As a girl with scars, stigma is an experience from which I have no respite. Every day I wake up to a world that knows that at some point I sliced into my arm—over and over. I notice people noticing and it is hard to look them in the eye. I have my reasons for assuming that they will judge me. When I was a teenager I lost a job, was asked to leave multiple schools, and was told by my friend’s mother, “do not call here anymore” — all for no other reason than I kept hurting myself.
So now even though I have 11 years of sobriety from eating disorders and self-harm I am still afraid. Afraid that I won’t get a job. Afraid that people still don’t want to be associated with a girl with scars. Afraid that people will judge the outside as broken. And afraid of admitting to the anxiety I still feel.
But the truth is that the depression and anxiety I live with are neuro-chemical disorders. I didn’t choose this anymore than a person living with any other medical condition chose that condition. Even though I live with depression and anxiety I am not dangerous, unstable, or needy. I am able to give love and support to others, to be a wife and mother, and to live free from the self-destructive behaviors that once consumed my life.
The truth is that 1 in 4 adults will have a diagnosable mental illness in the course of this year, BUT 2/3 of those people will not seek help because they are afraid of stigma destroying their lives.
I am standing up to stigma. I refuse to allow it to shape the way I relate to the world anymore.
I am going to shamelessly ask for all the help I need.
I am going to relentlessly keep telling the truth about mental illness.
And I am going to fearlessly share hope every time I get the chance.