“Stigma”

05/08/2012

Howard Lovely, Jr.

When I look back on my life during the past 20 years or so specifically,..I can clearly see and understand what often I only felt in the heat of the moment. The internal palpable sense of shame of not wanting to be “this way”,….and an almost automatically driven need to hide what was troubling me mentally. This unspoken need to hide became the motivation to not seek help in my early years of living with Mental-Illness. I too had grown up with a sense that anyone who is different in any way,…is to be arbitrarily ridiculed, pushed aside, marginalized, belittled or simply not taken seriously as a potential intelligent Human and contributor to a functioning society. Stigma in my experience does not simply emanate externally like some water balloon thrown at me,..rather,…it can and did emanate from within myself at times, though unwittingly drenching my mind with a specter of fear. For me,…the internal version of stigma appears to have been more sinister and corrosive,…especially leading up to my suicide attempt. All my arbitrary societal programming lead me to conclude that I was worthless as a Man, Human, and undeserving of all that life has to offer. All this stigma driven self-concluded worthlessness was in the shadow of a multitude of accomplishments dating all the way back to when I first learned to walk and talk. How odd that for so many years I automatically down-played or even forgot about my endless list of accomplishments,… from the seemingly mundane to the profound…!!! I had to choose to help myself,….first by seeing myself as worthy of help,…next I had to ask for help and once I did that,…so began the gradual end of the automatic application of the internal version of stigma(branding of disgrace). None of this process has been easy to say the least and Stigma is a close cousin of Shame & Guilt when it’s self-inflicted. I’ve noticed that [three elements] listed below seem to be present whenever I’m engaged in unravelling issues in any major area of my life.

According to Websters Dictionary:

EmbarrassTo make self-conscious or ashamed.

ShameA remorseful consciousness of guilt.

Guilt The fact of having violated law or right. A sense of  having  committed a wrong.

As most individuals may have already realized,…changing habitual ways of thinking, believing and behaving is difficult. In a society with a growing usage of anti-depressant medication along with a seemingly endless list of random illnesses that can lead to experiencing depression or anxiety,…it is probably a good idea for those who are not afflicted with some version of Mental-Illness at this time,…to heed the experiences of those that are currently in distress. It may be time to consider choosing the abandonment of the “sword of stigma”,…so that it is not at the ready to slice through the spirit of a relative, friend, spouse, co-worker….or even yourself at a time of confusion and distress.

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