1.a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.“the stigma of mental disorder”synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad)reputation
Stigma. There’s nothing good about the word. Disgrace, shame, bad reputation, dishonour, discredit and humiliation. These are all too familiar to me. I’ve felt them in the past and at times still do to this day in regards to my anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress. It’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy. Did I feel these feelings of guilt and shame because I had nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of suicide? Or am I conditioned by society? I believe the latter.
Everyone is judgmental, some more than others; it’s human nature. Before I experienced the calls that spurred my struggles or rather before I realized I had a problem and couldn’t continue any longer, I was quite judgmental. Then life hit the tilt button on me. A total reset. New game. New ball. I’m still judgmental, but usually not without hearing the full story and to a much lesser degree. I’ve been to the bottom of my minds ocean, almost took a few deep breaths while down there too. Instead I looked up, saw a dark that was a little less dark, decided to keep holding my breath and swam for my life. I’m at the surface now. Some days I’m barely treading water, some days I’m floating in a chair with a margarita. I take them as they come now, knowing that a wave that ebbs must rise. I finally found the strength to ride them instead of be drowned by them.
I’ve been to hundreds if not thousands of calls with junkies, bums, addicts. The so called “low life’s”. I always respected them, had fun with them when they were able to communicate and helped and helped the best I could. I’ve witnessed plenty of them die, helped save some too. I recognized fairly early that I wasn’t much different, only a couple pay cheques away from joining them on the streets. I now further grasp that in fact they are likely stronger than me, they just hadn’t or don’t realize it yet. For some their ocean is too deep and they couldn’t find the help they needed to gain the strength to fight enough to reach the surface. Even more make it to the surface and fall again, over and over, maybe endlessly. Some will survive, some will fade into the abyss. I can’t rightly judge them or their circumstances, I don’t know their ocean or it’s depths. Those days where I’m sputtering at the surface, I’ve felt the urge to just relax, let go and sink. I don’t though. Mostly because I have people floating around me. Most of them were always there, waiting, I just choose to see them and let them in now.
As someone who has suffered with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and plenty of suicidal ideation I know that most who struggle don’t necessarily need a rescuer or saviour, just be there. Make it known you’re there, really there, waiting. Maybe I won’t talk, maybe I will. Mostly I just need to NOT be judged, discriminated, pitied or stigmatized. Even if you’ve struggled similarly you don’t know my depths, my struggles, my weaknesses or my strengths. So simply shut your mouth, discard your preconceptions, smile and say:
“I’m here, however YOU need or want me to be, ALWAYS.”
The next time you see a bum, someone like me or you find yourself struggling: don’t discriminate them or yourself by allowing the stigma of mental health issues paralyze you. If you’re too mentally weak and immature to offer help and support, you’re better to do nothing. I don’t necessarily need you to understand, I don’t expect it actually, just be accepting.
You never know when you might be the one looking up from the depths of your own abyss.
I’ll be there. Will YOU?