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Getting Rid of Mental Illness Stigma Starts With Me

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I am tired of feeling ashamed of my mental illness.

I’ve read many blogs or articles from people who would like people to stop saying, “I am bipolar.” Instead, they would prefer to say, “I have bipolar.” It really doesn’t bother me one way or another. When it comes right down to it, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, they all are a part of who I am, and I hate that I feel ashamed about it.

I think in the past few years there have been some pretty big strides in removing some of the stigma of mental illness. Sometimes, it’s done through terrific websites like The Mighty or Project Semicolon. Sometimes, strides are made through the many private and public organizations, which are seeking out to specifically help people with mental illnesses. It can even be through people, whether they are celebrities or not, speaking out and using their platform to share their stories and call for action.

Yet, the stigma is still there in everyday life. Wherever there are people, there will be that stigma that makes us feel ashamed. In our workplaces, the gym, the coffee shop, at church, on the sidelines at our children’s game. However, all that stigma doesn’t just come from other people. It comes from within me, a person who has struggled for so many years. I let the depression and anxiety, the mania, the panic attacks, the voices tell me that because I struggle I am not good enough or acceptable. I hide what’s inside of me.

Sometimes, I don’t want to hide it though. I want to just stand up and say depression and anxiety are part of who I am. It is not that I want to have these struggles. I am tired of the struggle, but right now, it’s part of me.

Once in awhile, I have a fleeting thought of how I wish I could be part of the change to erase the stigma of mental illness in the world. Yet, I think I need to start with a small part in that fight: Me. I will not believe those many voices inside my head that tell me I am inferior because I fight every day. I will not stigmatize myself.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 21, 2016
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