Stigma over mental health issues is bad enough from someone else. When it comes from within the effects can be devastating.
I live with depression and in general people who know about it accept it really well. My wife lives with schizoaffective disorder and people also accept her in general.
If we are totally honest with ourselves, each other and everyone else the stigma we put on ourselves is worse than we get from anyone else.
We often find ourselves second guessing our thoughts and actions. We wonder if we should say or do a certain thing. We ponder if we have said something that will make people realise or think we have a mental illness.
We find this self-stigma has more of a daily impact than the stigma from society in general.
What do we do about it? How do we keep this self-stigma under control? Here are the five things we both do every day.
1. Use positive affirmations. At least 2 or 3 times a day we go through a list of positive affirmations we have each written for ourselves. We try to do this in a proactive way, when things are good. We both spend a couple of minutes going through our positive affirmations as soon as we wake up and then at random times during the day.
2. Read positive motivational quotes. We have both subscribed to various daily motivational emails. We follow lots of similar groups and companies on Facebook and Twitter. We both check Facebook, Twitter and our emails many times a day. These just help to keep us feeling positive throughout the day.
3. Remind ourselves how lucky we are. This is really simple. We are alive, we have a roof over our head, we have food on the table, we love each other dearly and we have a close, loving family. We both live with a mental illness but its not life threatening like cancer or a brain tumour. All in all we have a pretty good life so why worry.
4. Exercise. We always feel better mentally when we exercise, especially if its outside on a sunny day. Science has shown that Vitamin D from the sun is a 100% natural pick me up and the same with exercise. I don’t understand all the scientific speak, I just know 100% that when we exercise and get some sun we both are far more positive and generally happy.
5. Remove negative and judgemental people from our lives. This was tough, very tough. We both had a couple of dear friends who had been in our lives for many years. Unfortunately, these people are negative in all aspects of their (and our) lives. They blame everyone and everything for anything that goes wrong. They don’t take any responsibility for anything! We came to the realization that we need to work hard on being positive. We have to keep negativity out of lives at any cost. Sadly that meant some people in our lives had to be cut free.
So, that’s it. Our 5 tips we use every day to keep the self-stigma at bay. We work hard at being positive about ourselves, each other, our relationships and our life in general. I can say with 100% complete honesty that if I slip on any of these 5 tips, I will very quickly start to self-doubt, self-analyse. I start being very critical of everything I say and do.
The 5 steps above are something we have worked on over years. It wasn’t easy but they work for us really well.
We hope that our experience can help you.
Ian Knabel is a husband and a carer to a wonderful lady who is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. She also has some OCD and anxiety issues to make things nice and complicated. They have been together for 14 years. Together with their daughter they live in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Together they run a website dedicated to helping people live and love while living with a mental health issue at www.QueenslandMentalHealth.com The purpose of their site is to achieve several things
• Raise awareness of mental health
• Writing about their experiences they work to remove some of the stigma surrounding mental illness in the community
• Campaign for changes to legislation in areas we believe are flawed
• Provide support and comfort to other mental health consumers, carers and families. The sun will come up tomorrow and there is always hope!