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Mental Health stigma


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I work full time. I tell absolutely nobody about my BP dx. I am convinced that if anyone knew I would be quietly brushed aside and always treated with suspicion - I imagine people never trusting what I say or do.

even my best friends don't know. My sister and husband only. I was diagnosed after I was married and he knew me pre-medication, so I trust him. 

It is lonely. But I fear being patronized by people who may be thinking "oh, that's just the bipolar talking" whenever I say anything.

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I also work full time. I have missed work for hospitalizations, taken short term disability leave, and received weekly ECT treatments (while working a reduced schedule). No one at work knows about my dx (MDD, GAD/social phobia, ADHD). They don't take seriously the work of a former colleague who left due to MI and I don't have to imagine what they'd say about me and my work if they knew how ill I am. I know the stigma is less for MDD than for other MI, but it is still there.

Unfortunately, it sometimes becomes too easy to pretend I'm better than I am, and I struggle to let others in to know how bad is bad (including my care team, though I'm getting better at that). I feel horrible for how horrible I feel, if that makes sense. Internalized stigma or something.

I guess my comment to you is that a diagnosis is just a guide for which treatment approaches to try first. No one needs to know aside from your doctors. You can keep that information very private if you want.

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I can not buy life insurance because of my dx (suicide risk).  

i was taken off the bone marrow donor list when i updated my health record.

the correct dx helps you get proper treatment. Like was said above, you have the choice on who you disclose your dx  to. 

I am pretty open now, but I disclosed slowly, over time.

 

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When some friends found out my diagnosis years ago they began to talk to me in a careful voice using simple words. They had never seen or heard of any of my personal symptoms, just my diagnosis as bipolar. I was never able to have a conversation of substance with them again. After that for years I'd just say I have depression problems. People think they know what that means and they are comfortable with it and don't assume you've lost your intelligence. I now don't care what anyone thinks and I am pretty open about being bipolar. It helps me weed out people when I see how they talk to me after they know.

The only trouble I have now is with doctors who don't know me. Doctors can be horribly stupid about this, like the one who wouldn't give me pain medication in the hospital right after a back operation because he said all bipolar people are drug seeking (????) and I was lying about being in pain while I was screaming in pain. He pulled in a psychiatrist to shut me up and she yelled at him to give me pain meds, pain meds that every other person with that operation got. I have never abused drugs. Even some psychiatrists have talked to me in a loud, slow voice and told me to calm down when I was perfectly calm and showing no emotion but they had just read I was bipolar. Nothing on my file would ever indicate I needed to be told to calm down.

When you find a doctor that listens to you and talks to you like an adult hang onto that doctor and ask him/her to refer you to any other doctor you need who they think will treat you like a human. As for other people, until you are comfortable saying more there is no reason to tell anyone anything more than they need to hear to explain why you may have a limitation. If you want you can just say I am ill or I have depression issues. You will be viewed differently by ignorant twats if they hear you are bipolar. Expect it and plan accordingly. 

Edited by wadjet
a word
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Mine is different; it's one of the most stigmatized diagnosis available. I don't even mention it here all that much, and it's not in my signature. Online, I don't want to have to defend myself against the misconceptions all the time.

In-person I say even less about it. My partner knows, but we don't talk about it. He's complicit in my silence. Sometimes I find this to be a very lonely place to be, but I'm so terrified to bring it up that I can't. It affects my ability to get care, as I don't trust the medical profession at all. While I have a therapist, I don't tell any physical health doctors. They might dismiss me when I bring up a concern. Because I want them to take me seriously I don't tell them about my mental health and I go to great lengths to keep them separate. It's difficult for me to do this. Lately my new fear has been that I lose my ability to hide it. If that happens my plan is to just repeat my partner's phone number over and over and over so that it becomes the only option. He can deal with it if I lose my capacity to. That's how much I don't want it known; that I'd rather seem more incapacitated than I am.

I also work two part time jobs, as well as run my own business. For one of my jobs, if my MI came to light, I could be barred from working even though I'm good at my job. That's all because of stigma and misinformation about the disorder. That stigma and misinformation is also one reason why I never want to have children - they could be taken away from me, again because of a label. I run my own business partly as a backup plan; it's insurance against word getting out despite my best efforts.

I wish that I didn't have to live such a closeted life. It's very difficult for me. It hurts me greatly that I'm perpetuating the shame and the stigma with my silence. This pain then takes a toll on my mental health and makes it harder for me to function. However, I don't know what else to do. I would love for the people around me to be understanding, and to be able to support me when I need it. However, I'm too terrified to ask for this; when I've asked for it in the past I was met with abuse instead. My partner is the first person who hasn't hurt me with this knowledge. I wish that I could say that I'm depressed, or anxious, because those are socially acceptable or socially understandable.

 

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I'm "out" to my entire family, friends, and most coworkers. Luckily, I work at a very small nonprofit organization where people still take me seriously despite knowing I am a depressed, anxious, ADD-having, voice-hearing person. I've been worried before about my career taking a hit because of my MI being out there, but nothing bad has happened. I'd rather tell people myself than let them find out another way. I guess some people use hiding it as a defense mechanism, whereas I use being OUT as a defense mechanism. I tell pretty much everyone. If they can't handle the diagnoses, I don't want much to do with them.

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I don't say anything, but that's just because I'm a private person, there are a lot of things, non-MI, that I don't talk about IRL. I also don't want the "oh, you're an artist, of course you have MI problems, don't they all?" Utter bullshit.

rarely socialize, and the few people I do have contact with just accept the quirk that I like to disappear from time to time. 

It's not embarrassment or shame. It's just private. If I had something physical, like diabetes, I wouldn't be announcing that to the world either. 

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I am also out. Partly because I can be. The repercussions would be pretty minimal, by my reckoning, and partly because I want to stand up and put a public face on MI (and Autism) in the hopes of making the world easier for all the people who can't do it.

Anyone who isn't in a position to be out should feel absolutely no shame. Got it, y'all? Not everyone can be. It's totally understandable. You have to take care of you and keep yourself safe, first and foremost.

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16 minutes ago, Gearhead said:

partly because I want to stand up and put a public face on MI (and Autism) in the hopes of making the world easier for all the people who can't do it.

Same here. Before meeting me, I'm pretty sure none of my coworkers had (knowingly) met someone who hears voices. None of them crept away or anything like that when I told them, and I'm glad of that.

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22 hours ago, Geek said:

I also work full time. I have missed work for hospitalizations, taken short term disability leave, and received weekly ECT treatments (while working a reduced schedule). No one at work knows about my dx (MDD, GAD/social phobia, ADHD). They don't take seriously the work of a former colleague who left due to MI and I don't have to imagine what they'd say about me and my work if they knew how ill I am. I know the stigma is less for MDD than for other MI, but it is still there.

Unfortunately, it sometimes becomes too easy to pretend I'm better than I am, and I struggle to let others in to know how bad is bad (including my care team, though I'm getting better at that). I feel horrible for how horrible I feel, if that makes sense. Internalized stigma or something.

I guess my comment to you is that a diagnosis is just a guide for which treatment approaches to try first. No one needs to know aside from your doctors. You can keep that information very private if you want.

i agree, but it can attach stigma to you, people dont undestand alot of these things. it can also affect insuranee and disbaility coverages

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On 7/26/2017 at 7:52 PM, Geek said:

I also work full time. I have missed work for hospitalizations, taken short term disability leave,

Same.

And I don't tell anyone except those I trust strongly, about my MIs. Even if it effects my work, my boss just knows I have FMLA to use to go to appointments or leave work. Not why. He knows I have a disability because of an ADA accomodation I tried to get (well I got it but didn't want it once I had it since it involved being unpaid for 80 minutes a day). 

I don't tell anyone at work mostly because they will find some reason to fire me if they find out I'm bipolar and have GAD. I am sure of it. It happened once before.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have suffered repercussions from revealing my MI so now it's totally private. None of my current friends, family, or coworkers know. When my pdoc suggested I ask for ADA accommodations I was horrified. There's definitely stigma and discrimination. I wish I had a friend to discuss it with, but having lost friends due to revealing issues, no thanks, I prefer to keep the friends I have left. I'm very private anyway, I kept my cancer a secret, too, for the most part, so it's not just MI. I'd suggest anyone pause before they reveal because you can't take it back. Then if you're OK with possible stigma, do what feels right. Maybe things will change someday, but for now, stigma and discrimination is out there. 

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I've suffered from stigma whenever I disclosed which is rarely. I've even run into the attitude that depressed people are lazy and malingering and that depression is not a "real" mental illness like schizophrenia so I should just "get my act together."

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30 minutes ago, sugarsugar said:

I have suffered repercussions from revealing my MI so now it's totally private. None of my current friends, family, or coworkers know. When my pdoc suggested I ask for ADA accommodations I was horrified. There's definitely stigma and discrimination. I wish I had a friend to discuss it with, but having lost friends due to revealing issues, no thanks, I prefer to keep the friends I have left. I'm very private anyway, I kept my cancer a secret, too, for the most part, so it's not just MI. I'd suggest anyone pause before they reveal because you can't take it back. Then if you're OK with possible stigma, do what feels right. Maybe things will change someday, but for now, stigma and discrimination is out there. 

care to share what MI?

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