Breaking free of the stigma of mental illness

Breaking Free Of The Stigma Of Mental Illness

When you realize that you have a mental illness it can be a very scary time. I remember the moment that I realized my own truth [I am a drug addict and an alcoholic] and one of the things that went through my mind was what will people think of me now? The things associated with being a drug addict and an alcoholic are not exactly positive are they?

When I thought of an addict I thought of someone lying passed out with a needle in their arm and when I thought of an alcoholic the mental picture that came to me was of someone lying in the gutter, very possibly in their own pee and vomit.

I also thought that addicts brought it on themselves, that they caused their own problems – when the facts are that there are many reasons for mental illness and it is not easy to pinpoint the exact cause.

It was not easy coming to terms with my problem. To top it off I have also been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. For anyone that doesn’t know what Bipolar Disorder is, to just put it simply my moods don’t work the same as other people. Most people have shifts in their moods but if you have Bipolar Disorder these shifts are much more extreme – moving between periods of mania and depression.

After I got into recovery and got clean I spent a period of time feeling lots of shame for my condition. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had not just one mental disorder but a few since along with addiction and Bipolar Disorder I was also codependent which was causing even more dysfunction in my relationships.

Now a funny thing happened one day, I was walking around town when I bumped into someone that I was friendly with during school [yes a long time ago] and she asked me what I had been up to. For some reason it just came out of me that I had just come out of rehab. I was about to shrink with shame when she said she is so glad to hear that I have finally gotten the help that I needed. She was supportive and non-judgmental.

This was a beautiful moment for me that actually changed my life, not only did I realize that most people had already noticed that things were not quite right with me [duh, actually I was the last to know, talk about denial!], but I have nothing to be ashamed of.

From that moment onwards I have always been open and honest about my mental illnesses and I have found that the more open I am the more acceptance I find from other people. We would all love to say that we don’t care what other people think, but the truth is that we all do care and we all do want to be accepted.

I believe that something standing in the way of so many people finding help for mental illness is this deep need to be accepted and the fear that they may be rejected if they are open about it.

I just wanted to share with you that almost every single time I tell anyone that I have Bipolar Disorder and I am an addict and alcoholic I almost always get exactly the same response. The person I am talking to tells me that they have a mental disorder or they have a close family member or friend that has one.

It was so amusing recently when I met up with a group of bloggers recently and while we were having lunch we realized that 3 out of 4 of us were on the same medication. Yvette Hess, one of the bloggers I met also has Bipolar Disorder and shares openly about it on her blog.

So how come when so many people have a mental disorder is there this stigma attached to mental illness? I believe it is time to break through this stigma and I doing my bit by blogging about my experiences. Most of what I have to share about addiction and mental health issues is on my addiction website Living With Addiction.

You are welcome to check out that website, but I am also going to be bringing a lot more of that through to this blog too so I can reach many more people.

I also suffered from PND after the birth of my first baby – it was a terrible experience and I sympathize with moms that go through this.

Apparently one in four people suffer from mental illness in some form whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, addiction or one of the many more types of mental illness.

One in four people is a huge amount of the population, so it really comes as no surprise that so many people I speak to has a mental disorder or someone close to them that has one.

If you are struggling I can promise you that you are not alone and I highly recommend that you speak out and get the help that you need.

I’ve been to rehab for my addiction and alcoholism. I have also spent some time in a psychiatric ward… and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact the worse part for me was the fear before booking myself in.

Through counseling and treatment I have managed to make some huge changes to my life and I have found happiness.

I find lots of inspiration, motivation and support connecting with other mommy bloggers that have shared their personal experiences with mental illness. I really find that I can relate so much to the articles that they have written – bloggers are notorious for baring it all and getting real which is what needs to happen to break free of the stigma of mental illness.

Breaking Free Of The Stigma Of Mental Illness

Mommy Bloggers With Mental Illness

Here are some really awesome articles that you can read by mommy bloggers sharing their own experiences. It was a truly amazing experience to connect with Yvette Hess online when I was searching for mommy bloggers with mental illness only to find out that we live so close to each other I can probably throw a stone through her window from my house!

It is so lovely to connect with another mother that blogs and that has Bipolar Disorder, we really have so much in common – and connecting with someone like this really helps when you start to feel alone.

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  1. Hint Elizabeth

    Thank you so much for mentioning my website, Chaoswithsugar. I LOVE this article. Coming forward about what PPD did to me and how much it effected my family was a huge step in my road to getting help.

    -Elizabeth Hint-Cole =)

    • Thanks for visiting Elizabeth and thanks for sharing your story, it was a pleasure to add you to my article 🙂 I have personally found that sharing about my difficulties helps me to heal and move forward and at the same time it also helps others so it really is a win win situation!

      I hope you are coping better now.

  2. @lynne
    Now I’m requesting a “love” button ?

    • Oh we will have to ask @abid for a LOVE button, that is beyond my skills 🙂 I write and he adds the cool features LOL

  3. @lynne
    2 things, first off. You look lovely! Second, man I wish you lived in JHB!

    This topic is exactly what I wanted to blog about when I had the brainwave before it fell flat due to “technical difficulties” lol

    In march this year, after a breakdown, I was booked into a mental wellness clinic and rehab, against my will basically by my Baby Daddy and Ex.

    It was 10 o clock at night and I didn’t care what they called it, he had me there at a looney bin having me admitted! I was furious.

    I spent two weeks at this facility where I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and my eyes were opened is all I can say.

    Like you said the denial is a power source of its own, I honestly thought I was fine, ignoring all the signs! Looking back now, the biggest sign was that my little one didn’t actually want to come and stay with me! My heart breaks now, thinking of how much I let her down.

    The stigma around mental illness is alarming, yet I found myself playing into that. No one could know where I was or why I was there.

    I would LOVE more blogs on this @lynne and I would love to chat to other moms battling with the same illnesses. I could go on and on about my experiences and feelings towards dealing with my illness but I’ll keep that for future posts .

    I cant wait to read the blogs of the Moms that you’ve shared here 🙂

    Once again a big up to you Lynne for keeping things real and making others realize they are not alone!

    • Lynne Huysamen

      I am so sorry to hear that you struggled so much @tamara – I also freaked out when I was booked into the psychiatric ward of Kenilworth Clinic for 3 weeks. The thought of being there was so much scarier than reality though and truth be told I actually had a great time and enjoyed being there. yes it was painful dealing with things, but I was being looked after for the first time in such a long time and I only had to concentrate on myself and getting better. I quite recommend a stay in the loony bin to anyone that is struggling!

      I hope to bring you much more, just so you know @yvettehess is one blogger you really need to follow – she really gets in deep with everything and I love reading her articles. I find myself nodding in agreement while I am reading!

      • @lynne, I felt exactly the same, by the end of my stay i was so nervous about leaving it was ridiculous.

  4. Thanks for sharing this with us @lynne. I wish more people would speak up and share their stories.

    I have never had a mental illness, but I have been experiencing it first hand.

    My parents both had a problem with alcohol.
    This didn’t change my opinion or love for them. They were still the same loving parents that raised me and taught me everything I know.

    They had an illness and that’s how I looked at it.

    The biggest problem is denial. Only when a person admits that they have a problem and are willing to to for rehabilitation, can they be helped.

    I can’t tell you how many times did I cry myself to sleep and prayed. At one point I even thought that God has forsaken me, because why did I have to carry this burden?

    By saying burden, I’m referring to stress, sadness, grief and the feeling of complete helplessness.

    A few years ago I thought that I am going to lose my Dad for good. When I was at work I was so stressed because I didn’t know what I would find when I get home. If he would still be alive or not.
    I couldn’t talk to other people because they wouldn’t understand and I was scared that they would judge and think less of him.

    Then, one day my Dad just got up and decided to change his life around. He went for help and I had my Dad for a few years until he passed away last year.

    Ultimately, the cause of his death was an indirect result of his alcohol abuse in previous years. He had a bad fall and due to his age and his heart and liver, his body shut down and I’ve lost him. Just thinking about this breaks my heart and I’m still struggling most days to deal with it.

    My Dad was an incredible person and father. I wouldn’t trade my childhood or my parents for anything. When a person goes through this, don’t judge the person, see it for what it is. An illness that can be cured through treatment and/or rehabilitation.

    After my Dad died, my Mom’s health spiralled out of control. Due to her drinking in secret, not eating well and not taking her medicine, we almost lost her as well. She has a heart condition, high blood pressure and she’s a diabetic on top of it. Basically my Mom ended up in Hospital with a broken pelvis and she nearly died because of her blood sugar. If the ambulance didn’t reach her that day when they did, she would have died.

    On the one hand, this was a good thing that happened. Because this forced her to admit that she had a problem and that she couldn’t carry on the way that she did. My Mom was drinking in secret for years now. And I could immediately tell when she was doing it. Her behaviour gave her away. I knew all the signs and the different stages that she went through.

    When she was in Hospital, she was in the best possible care. They could regulate her meals, medicine and keep an eye on her to make sure she is ok.

    If you stop drinking you experience withdrawal symptoms and your body can go into shock and it can be very dangerous. That’s why people sometimes keep drinking. They take the next drink to keep those withdrawal symptoms at bay and they are too ashamed to seek professional help.

    After my Mom left the Hospital she never took another drink.

    I wish you an see the difference. Her health has improved and she is more positive than I’ve ever seen her. She’s doing well. And people keep complimenting her on how well she looks.

    I’m just so relieved. I was heart broken about losing my Dad and I already started preparing myself for the worst.

    • I am so sorry to hear about the difficulties with your parents drinking @loupie and again condolences for your dad passing away recently 🙁 I am such a daddy’s girl and I can’t bear the thought of losing either one of my parents.

      You are so right, addiction can be managed and people can turn their lives around. I am living proof of that. I am so glad your mother is doing better, she must have been through a terrible ordeal.

  5. @lynne she has. My parents were married for 42 years and together for 45.

    I know how hard it was for us losing him, I can’t even begin to imagine what she must have been going through.

    She moved in with my brother shortly after and then they broke in one night. Two of them were in the room where she was sleeping.

    This was very traumatic.

    Thank goodness my brother didn’t wake up while they were in the house otherwise things could have gone very badly.

    No-one was hurt but all of this happening in a short period of time did have an impact.

    • How awful @loupie 🙁 I am so sorry to hear about that traumatic incident. I have been hearing about so many awful things recently – it is scary what is going on in our country.

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