The Stigma

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The BLM movement, in some ways, has helped other marginalized communities, not only people who are African American. It has increased consciousness for injustices and intolerance. It has given outsiders more courage to speak and feel their voices are heard. At least, that's been my personal experience.

I lead an intersectional life. I'm raising a family of mixed races. Some of us here have dark chocolate skin, some of us are more milk chocolate, and some of us are white chocolate. Our family includes adoption. Family members suffer from mental health conditions which sometimes debilitate us to the point of hospitalization. We have a lot going on.

And even though there is progress, I still feel the stigma.

I have so much on my mind today. A lot I'd like to get off my chest. And I will. It's just I was hoping to get it off my chest in this blog. But I won't. I can't do it. Too risky. Because even though you might accept and even sympathize or maybe even empathize with the story I would tell you, somebody out there could use it against us.

By use it against us, I mean it like this: "I won't hire you because I know you have this going on," or "I won't enroll you in this program because I know you have this going on." "I will still like you. I will wish you well. But you can't come aboard with my group because I'm only looking for the successful ones or the people who will capitalize from what I have to offer, and given your background, I don't trust that will be you."

I have had an exhausting morning and an exhausting afternoon. With a smile plastered to my face, I have had to use a variety of motivating techniques to positively encourage a family member to participate. I've tallied-up expenses and hope that no more debits be incurred from a family member, but that hope is a fantasy. Practically speaking, I'm bracing for spending more.

If I were to enumerate to you exactly what's happening, it would be a story. There would be details you couldn't forget. I would write it in such a way that it feels compelling and memorable, and you might even tell a friend. "Someone I know had this thing happen to them... can you believe it?"

Blogs are a public place, and the story might someday get back to my family. And for the most part, people either wouldn't care or they may feel some sort of compassion. But on the chance that a decision-maker could use the information against us, I have to refrain from telling the story.

So the new story, the story I'm telling right now, is instead, about the stigma of mental illness. In my experience we've come to the place in society where we are generally accepting and caring about people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or depression or anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder or any number of other flavors on the mental illness spectrum. We see their stories on TV; we hear about them from others; they are our friends; they even can be us. We accept that people have mental challenges and may also feel quite compassionate toward them. But, in my experience, that's about as far as it goes. Too bad. So sad. Moving on.

And so, the mental illness handicaps us, debilitates us, removes us from social and professional groups because although it is accepted on an individual, interpersonal level, in a group with a purpose aligned with success, mental illness could bring the group down, which means the group ultimately wouldn't include us.

Unlike individuals who have an obvious physical difference, people with mental illness can camouflage themselves better. Maybe if we didn't tell you, you wouldn't know, and you'd let us into your coveted and awesome group. And so we stay silent.

And so, though I want to write here on my blog how affected I've felt from the day, I must save it for a journal or maybe even release it from my heart. I have to stay silent.


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