Coping With Stigma

Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.

˜˜Virginia Satir˜˜

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Recovery is a Verb

Adelaide Windsome is a multi media artist better known by her stage name, Geppetta. She has bipolar disorder which is characterized by mood swings from severely depressed to intensely manic. Adelaide designs puppets and performs puppet shows. She sings and plays the ukulele. She is a writer and storyteller. Her skills as an artist help her express feelings and ideas that are complex and difficult to express verbally. Adelaide considers self expression an important aspect of her recovery.

Adelaide describes herself as having a pension for social activism and transfeminist sensibilities. She actively advocates for social justice and mental health issues that impact lesbian, gay and transgender populations. She facilitates educational workshops at various colleges and universities on art and social issues.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston is a singer, songwriter and artist featured in the documentary film, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.” The film captures Daniel’s struggles with artistic genius and “madness” as he slips in and out of episodes of bipolar disorder with delusions of grandeur.

As an adolescent, Daniel was isolative and spent many hours in the basement recording his thoughts and stories onto audio and video tapes and creating comic book style drawings; some depicting his own experience of “losing his mind.” He had a fundamentalist Christian background and became religiously pre-occupied and obsessed with the devil and Satan when he was ill.

In the early 80s, Daniel recorded folk songs on home made cassette tapes and walked around Austin, Texas passing them out to music fans. He became a minor celebrity following an MTV segment that featured his music, but his manic symptoms were disruptive to his career. He has produced ten full length albums and has some celebrity supporters to include Kurt Cobain, Nirvana lead singer, who often wore T-shirts featuring Daniel’s art work. Daniel has focused more recently on his visual art and has gained international recognition for his sketches.

OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Aspergers Movie

In the 1980s Bud Clayman was studying for a career in journalism and film at Temple University. Shortly after he graduated he began to suffer bouts of severe depression. He was later diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and then with Aspergers, a mild form of autism. In spite of many hospitalizations and long periods of unemployment, he continued to pursue his career in film making.

In the movie, Bud shares his obsessive thought processes with viewers, giving viewers the experience of “riding along in his head.” The core problem with OCD, explains his psychologist, is the demand for absolute certainty. Having Aspergers makes it difficult for Bud to read social cues that most of us are able to pick up from gestures and facial expressions. His psychologist compares that to being in a foreign country and not knowing the language or the customs there. With OCD and Aspergers combined, Bud finds himself obsessing over whether he responded appropriately. Bud describes the symptoms as scary and irritating.

One of the objectives of the film is to reduce the stigma of mental illness by sharing more about it. Part of Bud’s personal recovery involves increasing his interactions with others, which was decreased due to teasing and rejection by others. Film making involves interacting with others, and making the film has helped him let people in again. Bud recognizes that his recovery requires a lot of time and a great deal of effort. He says, “You gotta take your meds, go to therapy, learn some discipline, and stick to it.”

Wretches & Jabberers

In Wretches & Jabberers, two men with autism travel to Japan and Finland on a quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. While growing up, the two men, Larry Bissonette and Tracy Thresher, were presumed “retarded” and were excluded from normal schooling. With limited speech their futures would be in mental institutions or in adult disability centers. Their lives changed dramatically when they learned to communicate by typing. The purpose of their travel was to show that it is possible for others with autism to communicate as well.

Larry learned to communicate through typing, and began to combine words with his art to express his thoughts and ideas. He lives in Vermont and works as an advocate and an artist. In his documentary film, “My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonette,” he describes his years living in an institution. “It’s better for growing vegetables than people,” he says. Larry’s art work has been exhibited locally and nationally, and he has been a featured presenter at many educational conferences on autism, communication and art.

Tracy also lives in Vermont and is an advocate for people with disabilities. He was one of the first individuals with autism to learn to use typing to communicate. He mentors teens and adults, presents at workshops and trainings, and consults with schools.

Tracy describes his experience of traveling for the film as a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. The experience of planning the trips helped him learn to look forward to the future instead of backward to the past. He describes his mentoring experiences as another way to look forward. While he wishes he had had a mentor when he was in school, he sees his students as the future of communication that will carry on the legacy of everyone’s right to have a voice. He has found his life purpose in teaching and mentoring.


Larry's Artwork

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Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a patient directed organization that offers support for people with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. The web site includes tools and information to help understand more about mood disorders and how to manage mood disorders, as well as how to find a local support group.

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Comments 33 comments

Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Very comprehensive and interesting hub about mental illness. It was heartwarming and amazing to see what some have accomplished through art, music and film. Hope many will take the time to view this hub as it changes the reader's perception of mental illness. As Larry Bissonette said in the autism documentary, "Wretches and Jabberers": "We are more like you than not." a sterling piece of wisdom that we would all be wise to remember when interacting with those who have disorders such as autism, bipolar and OCD.

Am rating this hub up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting. I particularly loved the videos and artwork.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks Gail. Comprehensive indeed! I had more material than I could use for one hub, and could have gone in several directions. Once I decided which direction, it was easier to make some needed cuts. I have plenty of material for future hubs:) I liked the artwork too. I feel like I'm in a better place now than when I started on this. It might be time to dig out my brushes and canvas.


Tony DeLorger profile image

Tony DeLorger 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

Great Hub Kim. The stigma with any form of mental illness or retardation is still very much alive. It's brave people like the above and writers like yourself bringing attention to it that in the end, will break the stigmas and allow people to realise we all have potentials and deserve to be here to expres them.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks Tony. I think the above people and their stories are inspiring. Sometimes we create our own barriers and just need to forge ahead and "be" in spite of stigma or whatever holds us back.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Thanks for sharing. Informative. Flag up.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

thanks dallas93444 for reading, commenting and flagging up:)


PenMePretty 5 years ago from Franklin

This is exceptional work. It is useful and interesting.

The Arts are healing. Writing has sure brought me through a lot in this world. Thank you for putting this together for us to learn. I voted useful and interesting.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thank you PenMePretty! I agree. Self expression is very healing whether it's verbal, written or art. I think art and poetry are ideal for ideas and feelings that are hard to verbalize. Sometimes words just aren't enough!


PenMePretty 5 years ago from Franklin

I agree!!!


writeronline 5 years ago

This is a very inspiring and uplifting Hub, Kim, thankyou for putting it together. As someone who’s been plagued (no, overstatement there), make that, someone who’s ‘worked along with’ clinical depression all my adult life, I like to think there’s a kind of ‘perfect creative circle’ in play where the mentally ‘different’ are concerned.

I worked in advertising, which was a challenging business to be in, and required extremely deep breaths on many occasions (eg; presenting original ideas / concepts to large groups of hard-headed type-A’s) but also very rewarding from a creative perspective. Likewise, many (if not most?) of the world’s most-loved comedians are chronically depressed; understandably terrified of the stage; yet literally come alive and shine in the very environment they find most challenging. Sadly, many people, even in the glow of success, still fall victim to the devil on their shoulder, to die at their own hand, usually way too soon. That’s an ongoing challenge for most ‘different’ thinkers too, as I know you’re well aware.

I was once told by a psychiatrist that he felt that the depressed, because of their (our) different, often amusing, perspective on life, are in fact the sane members of society, and it’s the ‘normal majority’ who’ve got it all wrong.

I don’t really know, but it’s interesting to think about. To think ‘differently’ about.

Cheers


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thank you so much, writeronline, for your kind words and for sharing your own experiences and thoughts. I believe that M. Scott Peck, MD in his book "The Road Less Traveled" or maybe another of his books such as "People of the Lie" considered people with depression as having a more honest and accurate perception of the world without using denial and other defenses to soften or distort a harsh reality.

In Jungian psychology, it is believed that we all have a shadow - which is the seat of creativity. The shadow represents everything we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves. As we become more self aware, we begin to recognize parts of ourselves that we were ashamed of - that we denied about ourselves but could see plainly in others; laziness, deceitfulness, etc. The goal of individuation is for the ego and the shadow to unite. Some avoid shadow work and some get stuck in it without completing the process.

I hope that makes sense! Anyway. Thanks for sharing some good insights and provoking thought!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Love the comments and insights between you (Kim) and Writeronline. What each of you said seems true to me. I believe many who are depressed do have a more accurate perception of the world without using denial to soften their perceptions of it.

The challenge is in learning how to accept ourselves and others without getting mired in negativity and harsh judgements of self and others.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Yes! Self acceptance comes first before we can accept others.... Of course, accepting self and others doesn't mean accepting harmful behaviors! Gail, I get the best hub ideas from your comments:) Thanks.


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

We attach our meaning to everything and everyone we perceive. As long as we continue to make judgements based on these meanings that we have made up we are blind to truth. Thank you for a very informative and insightful hub.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Ah yes...from the course on miracles. Thanks Spirit Whisperer. I suppose if we are going to attach meaning to everything and everyone, we should really all decide for ourselves what meaning we'll attach instead of accepting everyone else's meaning! Wait. Then the only stigma would be the stigma I create myself! So, really there is no stigma. We just think there is. If there is no stigma, there is no stigma to cope with and no real need for this hub. Hmm. Thanks Spirit Whisperer for your insightful comment:)


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

LOL No I did not mean that there is no real need for the hub in fact the opposite is true. What I meant is that we judge others according to meaningless points of reference and by suspending our judgements we would be in a better position to see what we stigmatise as actual blessings in disguise. It is good to see you recognise the course in miracles in what I said but even the course and what it says will mean different things to different people until we learn how to suspend judgement.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks for the clarification Spirit Whisperer! When we stop judging others we can find more blessings to count! I like that. Seriously, I think I'll do that today. When I find myself thinking critically about something or someone, I'll chose to look for the blessing in it or them instead. Thanks for the morning meditation, Spirit Whisperer. I appreciate your insights.


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

I love your hubs I hope I don't come across in any way critical of what you write. My comments are simply inspired by what you write. Thank you.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

I get that Spirit Whisperer. I love your comments. Thank you.


Stolive profile image

Stolive 5 years ago from Botswana

Simply great, Kimh039. It's indeed great of you to help us see those with mental illnesses from a different perspective. We can realize how great they can be (they are).

Thanks!


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Hi Stolive:) I think through their work, each of the above artists shared with us something of their experience and perspective. I was glad to pull it together and it was interesting for me, as I was gathering information, seeing how it would all fit together. Thanks Stolive for reading and commenting. It's good to "see" you.


Stolive profile image

Stolive 5 years ago from Botswana

Thank you Kimh039! You really did a great job.

C'est en effet un grand plaisir de te "revoir".


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Je comprends! Merci de parler Francais. Il est de bonne pratique pour moi.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

This is an awesome hub , , ,thank you, it is inspiring , , ,


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

I'm so glad you're inspired, tsmog. I think any of us who holds back on expressing ourselves out of fear of rejection, judgment, etc can find inspiration here... and I think that's any of us at some time or another. Thanks for reading and commenting tsmog.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

I try hard at changing judgment to discernment. Judging or judgment is a greatly socialized process. The word 'no' when children begins that process in my view.

Maybe that would make a great hub - judging; what it means vs. how it is defined. I touched on the absolutist vs the relativist views in my hub series on stigma. I think as we acknowledge and understand 'something' while tossing in empathy, there is less judgment. But, expediency sometimes demands judgment, then the criteria of judging may be 'emotion driven' based on the socialized process.

I'm babbling a thought process, whoops, I have discovered your hubs to be very informative and your talent is well displayed through each and collectively. Thank you for your contributions. They are helpful as well as inspiring.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks tsmog! I will have to come back to this comment later when I have more time to really reflect, but my immediate reaction is that we talked about the same thing in my group last night! It helps to separate the person from the action. it is good to use good judgment about our own or another's actions, and we can do that without judging the person as ie; good, bad, worthy, etc. And expediency, or just getting the job done - a task focus rather than people focus - can be harsh at times towards people. I'll have to get back to your hub series on stigma too. Thanks so much for the insightful comment and adding your insights to my hub:)


Sun-Girl profile image

Sun-Girl 5 years ago from Nigeria

Nice work which really enjoyed from and was richly informed after reading this article. Thanks dear for sharing.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

I like "richly informed!" Thank you so much Sun-Girl - for reading and commenting. May you continue to be richly informed:)


snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

I just read your hub on boundaries and for some reason not able to leave a comment, wanted to compliment you there on your nicely styled poem and your insight into what boundaries are all about. I am also liking this hub and comments. It is so easy for people to use labels on others and leave it at that.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

It can be easy to accept labels others put on us if we are not mindful as well! "Where You Draw the Line" is the poem about boundaries, and now that you mention it, it also gives some good insights about coping with stigma. Thanks for making that connection.... and for reading and commenting, snakeslane. Welcome to hubpages, too:)


gsidley profile image

gsidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

Just discovered this hub and enjoyed reading it.

It is great to hear stories of how people with mental health problems can make hugely positive contributions to society and achieve highly. Sadly, the dominant message typically given by western psychiatric services is one of low expectations and of being a slave to one's brain biochemicals.

Great hub - I will eagerly read some of your other stuff.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 4 years ago Author

Thanks gsidley. Yes, the human spirit is very resilient when it's not been murdered!

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