Undercover Recovery

… It takes real stealth to get around the traps of stigma…

Empowerment. It feels like a strong word. It can also be a debilitating one when you spend your whole life trying to achieve what, in your world, amounts to empowerment. The journey to becoming stronger and more confident has many obstacles, however, none of those obstacles should include negativity from loved ones or any decent human being. Why then is the stigma epidemic flooding every community and home with no signs of retreating, diminishing one’s ability to feel in control of their own life, let alone their own rights. Human beings are hard wired to care for each other – kindness should be expected and freely given, yet it is a rarity these days. Not to judge humanity as a whole, but I feel disgrace when I think about this. How did we get here? What drove us this far? Why can’t we come back from it? – These and more are questions we should ask ourselves but will never find the answer to, humanity has covered it’s tracks far to well, almost as if we are trying to covertly destroy and eliminate everything. All that’s left is to stop just picking up the shattered pieces of our existence and instead try to reboot, a fresh start. As impossible as that sounds, I believe we have a chance at redemption. The courage needed to do this, I’m afraid to say, might only come during the aftermath of the seriously neglectful standards birthed in our society today.

I may sound a bit angered, possibly bordering hatred, but I have witnessed first hand these effects and how they keep declining. Stigma has destroyed, haunted, and killed millions of lives – and it’s bleeding into every home as we speak, but no one recognizes it because it’s such a standard way in our society. We treat the ones who are stigmatized as if they deserve it or as if they are less than us, making it somehow okay to belittle and hurt them, sometimes even blaming them and insisting they can change if they want to. They essentially give a sentence of a life drowned in discrimination and emotional pain before the verdict is out. Living everyday with the constant fear of stigma and discrimination bombing your life, is like being tossed into an arena filled with giants and having no protection or weapon. Thankfully, we are human beings – though many are cruel and heartless, we were born with instincts and intelligence. We can overcome. Though many times faint – due to stigma, we can here the little truth inside us saying, “My world was dark, but there’s a possibility that light will return.”

Mental illnesses are, by their very nature, disruptive to a person’s life. But it in no way means you can’t overcome. Imagine if you had diabetes and had to manage it everyday, mental illness is no different. But society has set out to stigmatized a group of disabled individuals, the mentally ill, making them believe that they are not ill but are instead “crazy”, “insane”, or “not actually ill” – causing a wave of belief amongst them that they are not worth the same as say the individual who would have diabetes or any other illness. It’s twice as hard for a mentally ill individual to recognize the cruel nature of that way of thinking, it is easy to believe you are “crazy” when that’s what everyone is telling you! Yet again, we can overcome this, and one day we will begin to heal as a race, together.

having supportive relationships can be a huge asset, research has shown that it is an essential part of recovery. Having a mental illness can alter the way we perceive the world, to a point of self-destruction. Relationships can provide input to counter that perception, a psychological balance. Personally, relationships have always been the hardest. The same can be said for anyone with children, terminal diseases, demanding careers, people who live far away from family, or people who breathe oxygen and live on this planet. It’s not easy for anyone and having a mental illness definitely makes it a challenge, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have them. However, you have to be careful, because many people do not understand, or do not want to understand, mental illness and therefore will give you the “just get over it” response. It’s not always because they don’t care, sometimes they just have never lived a day like you live everyday. Unfortunately, the inability to “just get over it” is exactly the problem. It’s what makes the mentally ill different. Everyone has problems handling emotions, but mental illness affects the part of your brain that helps make your way back, from discouragement and despair, to normal. It’s a malfunction. That’s why therapy can be very beneficial, it helps you do what your brain can’t do for you. Unfortunately, therapy is overwhelmingly being used to counter the effects of stigma on the mentally ill who are in recovery.
The biggest issue is that this country needs to erase stigma against mental health patients and the treatments they undergo to stay healthy. What’s more, therapy and medications are not enough sometimes, they need to feel like they are someone too, just like everyone else. This country helps kids, the elderly, the disabled and even animals – yet mental illness is a disability and they do not get the help they deserve, how inhuman. Stigma is extremely cruel and victimizes everyone in it’s path, no matter what their mental health status is or what side of it they are on.

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