Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about the stigma that many of face. Stigma is surrounding many chronic illnesses, but I feel that the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness is perhaps the most damaging. The first reason that I feel this way is because we inherently connect our mental state to our ego and when people judge our mental illness it is impossible to not feel it as a personal attack. These kinds of comments and actions just tend to hit us in our most sensitive areas. But there is also the very real fact that we need to have of mental health in order to be able to manage our physical health. When we have poorly regulated mental illness, we will not be able to manage our physical illnesses. This means that the stigmas that prevent people from getting good mental health care is going to effect every aspect of their wellness.

Fighting stigma is the most difficult and important thing that health care providers tackle. It seems an impossible task at times. I look around myself and I see all the stuff out there that sends out incorrect and often damning information. I read books and find myself thinking “really?” when I come upon an unrealistic and often stereotyped mentally ill character. I watch my scary movies and sigh when the villain is yet again diagnosed with some mental illness or everything comes back to that insane asylum…

But I remind myself that my mission isn’t really to get other people to understand mental illness. I can’t claim that I do. Psychology is a young science and there is more that we don’t know then we do. The brain is a vast mystery. If the experts still don’t have any solid answers, how can we expect lay people to understand? We can’t. And lets remember that those labels aren’t really what’s important here.

My mission is to encourage people to accept other people who are not like themselves. My mission is to reduce the idea that different must be bad. My mission is to encourage people to care about each other. If we can become more open minded, the stigma that mental illness faces will no longer be as big of an issue. Because the truth of the matter is that every human has their struggles whether they have mental illness or not.

I struggle with having excessive energy, poor focus, impulsive and excessive talking, need for sameness and so many other things. The labels that comes with those struggles don’t matter. I just want you to be kind to me and to accept that I am different with struggles that are different then yours. It’s alright if you don’t like me. Not everyone will. Just as I will not like everyone that I meet. But remember that disliking someone does not give us permission to be hateful or disrespectful.

It would be a beautiful world if everyone of us could be friends with everyone. But that isn’t real. What is real is that each of us will have a handful of friends, many acquaintances and thousands whom we contact only in a passing moment. But those passing moments of contact can change another person’s life for the better or for the worse. Most of the time, we take no notice of these encounters. But we can all recall a time that a stranger left a mark on us.

I can think of many times that I encountered someone just once. I recall those times because they left a mark, made an impression, changed me in some small way. There was the guy that helped me out by pumping my gas from the ancient gas pump. His gesture reminded me that there is kindness in others. It was also humbling (something my ego needs on occasion). There was the scary driver on our DC trip that lead to a cascade of anxiety and created a terrible day. I never even saw their face, but their actions greatly effected me. Those are just a couple examples, there are so many more. We all have them.

My mission is to leave as positive mark in this world as possible and to encourage others to do the same. I want to increase mindfulness about the way that we effect others. I want to foster acceptance. If everyone in this world aimed to be positive in all their dealings, maintained mindfulness of others and struggled to accept others… well, this world would be a much better place and things like stigma would just take care of themselves.

You don’t need to understand. It’s alright if you cannot relate to the struggle. There is no harm in not being able to grasp the meaning of mental illness. Just accept the person as they are. It doesn’t really matter why they are that way. They just are. Accept that and treat them with respect. That’s all that’s needed.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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