Ask anyone who has been bullied, humiliated and shamed and they will be able to recount, in agonizing detail, who said what and when and what scars it left.
As a teenager, I was harassed and ridiculed for my pale skin. No matter how much I tried to soak up rays, my body rejected the sun. Kids in school loved to compare their bronzed arms to mine. They teased me with words like ghost, marshmallow, vampire and corpse. I guess it made them feel superior.
Always one to avoid confrontation, I shied away from cursing them out but it was at my own expense. I laughed along with the names they called me and cried when I got home.
As an adult when I disclosed that I was diagnosed with and getting treatment for Major Depression and Anxiety, it was crushing to once again be made to feel inferior by colleagues, so-called friends, neighbors, and even individuals in the medical profession!
Oh, if only I could go back in time with courage to stand up for myself, I would. I would know what to say every time anyone started a sentence with, “No offense, but…”
Telling me to not be offended by whatever I was about to hear, gave people a free pass to say whatever they wanted because hey, they’d warned me. How I’d love to let go of those memories and erase the painful recollections of feeling shame for an illness I either tried to hide, or needed to defend, due to the ignorance and arrogance of others.
I’m just one among millions who live with an invisible illness of the brain. It took years of thought-correction therapy to build my confidence and self-worth and become brave enough to talk about depression and anxiety with the same ease as when discussing migraines.
Finally, after so much damage was done to my psyche, it came down to me owning my illness — and fair complexion — without humiliation and with dignity. When you take ownership of what makes you who you are, there’s no longer a need to justify or appease those who try to make you feel second-class. Speaking up for yourself means you are fighting stigma, not only for yourself, but also for all of us who sucked it up for way too long.
When you educate yourself about your diagnosis, physical and psychological, you become empowered by knowledge. You can see through the snide remarks from the no-offense-but-people. When you react from strength, not trepidation, you’re helping to erode the fear, misconceptions and stigma that are rampant in our local and global communities.
Since I can’t hit rewind and have no desire to ruminate over my past embarrassments with should-haves, I can use all I’ve learned about depression and anxiety, and how I have come to successfully manage it, as a shield against any unwelcomed comment. It’s actually been a few years since anyone has chastised me for going to therapy or taking anti-depressants. I no longer keep anybody in my life that drags me down. I also find myself meeting people who really do get that mental illness is not a weakness and certainly not a choice.
To all of those haughty types who told me not to be offended, but … therapy is a waste of time; medications are a hoax; if I didn’t get a grip I’d end up in the nuthouse; it was all just a ploy for attention; I should choose to be happy because children are starving in Africa — if YOU happen to be reading this, have you seen the light and corrected your ways?
Self-righteous behavior is a ridiculous reaction to someone diagnosed with mental illness. If you think you are smarter, stronger, better and worth more than those with a diagnosis – you are wrong. If you condemn and criticize others for reaching out for help, you are the one who should be ashamed. Dialogue, conversation, respectful exchanges — that’s how you can be helpful to others. Superiority has no place in discussions about any disease.
This summer will mark ten years since I found the right doctors and treatments for my depression and anxiety. It’s been an excruciating and eye-opening decade, requiring diligence, dedication and courage, so unless you stop with the stigmatizing, no offense, but, keep your thoughts to yourself.
Thanks for writing and sharing this, Adrienne Gurman. I never realized the anxiety and stress I would endure from others’ behavior towards me, including professionals’.
Thank you, Adrienne. I especially love these sentences of yours:
“If you think you are smarter, stronger, better and worth more than those with a diagnosis – you are wrong. If you condemn and criticize others for reaching out for help, you are the one who should be ashamed. Dialogue, conversation, respectful exchanges — that’s how you can be helpful to others. Superiority has no place in discussions about any disease.”
Love them so much that I’m going to quote you on tumblr right now. Thank you once again for a great article.
Loved this and thank you. I try now very hard to speak to myself as I imagine my Mama would were she here today, or what I would tell my own precious babies. Stand up for yourself, stand up for someone else. Sharing!
Thank you for your blog! I also have depression, along with OCD & ADD. I have several family members who are bipolar. Two have committed suicide. Mental issues are REAL.
excellent article….thank you..
Very well stated Adrienne. No one should make you feel insuperior or insecure about yourself. These types of people don’t understand these types of conditions and are often misinformed. More people need education and more school could stop bullying if they would have more student seminars causing interaction and teaching awareness. You seem very strong and courageous. Keep spreading the word. There’s a lot of adults that were teased and bullied at schools for different reasons. It needs to be stopped. Thank you for your letter.
This site enlightens & empowers. Thanks
I still remember the foreign doctor that discouraged me from going to college and told me that my mental illness would go away if I would just get married and have children. He then said if my husband “would allow” me to go to college, then that might work. I’ve heard plenty from people, but I felt that psychiatrists would have a better understanding than to push their stereotypical culture upon someone!
I love this, thank you. I try to own my illness and manage it, rather than vice versa, but still I sometimes choose not too speak out about it. The lingering fear of judgment is still a deterrent to complete openness, and it’s that I’m trying to combat in my daily life. Your post is a great reminder that I have nothing to be ashamed of.
This is a great post! Is it possible for me to republish this in our local community newspaper in Saginaw, Michigan for a special edition we do in May for Mental Health Awareness Month? Please email me at [email protected] and let me know if you would be okay with me doing this. Thank you!
I was much moved by your story. I grew with acute ADD, not receiving treatment until age 11. For lots of reasons, including that I was always skinny as gumbee ( one of my nicknames ) I was picked on relentlessly. Even into adulthood, I was shunned because I was severely depressed.
I receive treatment now for both illnesses and am much wiser these days, things don’t bother me the way they once did.
In answer to anyone who says ” What about the starving children in Africa ? ” I’m reminded of a quote from a book I read( I might be adding to this ) : “Pain is like a gas, no matter what causes it, It completely fills whatever container it is in “
No offense, but you’re cute! (And a terrific writer. : )