In case you are out of the loop, I am currently at the hospital. Been here for almost two weeks now
But not just any hospital.
I’m at the 4 North Mental Health Unit of The Ottawa Hospital, General Campus.
Yes, that’s right. I am in a physch ward.
Now, there was a time when I would rather have died than let people know I had a mental illness. THAT’S THE STIGMA.
I would have not voluntarily gone to a hospital to admit myself . THAT’S THE STIGMA.
If hospitalized, I would have lied about the cause of my hospitalization. THAT’S THE STIGMA.
Well, I know better now. I know there is no shame in having a mental illness. I know that admitting my mental illness(es) sometimes get out of control is a brave thing. I know that reaching out for support when I need it, is not only
good great but that is actually the RIGHT thing to do.
That enlightment happened sometime around 2010, and since I’ve been very vocal about mental health and mental illness, particularly my own on all the various social networks I frequent.
So that is precisely why, when the time came – two weeks ago, that I realized things were way out control and it was not safe for me to stay home, I made plans to go to the hospital. And I carried them out.
By the way, I find that carrying out plans to commit yourself into a mental hospital is a lot better than carrying out suicide plans. Less messy too*!
The first weekend in the hospital found me deeply sedated. But when the new week came and I could type on my phone again, one of the first things I did was to post on FB that I was in the hospital and that it was due to depression and suicidal ideas.
Oh, yes. I did say the bad S word. And I will say it again and again. Suicide. Suicide. Suicide.
If the mention of it makes you uncomfortable, THAT’S THE STIGMA.
If you feel a great need to pretend you didn’t hear it, THAT’S THE STIGMA.
If you feel you would never be open about you having suicidal ideation or having tried to commit suicide, THAT’S THE STIGMA.
If you can’t stand hearing from a friend or a loved one about THEIR suicidal ideation or having tried to commit suicide, THAT’S THE STIGMA.
Damn you, stupid stigma.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it just keeps going!
I have been the recipient of a truly amazing amount of support, which is awesome. And ideal.
Some messages are public, like mine was. But most of them are private. So far, so good. Nothing wrong with private messages, right?
Well… yes and no. There is a time and a place for private messages and for public messages, as you all, my very smart audience know. The reason, however for some of those private messages may be faulty. Fallacious. Ungrounded. Misconstrued.
Let me explain:
Almost all of the messages I got start with either one of two ways:
- I didn’t feel comfortable saying this publicly but….
- I didn’t know if you were OK with me saying this publicly so I am private-messaging you…
THAT’S THE DAMN STIGMA talking.
Now, please DO NOT get me wrong. I am not judging those who private-messaged me. Their support is as dear and as healing and as important to me as the public one. And I thank them from the bottom of my heart as well.
But the stigma is out there, trying to get all of us. In fact, am sure it is quite pissed off I got away from its grip. Not happy with interfering with one’s own treatment and recovery, it affects our friends and family too. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes them secretive.
Here is a very short sample of the messages, reproduced with the permission of their senders. Highlights are mine.
I hope things are going well for you Claudia. As well as they can considering the circumstances. I just caught up with your current situation and regret not having looked into it earlier. People were not comfortable with getting into details at the Monday Blues and I can now understand why, touchy subject right?
Hi Claudia! I just became aware that you had been in hospital for a while, and have just read your beautiful, heart-felt blog, and have an idea of what you have been going through. Having had a battle with depression in my past, I can only say that you are courageous to share your process with such honesty – a gift to everyone you touch, as there, but the grace of God, go any of us! You are doing such a good job of demonstrating that mental distress is part of the human condition and spectrum. Love and respect to you, my dear Claudia..
That’s just two of dozens. I sort of remember seeing others that were also a good example.
I know of people who -while needing it, don’t come to the hospital for help because -yes, you guessed it right, of the stigma.
I you are ill, it is your right as a human to get treatment for your illness. It doesn’t fracking matter if you’ve got asthma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’ve you’ve got cancer or Bipolar disease…. etc.
When people won’t get access to treatment because they are afraid of the stigma of being or having been in a Mental Institution, THAT’S THE FRACKING STIGMA.
By now, you may be asking yourself if I have a fracking point writing all this.
Why yes! I want a world where talking publicly about one’s mental illness is not seeing as courageous but rather not seeing as anything because it is so normal that nobody would blink or think anything of it.
I want a world where talking about my mental illness won’t make my dear friends feel uncomfortable because they don’t know if I am ok with them talking openly about it when some other friend is asking about me.
I want a world where those friends won’t have to debate in their heads whether sending a public message to me is good or bad.
I want a world where my friend won’t feel self-conscious or uncomfortable in any way, about visiting me at the psych ward.
Of course, that world also includes friends sending me private messages. Nothing wrong with private messages as long as the reason for them to be private is the stigma.
It is up to us – each one of us, to make a little change so the picture as a whole changes for everyone.
- [Not from] The Other Side
- I wish I had cancer
- Oh Mental Illness Thou Art a Hartless Bitch
- I Pledge My Commitment To Be Mental In 2013
- On Stigma (clofenferhth.wordpress.com)
- ‘Mental patient’ fancy dress shows how deep offensive stereotypes go in society | Alastair Campbell (theguardian.com)
- Mental Health Stigma – Does it Add Up? (whereistandblog.wordpress.com)
* Yeah, yeah, I have a weird sense of humour