Trying to break the stigma

There's an ever-growing stigma in the world, about people with mental health issues. Even I, someone who deals with some of these issues, have been known to make assumptions. But as I've grown a little older, I've realized how these assumptions can hurt, and hurt deeply.

As a child I was sheltered. My home was extremely dysfunctional, but I knew only that, therefore believed such is life. I was extremely naive to the world, believing everything I heard or read because there was nobody there to give me the real answers. I had a feeling even at a young age that things weren't right with the world. When I would ask questions, I was denied any real answers. I was told, "I don't know", or "Because I said so". Thank God I had the aptitude to want more in life, so I began to read, read, read. Books alone couldn't save me from the cruel, adult world I would soon face, but they gave me the education I needed to be aware of the evils in this world.

School, for me, was like a cruel joke that someone was playing on me. Seeing as my family was blind to my emotional problems, I suffered greatly throughout my junior high and high school years. I had no clue who I was. I didn't fit in with anybody, but I stuck to the "stoners" because they accepted me. I watched my peers doing hard drugs right in front of me. They'd offer things to me and I turned every single offer down. That wasn't me. I spent most of my high school years drinking and partying (mostly in towns away from my own). It was the only way for me to socialize comfortably. I felt liked, I felt attractive, and people even laughed at my jokes. It was a sort of lackadaisical feeling which I enjoyed much more than loneliness and sadness.

As I entered adulthood and married at age 20, I was flung into the outside world like a tadpole in a pool of sharks. There were so many things that happened in my 20's, that I'd never thought existed in the world. I didn't realize that you're not supposed to trust every person that you come in contact with. I didn't realize that I was lovable. I didn't realize that I was a truly good person. There were many things that made me naive and vulnerable in the real world. Not only that, I married a man who abused me. Granted, my husband has taught a lot about the realities of life, he's also negated my emotions and feelings about the world itself. Just like in my childhood. Only I didn't see it early enough.

Even through the abuse of my husband, I prevailed in educating myself. I ignored my husbands ignorance, and went to counseling to try to heal myself. He only "allowed" me a few counseling sessions, but I predicted that, so I made the utmost of every session I attended. This is what I've been diagnosed with over the last 12 years:

Depression--I've been through many bouts of depression. I would be extremely sad and felt hopeless for days or months at a time. I wouldn't do enough housework, I wouldn't make dinner, I wouldn't do much of anything at all. I just felt like I was swimming in a sea of darkness.

Anxiety--I suffered several anxiety attacks before I knew what was happening to me. At times, I thought I was having a heart attack. I would worry so deeply about certain things, that I had chest pains and I actually thought I was having a heart attack. I wouldn't be able to take a deep breath to save my life, it felt like I was being stabbed in the lung with a carving knife each time I tried to breathe. I would shake, I would sweat, and nausea would set in. It was such a hopeless, sickening feeling. My husband would tell me to stop being such a whiner.

I was actually diagnosed with a few different types of anxiety; generalized anxiety, situational anxiety, and panic attacks caused by anxiety.

My anxiety consists of vile, graphic images in my mind. It grew worse after I had children, of course mothers worry about many things, so this added to the pain. I would imagine my children being ran over by a car. And not only would I see them being ran over by a car, I would watch it happen, I would "see" the car ram into their little bodies, imagine their little bones breaking, their pain, and their sadness. I would see the blood fly from their mouths, them flying through the air, then ultimately hitting the ground, dead. I could see the gashes on their bodies, the smears of dirt on their tiny baby faces, and their shoes still planted perfectly and firmly on the ground where the car had stopped.

One other vision that I remember vividly seeing was a time when there was a gas truck working on our neighbors home. Every second that that truck was outside, I imagined my kids being outside playing, and the gas men make a mistake.....everything on the block would explode into pieces. Including myself. I would picture the homes and bodies of everyone around us, disintegrating into chunks of burning wood, metal, fat and flesh.. I would think of all of the families that would be eternally devastated about the loss of their family members in our neighborhood. I could feel the true pain, if only for a second, of losing them. This at times, was a daily occurence.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stess Disorder)--As the name describes, this affects you after a traumatic event in your life. Many war veterans suffer with this and have flashbacks that in turn, cause depression and anxiety symptoms as well. Due to a few life events of my own that were life-altering, this is probably the most significant of my troubles. I was sexually abused and had to watch my sister be abused as well, watched my mother get beat unconcious by her husband, watched this same husband tromp down the hallway of our house with a rifle and he threw my kittens out the back door into the air and shot them, my mother was attacked and choked by an intruder that intended to rape her, when I was 8 years old in the bed next to her. I've also been physically abused by my husband. He has choked me several times, raped me, dragged me around the house by my hair, and held a 15 inch blade knife above my head and told me he would kill me, in front of our small children.

Go figure, I haven't had a good nights sleep since I was probably 5 years old. As writers, most of you can understand that feeling. Not only are you tired, but it affects everything else that you do, or try to do. Lack of sleep, or lack of a deep sleep can definitely rattle your brain and your thoughts. It can eventually affect your physical health as well. I'm not in the best of health for being a 33 year old.

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)--The name says it all here. As I looked back, after receiving this diagnoses, it explained so much. I couldn't sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher lecture for an hour, and I certainly couldn't read more than half a page of social studies without losing my thought process altogether. My concentration would break after just a few words or phrases. I always knew myself though. I knew that I was intelligent. I knew I had much more than potential, but had no answers. My peers often looked at me as an underachiever. It was heart-wrenching. I wanted to learn, I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be in sports (mom wouldn't put me in anything), and I definitely wanted to fit in somewhere.

Not only does ADD affect my way of learning, but some of the side affects are anxiety and depression. This menagerie of illnesses made me want to hide from the world. Which leads me to my last diagnoses......

Social Phobia--I believe, in part, that all of the above illnesses, contribute to the social phobia. I love people, I love having friends, but I have extreme anxiety in crowds of people or even just being around people that are strangers to me. I'm constantly worried about what everyone is thinking about me. So much so that it cripples me and leads me to avoid social activities altogether. For instance, my children are in extra-carricular activities, but I do everything I can to avoid going to them. Not because I don't want to be with my children and support them, but because my fear of all of the other parents judging me takes over. Now I'm not saying that I don't go to my children's sport events, because that's the opposite of the truth. In fact I'm the only one that's taken my son to every single wrestling practice he's had. He's been in wrestling since Kindergarten and he's in 4th grade now. I would make myself go to his practices. I would tell myself to ignore everyone else, because my son was more important. Where the social phobia/anxiety comes in is before I have to go to these events. I spend up to an entire week being scared and anxious about being around the crowd of people.

I also believe that my husbands abuse has contributed to this as well. He has never "allowed" me to have friends, in fact he even convinced me that my own family didn't love me, so for a long time I didn't have one person, outside of my crazy husband, that I could turn to. For anything! He would tell me that I acted like a dork around other people and that I embarrassed him. If he would have HIS friends over, he didn't allow me to talk to them. If I began a conversation with someone else, he would blatantly interrupt me and take his friend elsewhere, to another room or outside.

He would also tell me that I was crazy all of the time. Because I expected him to treat me with respect, I was crazy and clingy. He would tell me that because my family was full of losers, that I would be one too, without him.

But I'm grown now. I know better. I believe that I do suffer with these issues, but I want to try to clear the stigma that I'm "crazy". I'm almost the complete opposite of crazy. I'm rational, thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, loving, and many other great things. I'm far from crazy, but how does a person like me hide from the stigma of being crazy, while being completely honest about my illnesses. I've had experiences since my diagnoses where I've tried to explain my issues to people and they either look at me like a nut-job or like I'm full of shit and just need an excuse to be lazy and not work for a living. I hate these assumptions, they break me down even further.

I hope to be ending my marriage soon, so I believe that alone will change me dramatically. The anxiety and depression run in both sides of my family so I will forever deal with those things, but I've learned how to deal with them, without medication. So I know that I can lead a fairly normal life in the future, but I want to help others with this hub, by showing you that these "illnesses" do not make a person bad or crazy. They've suffered deeply having these problems and we should show them love. They need it and deserve it. Trust me when I tell you that if you know someone that suffers like I do (as millions of people do) and you give them the time of day, a shoulder to cry on, a kind word or a smile, you can help change their lives. Not only that, you may give them the courage to begin helping themselves.

Thanks to so many supportive people that I've met online in the last 5 years, I've been able to turn my life around in so many ways.Their support, honesty, and gentleness have helped to heal my wounds.

So please, Pay It Forward:)

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Comments 23 comments

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Madison22-Bless you sweetie. I wish you the best! It's not an easy road, as you know, but you have to keep chuggin' along:) Hugs

Madison22 profile image

Madison22 7 years ago from NYC

Thank you so much for your honesty,your courage inspires me.

I have fought alot of the same demons and am coming out on

the other side with a new outlook on life, with the support of many people such as you are. Again, Thanks!!!

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

I'm up so late because I couldn't sleep. And Hub Pages is totally addicting, ask any of the other dorks that are still here:) lol

Okay, now you're making me nervous, Crush. if you're a family member or friend of mine trying to make me feel special, you're an ass! Nobody's crushed on me for years and I'm finding it a little hard to believe!

Hub-Crush 7 years ago

My, my so sure of me are you? I don't think so...Why are you up so late and who are you thinking about? I am no "Pirate," and we are not 1500 miles apart but I may just steal your heart...

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Crush--I think I know who you are now...(don't worry hubbers, they're one of my family or friends, I just can't figure it out yet) lol

MM--Thanks for the great support and wisdom. I've often wondered the same thing, why are people with mental illness treated like lepers? When I even use the words 'mental illness' people automatically think Schizophrenic. I've heard and read about the stigma's, it's disgusting! It's a proven fact that PTSD leaves permanent scarring in your brain. Like you said, how can I help that? I can't heal it but I can help it. Thanks again for your sweet comments and support. HP has been a true life-saver for me:)

Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

So brave of you to put it out there like that. I think when people get to know you first -- and form a positive opinion of you based on how you present yourself -- they are better able to handle hearing you have mental illness. Still, it's unsettling to a lot of people.

You do have more than your share, but with a childhood like yours compounded by your adult relationship also being abusive, how could anyone expect you to remain unscathed? It would be impossible, I think.

I particulary love the title of your hub. It makes me furious that mental illness is stigmatized. Are diabetics stigmatized? How about heart disease patients? The pain and suffering of someone whose illness happens to be within their brain is every bit as real. The good news is, help is available. I am so glad you are getting better and moving into a strong, healthy space for yourself. We are here to support and listen, MissJamieD! MM

Hub-Crush 7 years ago

I'll never tell? What fun would that be????

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Hub-crush--Such wise words....who are you? I'm still thinking.....TH?

Hub-Crush 7 years ago

To be able to put your thoughts and life experiences on "paper" shows how far you have come.  It seems to me that you are closing the chapter on that part of your life.  You know what you need to do... and are doing it.  Keep your faith and start a new chapter.  

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

wei & paul--Thank you for reading:)

paulkoson profile image

paulkoson 7 years ago

Trying to break the stigma

I like your hub. I think it very good.

wei654231 profile image

wei654231 7 years ago

Trying to break the stigma

Very good article, thank you to share, welcome to my space to see

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Tom, thank you so much. I'm sorry that you've had to deal with some of these issues too. Thanks for reading:) Your writing has been an inspiration to me. It's so great to know that I do have support. Really, I probably wouldn't be as strong as I am at this moment if I wouldn't have found HP. And I certainly hope that things are going well for you also. You're a very honest man and I appreciate that to the fullest.

Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States

This hub is anything but boring. Many of your experiences resonate with my own, though I've experienced nothing that approaches what you have experienced. To read your thoughtful and well written account is an inspiration. I wish you full healing and all joys this life may offer.

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Amanda--thank you very much for reading my hub. And an even bigger thank you for your support. Most of my hubs are about my life, as boring as that may be for everyone else, but this is MY healing process.

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Teresa-Thank you hon:) Thanks so much for the hugs. I sure wish I could meet each and every one of you, you're all helping me change my life.

There aren't enough thanks' for that.

toad--Good to see you buddy! I always love your support as well. Any man that shows me that all men aren't assh*les, are a new star in my sky.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

Jamie, good luck getting to grips with all this. Sometimes I hear stories like yours and I can scarcely believe how badly human beings treat each other. Well you certainly deserve better in life than you've had thus far, and I hope that your life turns around now, and that you're able to walk on the sunny side every day in the future.

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I wish you all the very best -- good luck in your new life. You are strong and intelligent and caring, and you deserve a good life with good companions. Hugs and more hugs, Teresa.

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Absolutely, laughter IS the best medicine!

cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Cape Town

Never stop laughing, even in the worst of times

MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 7 years ago from Minnes-O-ta Author

Cindy-I'm so sorry to hear about your cancer, and your past relationship. It's great to see that you have such a positive view on life:) You always do, thank you so much:)

Benson--Thanks for reading. I write about my experiences because they've made me who I am.

Benson Yeung profile image

Benson Yeung 7 years ago from Hong Kong

thanks for sharing your experience and views.

cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Cape Town

Hey Jamie, we're hear for you. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress after my breast cancer. Apparently, it was a combination of that and what I went through escaping from my husband 5 years earlier that I thought I'd dealt with. But you know, the good news is that you heal just as a little scratch will heal.

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