guilt that hangs on to me every day, from the time I was a little girl. I used to smoke and drink to deal with my anxiety and guilt. Then it was starving and then throwing up. Sometimes it is still exercising like a maniac. Or controlling numbers in regards to food and scale. But those don't work anymore. There is a voice I carry that has gotten stronger over the years, and I draw on her when it is all too much, and so far she has pulled me through some really tough times. But I don't trust her 100%. I have very few friends, only a few acquaintance at work. My Mom and sister are very close and I am not privy to their world. My Dad is impossible to get close to. Some days i think I am going to go insane from loneliness and need for love and acceptance. yet the slightest bit that is shown to me, I have a hard time trusting, and it is too much and i have to escape into my head. Or I chase after troubled men who i know can never love me back. I work hard at pretending to be normal, but it's the little things that give me away. How to end a conversation with someone at work. How to pretend to feel anything when someone shares pics of their baby. How to make small talk. How to be there for others when they need emotional support. Even on a professional level, how to string together a sentence when I am so completely terrified. Like last week when I forced myself to introduce myself to the director of the cancer center, whom I code for regularly as an infusion coder. She was giving a presentation I was required to be at. I wanted to connect with her, wanted her to know I am passionate about the work I do and the work the cancer center is doing, but instead I made a complete fool of myself stumbling on intruductions and sounding fake and rehearsed. It was awful. this is my reality, and by the time I get home from work I am exhausted emotionally and physically. I take no meds (I have terrible sensitivities to so many drugs, vitamins etc). My only way to cope is exercise, dancing alone, escaping through music. I usually do that in the morning when I have energy.

For years I was in mental hospitals, treatments (for major depression, anxiety, alcohol, anorexia...), halfway houses. Going back to school and finding decent jobs was a nightmare due to gaps in employment history. I used to go to a support group on my own on Monday nights. I always feel out of place, never as sick or mentally ill as the people I am with in these places, but not quite "normal" either. I don't do social outings (though I have belonged to a vegan meetup group since last November and have made myself go to about six meetups so far, awkward as it always turns out). I don't eat out, don't go to many family get togethers. I don't have tons of friends. It took me 27 years to earn a two year college degree and a coding certification. And I only succeeded finally because online schooling became a reality in the last decade and made it possible. Brick and mortar was too much. So much so I had an episode of psychosis, a complete mental breakdown, in 1995. If I were to tell people at work in my coding department I spent time in a padded room and peed in a cup at night, or heard voices at one point during my break with reality, they would never believe it. I am indeed an introvert to the extreme, but I still play the quiet nice helpful girl next door pretty well. I am no one's first choice of someone to talk to, but I am always there and available when other friends aren't around and a coworker needs someone to talk to. I don't dare ask the same of others because you know, rejection is still a very hard pill to swallow. This is my pathetic reality, and I have accepted it will always be this way. For now, at least I am trying, and functioning.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 5:32 am 
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smoothie wrote:
Some stuff is just harder to do, and sometimes I need help finding a balance (it can be medical help or therapeutic help) because I get off balance easier than other people. And sometimes I struggle more than most people experience.
But I also manage to live a fulfilling life, I'm good at my job, I have friends, relationships, I am ambitious and well liked both in school and at my job. I care about other people, the environment and leaving the planet better of than when I arrived here.
People rarely guess that I have mental health issues. And I really have to get past my own reluctance to disclose it, when people say shiitake like "I'm sure she has a personality disorder" about criminals.

Amen. Good for you. And hugs to everyone else in this thread.

I have a bully boss who squeezed some gossip (about myself) out of me because her stigma about mental health is blinding. I was devastated, as I should be, and the way she framed it as "caring about me" rather than just confirming some projection tied up in her own shiitake is gross. Fortunately I have a great therapist. If that boss ever got over herself enough to get a therapist, she'd be coping a whole lot better than judging and obsessing over other people.

As I told my therapist, if everyone knew how life-changing it can be to have a good therapist, they'd stop with the whole "oh, but I'm not "CRAZY!" thing, but then there wouldn't be enough good therapists to go around, so fork 'em.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 7:46 am 
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~Sz wrote:
It is heartbreaking how many vets kill themselves because they don’t want to believe they have a mental disorder. CTE presents as a mental health issue, I wish that emphasis could be made while the guys are active duty.



(emphasis mine)

I'm not sure about this. I think plenty of them know they have a mental disorder. I think long waits for help, unhelpful "help", and feeling like mental illness is weakness you can't reconcile with the rest of how you view yourself are bigger factors (at least for post-Vietnam vets).

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 10:33 am 
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There aren't enough good therapists to go around. There is a pretty big shortage. I don't have $400/hr to pay, so I just deal with the fact that my life is worth nothing due to my untreated illness.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:32 am 
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My most recent ex was an army vet who'd done one or two (I forget) tours in Afghanistan- he actually heard the explosions that killed bin Laden. I think comparatively, he got out of it pretty well- the only noticeable affect his service had on him were that he/we got well out of town on the 4th of July and NYE because fireworks are triggering/terrifying for him. That said, he had some unrelated mental health issues (anxiety and depression), and took the decision to seek treatment through the VA. Our local (SF) VA is fantastic- it does not fall into the stereotypes that follow most VA hospitals, and the ex has always claimed to receive prompt and effective treatment there. Even so, however, his experience with an army psych was extremely dispiriting, and although he didn't feel his issues had been addressed, he was loathe to go back once he'd finished his 'round' of appointments. I can't imagine how much more challenging and difficult it would be to get help through the VA, even a 'good' VA like our local one, with more severe issues that impact your day-to-day life. It's heartbreaking that anyone should suffer like this, but our country's veterans, most of whom are suffering as a direct result of their service, it's just inexcusable.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:43 am 
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The army base here at least has good people, most actual military doctors trained in combat issues, not civilian contractors. It is a really huge problem and hasn't been helped by bipartisan cuts to military health care.

My dad's claims involving agent Orange exposure were tossed because his stuff was classified and could therefore not be released to serve as proof he was where he was.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 1:28 pm 
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Sending you hugs, Robinwomb.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 7:39 pm 
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Wallace22 wrote:
Sending you hugs, Robinwomb.


Thank you Wallace!

And hugs back to all in this thread too!

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:01 pm 
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I've been reading this thread and identifying with so much of it. I don't think I have much to add to it yet. But thank you everyone for posting as you have. I can't think of anything more uncomfortable than two people each suffering their own difficulties with being in public and being forced to socialize with each other while trying to pretend their best that they're "normal". I like that the internet breaks down that barrier.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:52 am 
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I think this fits here.

I've been having chest pains lately, passed out a couple of times and I went to the doctors over it. The doctor prescribed me some medication and said to see if it helps, and to come back. It didn't help so today I went back. Had to see a different doc cos the other one wasn't in.

Anyway the doctor heard about my symptoms, did my blood pressure (too low) and listened to me. Then he decided to check my records for blood test results. He came across the records showing I see a psychiatrist.

Him: "Why do you see a psychiatrist?"

Me: "is it relevant here?"

Him: "Yes"

Me: "(my reasons for seeing a psych)"

Him: "Well I think then that your pains are probably just anxiety related, you should wait until you next see your psychiatrist.

I kicked up a bit of a stink because I just did see my psychiatrist, he knows all about my physical symptoms and does not believe them to be anxiety related. But of course the moment the GP saw "psych history" in my records he jumped to "A-ha it must be anxiety". A few years ago I ended up in hospital with a kidney infection when the same thing happened (was told it was "just anxiety")

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:34 am 
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I have the worst medical records. They make me seem like an utter mess, but are mostly a conflation of ignorance and crisis. My current GP is THE BEST about treating me as me now, but once I went to the ER for a medical issue and the doctor on duty prescribed me three pills of ativan after having pharmacy staff call around and make sure I wasn't a prescription drug addict. I didn't need ativan, but I was sent home with a three pill prescription. I didn't fill it--I called my GP the next day and he helped treat the medical issue that I had, which was, incidentally, also a kidney infection. All I needed was an antibiotic, not a thorough paparazzi read-through of my mental health.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:28 pm 
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I just saw that Britney Spears has a new album out. I really rooted for her to have a good comeback. That poor woman went through sheer hell in the media. Good for her.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:05 pm 
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vixki wrote:
I think this fits here.

I've been having chest pains lately, passed out a couple of times and I went to the doctors over it. The doctor prescribed me some medication and said to see if it helps, and to come back. It didn't help so today I went back. Had to see a different doc cos the other one wasn't in.

Anyway the doctor heard about my symptoms, did my blood pressure (too low) and listened to me. Then he decided to check my records for blood test results. He came across the records showing I see a psychiatrist.

Him: "Why do you see a psychiatrist?"

Me: "is it relevant here?"

Him: "Yes"

Me: "(my reasons for seeing a psych)"

Him: "Well I think then that your pains are probably just anxiety related, you should wait until you next see your psychiatrist.

I kicked up a bit of a stink because I just did see my psychiatrist, he knows all about my physical symptoms and does not believe them to be anxiety related. But of course the moment the GP saw "psych history" in my records he jumped to "A-ha it must be anxiety". A few years ago I ended up in hospital with a kidney infection when the same thing happened (was told it was "just anxiety")


That's happened to me a lot too. Sucks big time! I was told for years my digestive issues and pelvic pain were all in my head and part of my anxiety. Only after a coworker mentioned my symptoms sounded like hers and she had endometriosis (I had not heard of it until then) did I find a gynecologist willing to look inside via laparoscopy. Sure enough, I had severe endometriosis on my bladder, sigmoid colon, uterine ligaments, left ovary. It took five years to find an answer beyond "it's in your head" for my relentless pain.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 7:19 am 
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Long term anxiety and depression here.

Something that has struck me recently is how people can perceive our own self-care measures as somehow being personally insulting towards them. For example, around new year I found that the constant chatter of Facebook, and the frequent negativity within that, was exacerbating my anxiety pretty badly so I deactivated my account. Since then several people have expressed (either to me or to a close friend) that it was somehow upsetting to them that I "deleted" them. Now I'm actively being snubbed by someone who I thought was a friend who is aware of my difficulties.

In general people are very good at saying that we should all talk about and try to understand mental health difficulties and illnesses, but when it comes to the rub many people still treat it icky malingering.


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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 8:13 am 
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Robinwomb wrote:
That's happened to me a lot too. Sucks big time! I was told for years my digestive issues and pelvic pain were all in my head and part of my anxiety. Only after a coworker mentioned my symptoms sounded like hers and she had endometriosis (I had not heard of it until then) did I find a gynecologist willing to look inside via laparoscopy. Sure enough, I had severe endometriosis on my bladder, sigmoid colon, uterine ligaments, left ovary. It took five years to find an answer beyond "it's in your head" for my relentless pain


Oh, the funny thing is I have a LONG history of this thing happening. Awful period pains for a decade? All in my head until I managed to convince my gynecologist to do a laparoscopy, yup, endometriosis. Constant nausea? All anxiety until I got a gastroenterologist to take me seriously and yup, I have gastroparesis. So I'm no stranger to having something wrong, and being dismissed for a long time. My psychiatrist believes almost all of my mental health problems are related to the physical ones, and yet just being seen by him means I'm dismissed by so many other doctors.

8ball wrote:
Long term anxiety and depression here.

Something that has struck me recently is how people can perceive our own self-care measures as somehow being personally insulting towards them. For example, around new year I found that the constant chatter of Facebook, and the frequent negativity within that, was exacerbating my anxiety pretty badly so I deactivated my account. Since then several people have expressed (either to me or to a close friend) that it was somehow upsetting to them that I "deleted" them. Now I'm actively being snubbed by someone who I thought was a friend who is aware of my difficulties.

In general people are very good at saying that we should all talk about and try to understand mental health difficulties and illnesses, but when it comes to the rub many people still treat it icky malingering.


It's very easy for people to post fancy quotes and "You can always talk to me!" things but yeah, when it comes to it, not so much. I've been called vain and stuck up for posting selfies. When really I post them as a challenge to the anxiety and terrible self image I have. But it's so weird that "self care" seems to be interpreted as "selfish" by so many, even those who you'd think are positive. You take time out to look after yourself? Well, it's lazy and "must be nice" to have time to do that. You make a post saying you love yourself? How stuck up! Not participating in gossip/negativity? So holier-than-thou. It's ridiculous.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 11:42 am 
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8ball wrote:
Long term anxiety and depression here.

Something that has struck me recently is how people can perceive our own self-care measures as somehow being personally insulting towards them. For example, around new year I found that the constant chatter of Facebook, and the frequent negativity within that, was exacerbating my anxiety pretty badly so I deactivated my account. Since then several people have expressed (either to me or to a close friend) that it was somehow upsetting to them that I "deleted" them. Now I'm actively being snubbed by someone who I thought was a friend who is aware of my difficulties.

In general people are very good at saying that we should all talk about and try to understand mental health difficulties and illnesses, but when it comes to the rub many people still treat it icky malingering.


I think this is probably partly Facebook's fault because it doesn't show your account as deleted, so people who don't know the above are going to think you've unfriended them and wonder why. It would be great if they had a "on a break" flag for people's accounts! I suppose it wouldn't be good for their corporate image to acknowledge that they impact some people's lives negatively though.

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 Post subject: Re: Mental Health Stigma
PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2016 10:28 pm 
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Went to a counselor to talk over work stuff, possible changes, etc...and ended up crying a bunch about a previous job. It wore me out so much that I slept the rest of the day.

But I am grateful for the existence of employee assistance programs that made seeing a counselor for free possible, even though it is funny to me that we spent the whole time talking about leaving the job that provides the assistance.

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