Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Sting of Stigma Part 4: Kate's and Kristin's Stories Stigma; a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation. Medicine/Medical: a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease

A few weeks ago I posted a story that I found at Beyond Meds, The Wind Never Lies by Steve Morgan; and the comments have been coming in at a steady pace from all over the world via this blog, Twitter and at Facebook.

And the message I'm hearing is this; "Thank you for bringing up this subject, this happened to me too."

Below are two more comments; one from a Facebook friends, Kate, who agreed to let me share it with you and Kristin...

Last week Kate left this message in a comment on the post The Sting of Stigma - Part 3.

"I noticed that no one gets flowers in the psych hospital. As the central office secretary for the school district, I ordered dozens of bouquets for employees, spouses and students when there was an illness or injury. People in my small town have fundraisers, bottle drives and public suppers when someone has surgery, but when I had a psychotic break and landed in the psych ward? Not so much as a card. No one would talk about it, people avoided me. No one noticed when my car was repossessed - by then most of the friends I though I had faded away. Some people even accused me of making it all up, for attention. Funny, I never heard anyone accuse someone of making up a gall bladder attack or cancer..."

Kate continues...

"I was taught from infancy that I was bad, I was worthless and caused trouble for those around me, so it was a natural conclusion that my symptoms represented more evidence that I was defective. It is a huge paradigm shift to move from "I am defective/sick" to "I was abused". It is an even greater shift to conclude that others abused me and that I am reacting to that injury - I am not, in fact, defective, but responding appropriately to very inappropriate events.

Thanks for your post - it is a great perspective."

And here is what Kristin, Mom to a young woman who fights her own battles each day, has to say in the comments of this same post...The Sting of Stigma - Part 3.

"lifeisterminal is am so sorry. It is so unfair. Your post is great, Susan. Thank you. Even in my own family the stigma reins. My daughter is "spoiled" not mentally ill. The book I wrote about her struggle and our family's fruitless search for help should be put under the bed and forgotten. Or, better yet, destroyed. And, on the count of three, smile - everyone, no exceptions...

Only, it doesn't work like that for my daughter and trying to explain why she doesn't feel like smiling is impossible because no one believes me. Like I made up mental illness to cover for her "bad behavior". It is disappointing but I hope that the more people talk openly about mental illness, the more the stigma will fall away. xx Kris"

Kris added this on another post...

"This reminds me of why my daughter once said to me, "I wish I had cancer." It was a devastating choice - to choose to have cancer over mental illness but I could totally understand her point of view. And, here is the proof that she was right; people with cancer do get the attention that she was looking for. The kind of caring approval that has been missing from her life. xx Kris"

You can find Kristin at her blog Borderline Families.

Stigma: Stigma; a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation. Medicine/Medical: a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease

Stigma sucks.

Remove the "mark" - remove the shame.

It's that easy.

Next week we'll conclude this series The Sting of Stigma...and begin a journey into the idea of a new paradigm - an idea, a thought, a change - about shifting away from the shame related to "mental illness" toward a new paradigm of claiming and creating a new world for ourselves...a world full of empowering solutions.


Suzanne said...

Like me, my mother suffered from BPD. In her day and age, mental disorders were kept hush, hush. Nobody spoke of such things, let alone got help for them.

She struggled through the untimely loss of her parents and lived day to day knowing her son was dying of cancer. I was ten years younger than him, still protected by a shield of childhood innocence. That, however, shattered, leaving me to fend for myself, without support.

After his death my mother's condition worsened. She began on a long decline towards self imposed death. Suicide would have been quicker, easier to cope with. Instead I stood by hopelessly knowing my presence alone could not save her. She was often angry, vilifying my weaknesses, blind to her own. I sunk deeper into the dark abyss of mental illness.

Often she said, she had lost all she had to live for. I wondered where I fit in. Her rages and attacks provoked the same dysregulation of emotion & behavior in me. I spent far too many years thinking she could not love me, and cause such pain at the same time. Words were spoken that to this day, without the voice of reason by my side, sting.

Then I grew up. I learned about forgiving and understanding; that we are all products of our upbringing. WE cannot blame people for weaknesses caused by circumstance and not having a better role model to teach how to be a perfect parent. Neither of our's was perfect. I realized that she too had "broken wings", and thus was unable to fly. She did what she could with the tools handed down to her. In recognizing this, I was finally able to make peace with her. I could understand that the love was there, just buried under years of pain, hurt, shame, guilt and anger towards a world that had not been too kind to her.

Upon her dying days, she gave me a gift that I shall always treasure. Although I still felt I had let her down, hurt her too often, wasn't special enough to live for, she turned to me and took my hand. With that she uttered the following words. "I want you to know, you have grown to be a better friend, daughter, mother and woman than I could have ever hoped to be." In a way it saddened me to think of her leaving this world with regrets, however, I knew I could not have become those things without her. Good or bad, her actions and words molded me. Love knows no resentment of anger. Love forgives. But love can be difficult to find in some, especially if it is frightened and hiding in the shadows. You just have to look deeper to find it.

Susan said...

Thank you Suzanne for sharing your hope here with us. You provided an excellent message of compassion for the pain of those who walked this path before us.

Your story is one of hope and courage.