Erase the Stigma

Why is it so easy to talk about mental disorders like OCD, and it sound like it is an “ok” thing to have, but with disorders like Schizophrenia or Bipolar, it has such a negative connotation? It always bothered me when I would hear Minnesota’s weather is Bipolar. It actually makes me think of a conversation I had tonight.

It was my first shift working at the VFW and the individual speaking was minimizing Alzheimer’s. If you know me, you know that I will definitely speak up in this type of situation, as Alzheimer’s is one of the worst diseases anyone can get in my opinion. Watching my Mother’s brain decay over a journey of 8 years has left multiple scars in my brain that I will speak my mind about.

Ten years ago Alzheimer’s had a different connotation as it was just an “old person’s disease”. Well, my mother died at 62. In this day and age, it is no longer an old person’s disease, it’s a chronic disease that 1 in 6 people will develop, and 2 of 3 of those people are women.

Will it take another 10 years before we break the stigma of mental disorders? It brought me peace and solace to look up famous artists and talented individuals that shared mental disorders. What it comes down to, is truly a chemical imbalance in your brain. This could be genetic, what you were born with, psychosomatic, and situational. For me, it’s all three.

I was born with genetics that predisposed me to mental disorders. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Bipolar disorder are three cognitive disorders that run on my mom’s side. My oldest brother Carl did not survive his brain disorder which breaks my heart to write. Growing up, we felt a lot of pressure to be perfect. I believe Carl and I share a lot of similar traits, a big one being empathetic and sensitive. A trait I share with my other brother Eric, and my sister Kate, is having an addictive personality.

Eric would often tell me to play the “cute girl” card because he often would use his looks to get away with things. I often did not agree with doing this because I felt the need to pave my own way. Upon Carl passing and Eric growing up, I discovered Eric sought out therapy and he shared he takes medication for Major Depressive Disorder.

When Carl passed I used my EAP sessions for therapy and honestly used my sessions to speak about my sister and how she would treat me and the things she would say to me. The therapist I was seeing at that time suggested Kate may have Borderline Personality Disorder. She suggested a book for me to read and after I read the first chapter I felt so much better about what I was dealing with, with her.

My entire life I have felt like the glue that keeps my family together. Kate and Eric haven’t been on speaking terms in years, Eric and my Dad don’t speak since my Dad kicked him out, Kate and my Dad’s relationship has always been strained. I often felt like a project manager of holidays, get togethers, and just honestly being a family. I am a caretaker and nurturer and I have been taken advantage of. Or maybe it’s not that I’ve been taken advantage of, but it’s always something I used to take care of and I finally told my Dad it’s not something I’m going to do.

I am shocked at the way he has responded to me and the fact he has not called since I have been discharged from the hospital. That’s how it’s been my entire life though, if I want to have a relationship with my Dad, I am required to do all the effort. I call him, I make the plans, I send the cards, I do it all.

As I learn more about myself and about my family it makes me think about my situations and how it has affected my own mental health. Trauma is something most people think of in a physical way first, like an ER visit. I have had 2 solid concussions that I can remember, where I have blacked out and went to the hospital.

Trauma is not just physical, but it is emotional. There is a whole book written how the body keeps score, and another that says the brain is always listening. I’m making a conscious effort to grow and learn to love myself. It is something that is not easy for me because I have found my self worth on always taking care of other people.

I am coming to terms with the fact I have been verbally abused for the majority of the years I have been living. I wrote an excerpt on “IHAR,” where I was severely bullied in highschool, where kids told me I was worthless, fat and ugly. My sister having the disorder she has, has said some of the nastiest things to me, calling me a whore after she saw some photos online having fun in college. My mother called me a fucking bitch, told me she hated me, and multiple other terrible things post diagnosis. Lastly, this brings me to my relationship with my ex fiancé, where he called me fucking retarded and a piece of shit. It makes sense I have such a hard time processing and learning to love and accept myself.

Now I have a mental health diagnosis that makes me feel like I have something so terribly wrong with me, but as I just described above, it’s genetic, psychosomatic, and situational. I am doing everything in my power to manage it, as doctors described prior to medication I have been “white knuckling” it before. As I have ended most posts, one step at a time, one breath at a time. Maybe one day we won’t have a stigma surrounding mental health disorders.

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