Why Stigma is Not Like a Band-Aid


Stigma sucks.

So does Stigmata but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

Thing is, band-aids would do a better job of healing stigmata, as horrific as it is, than it they would to heal the misconceptions about mental illness.

For centuries, people have developed their own fears and prejudices in regards to those of us who struggle with mental illness.

We’re scary.

We’re violent.

We’re stupid.

We can’t function.

We should be locked away.

We are to be feared.

We are to be hidden.

We are to be whispered about.

We are not to be talked about at all.

We are to hide our illness the best we can.

We are an embarrassment to our families.

We can’t have friends.

We can’t have children.

We can make our illness go away.

We choose to be crazy, nuts, insane, loco.

We use mental illness as an excuse to not contribute to society.

We are lazy.

Meet stigma.

Stigma is a heavy blanket which covers all of us who struggle with mental illness. Not only do we fight against whatever illness it is we are diagnosed with, but we fight the blanket too. It’s a thick and heavy blanket society has flung over us to hide us as we try to function within their world. It’s hiding us. Just as a band-aid hides a wound.

Band-aids don’t always heal wounds. Sometimes a wound needs to breathe, to gulp in fresh air, scab over, and continue to grow new skin in order to heal. Fresh air is the equivalent of open conversation of mental illness not laced with stigma. Until we, as a society, are able to sit down at a table together to discuss mental illness without resorting to judging or stigmatizing those who struggle with it, we will never heal.

Stigma is not something which can be pulled off quickly like a band-aid either.

It requires a slow removal because stigma is a wound which has been festering for eons. Lots of tender care is required in order to aid in the wound reaching fresh air. Several layers need to be removed, slowly and carefully. Bold conversations, intense honesty, patience, compassion, and a dedicated desire to convey the truth about mental health are requirements.

It is possible to peel back the layers and allow the wounds to heal. Start with one person and you might be surprised where your ripple of truth ends up. But if you never start that conversation? Stigma will continue to thrive. Don’t hesitate to do something because you believe just one voice doesn’t make a difference. Because your voice, no matter how small, matters.

Anderson Cooper, Meds, Parents, and Responsibility


Today, in 20 minutes from now, where I live, at least, Anderson Cooper airs. He’s doing a segment about Moms & Medication – Mothers who take medication to be a better parent. Anti-anxiety pills, specifically.

I want to be happy they’re covering this but after last night’s initial tweet which has several people I know up in arms, I just can’t. I’m holding my breath and will be tuning in to watch just to see if they cover things properly and make a clear exception that there ARE parents out there who do need medication for mental health issues just to live, not to be a better parent.

Last night, Anderson’s Twitter account for his show tweeted this gem:

Taking mood stabilizers to be a better parent? What do you think of this new trend? Tweet back: #ALParenting

— Anderson Live (@andersonlive) March 3, 2013

Wow.

If there are parents out there truly doing this, yikes. And if this is just Anderson’s way of spinning the situation into a hype, then shame on them. There are multiple reasons a parent would legitimately need psychiatric medication – not just to be a better parent.

Watch with me, follow along on Twitter (I’m @unxpctdblessing), and follow the hashtag #ALParenting.

I’ll be tuning in and pushing back, using both the #ALParenting hashtag as well as the #ppdchat hashtag. Please join me if you can.

This post will be updated with reactions – and if you write anything or have any comments, please do not hesitate to share them here as well.

Update, after watching the show:

Overall, it went much better than I thought it would. However, as with all discussions about mental health, particularly ones squeezed into short segments and sensationalized for daytime viewing, things did go wrong. Below is a short list of what I was happy to see and then a few things I wasn’t happy to see:

Happy to see:

  • Dr. Michele Borba emphasize the seriousness of maternal depression and getting treatment for it. (Also emphasizing that depressed mothers will and should do anything to get help for their illness)
  • Emphasis, again, by Dr. Borba, that we, as mothers, need to get to know our hot points, learn how to deal with them, and how to deal with winding down as a family so we pass on practical de-stressing techniques to our children.
  • Anderson Cooper emphasize, at the end of the discussion, how important it is that if you have an issue with depression or mental illness, to see a doctor about your issues.

Not happy to see:

  • The anti-med member of the panel ask a member of the audience this question: “If your son were to come up to you and say he had a bad day, would you just tell him to take a pill?” The audience member was stunned. Absolutely stunned. So was I. Just because I took medication after I had my children did not mean I only coped by taking a pill. A pill is merely one part of therapy, there are many facets to caring for yourself. There’s a line you can cross into addiction and yes, that is absolutely unhealthy (the anti-med member’s parents had crossed this line), and it doesn’t allow room for healthy coping methods while in the midst of the addiction, but it doesn’t mean you get to toss a blanket of your experience on everyone else. I am sorry that was your experience, but you absolutely do not get to judge me based on that at all.
  • Failure to mention mental illness in any serious way until halfway through the segment. Most of the discussion involved the emphasis on “taking pills to be a better Mother.” No mention of diagnosis was made, nothing. I understand privacy but if you’re on a national talk show to discuss taking meds, make sure you mention why otherwise you’re just feeding the stigma that Anderson put forth last night which is Moms taking pills to be a better parent as part of a trend. Postpartum Depression and Maternal mental health issues (paternal too) are not part of a TREND. They happen, they are real, and they deserve honest and informed coverage.

On to this afternoon when Katie Couric will have a segment about Moms and mental health as well. Today is gonna be fun, isn’t it?

Share your opinions below!

A Mother’s support is key during mental illness


According to an article over at Scientific Daily, what Mom thinks of her child’s mental illness matters when it comes to that child’s self-esteem. The study, carried out by a sociologist at Northern Illinois University, found that more than any other family member, what a Mother felt and communicated in regard to her child’s mental illness (in this study it was specifically schizophrenia), carried the most weight with said child, especially when these views were negative.

What researchers also found was that the greater exhibited levels of initial symptoms and therefore lower self-esteem in relation to symptoms, the more likely the mother was to reinforce popular yet stigmatizing beliefs about the child in relation to his/her mental illness.

Despite the small size of the study (only 129 mothers of adult schizophrenics were followed over an 18-month period), I find this study interesting from a Postpartum Mood Disorder perspective. All too often, I hear about women struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder who have chosen not to share their diagnosis with their mothers specifically. Or have shared their diagnosis with their mothers only to be told to “snap out of it” or that “it will pass.”

Family is often our first line of support and defense when it comes to any illness. But when it comes to mental illness, for many, family is the last line of defense because we fear stigmatization and exile from those we love the most. This study also reminds me of another study which concluded after fMRI’s of both depressed and non-depressed women that  a Mother’s criticism caused distinct neural reaction in formerly depressed women.

Is all of this related to the intricate female to female  relationship? Do we really care so much about what another woman, especially our own mother, thinks about us that we are willing to allow it to so definitively shape our own self-view? I realize we grow up wishing to please our parents but why is it what our Mother thinks of us that tends to matter most?

As women, should we not always strive to be the best for ourselves, not caring what any other woman thinks of us, not even our own Mother? How do we break out of that mold? How do we grow past attacking each other, past the guilt of having let another woman down? How do we learn to live for ourselves in a society which preaches competition and rewards those who achieve so much on a daily basis?

When the Mom wars begin to affect how the mentally ill view themselves, it’s gone too far. When the Mom wars delay other mothers from healing and finding the support they so desperately need, it’s gone too far.

A mother is where you go when you need a hug. A mother is where you go when your soul needs to be soothed. A mother is peace. A mother is love. A mother is not harmful. A mother is not hateful. A mother is not a source of shame about oneself. A mother is home.

When a mother ceases to be love, solace, compassion, and peace, we have made a wrong turn. Even mothers who are struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety disorders are all of these things—they are simply unable to elicit the reaction within themselves without a bit of help and healing.

When a Mother, who, for no other reason, sees her child as stigmatizing and reinforces low self-esteem in her child simply because of that child’s mental illness? We as a society should be ashamed.

If you’ve struggled with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, I would love for you to leave a comment about whether or not you shared your diagnosis with your mother—if you did or did not, why? What was the reaction?

Let’s get to Just Talking.

An Open Letter to any Media outlet Exploiting Charlie Sheen


Dear members of the media including but not limited to ABC, TMZ, NBC:

You make me sick. Sick, angry, and sad.

A celebrity is in the midst of a dire emergency and you’ve erected circus tents around him replete with cameras.

ABC? You get a special mention here because you even allowed his CHILDREN to be present at one of the many interviews you filmed with Charlie Sheen. His children.

On what planet is it okay to be cool with nearly two year old children around someone who claims to have “tiger blood?”

But it’s okay, you say.

Okay because Charlie says he’s okay.

Right.

You drug tested him. Drew blood.

Nothing there.

Guess what, ABC?

Mental illness?

Yeah. That’s not diagnosable via test tube or pee cup.

Now that you’ve “ruled out” drugs, are there plans for you to play Psychiatrist too as America watches?

I feel heartbroken for his family. For his ex wife, Denise Richards, who has now had to assure the American public that her kids have not been with Charlie these past two weeks. I feel for Brooke who is clearly in a state of confusion. I know where she’s at …. somewhat. I’ve been there. It sucks. You don’t know which way is up or down. It’s a vortex in which you do the best you can do just to stay afloat but mostly you want to collapse and scream and ask WHY?!?! But instead you go numb and trudge forward toward safety. You hope.

Charlie, a father with four children, is clearly struggling with a multitude of issues.

Instead of offering help to Charlie, you’re putting on a show for the rest of us with him as the star. You ask him things like “Do you worry about your kids learning about this?” To which he replies, “God no! What a lesson!” What kind of a lesson, exactly? That it’s okay to go crazy, seek attention, shout inane things from the top of the world, and demand that you get paid more for services you’re clearly not capable of at the moment? There is a lesson in all of this – it’s that when you hurt, you get help. When you see someone hurt, you GET them help. You don’t put them on display.

Wait. You’re the media. You do put it all on display. No matter what the moral and ethical bounds are – it’s all about the ratings. The wilder the better, right?

I’m not watching. Many people I know are not watching.

But many are… and the damage being done to those who are mentally ill and struggling with addiction by your organizations is atrocious. Here, let me serve up some stigma on a silver platter. Watch.

Have we, as a society, taught you this behaviour, through our obsession with reality TV?

Has reality TV finally blurred the line? Have we really come to this?

Is our society so starved for entertainment we are willing to watch, in real time, as a celebrity implodes live on the air?

I know it’s about ratings. If people watch, you make money on advertising, etc. Have you no soul? No decency left among you?

In my opinion, the only company that has done something right is CBS. I stand with them in canceling the rest of the season of Two and a Half Men. It’s unfair to the rest of the cast and the crew, but not to Charlie.

There needs to be someone holding him accountable for his behavior. Yes, he is an adult and shouldn’t have to have anyone treat him like he’s 12. Unfortunately, he’s also a very ill person in crisis right now. Sometimes we have to take steps back in order to regain our footing.

I sincerely ask you to stop exploiting Mr. Charlie Sheen’s tragic situation.

Your exploitation of his situation is possibly even more tragic and disturbing than Charlie’s fall from grace.

Warmest,

Lauren Hale

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Saturday Sundries: DSM 5 & Postpartum Depression Identifier


Hey y’all. I’m late, I know, I know.

Last night, I fell asleep at 10pm while watching Kevin Smith’s “Too Fat for 40.” He was hilarious. I? Tired. Woke up long enough to crawl into bed before 11pm.

Then this morning, as I woke up at 813a, the day rolled on and I didn’t blog. I hung with the kiddos as the hubs ran some errands. Then we put the kids to bed and I went shopping.

When I got home, it was time for dinner. So the kids ate. Put them to bed, hubs ran another errand, I did my 30 minutes of Wii and watched Grey’s.

Then hubs came home and we ate a yummy steak dinner while we watched The Parking Lot Movie.

After we ate, I opened my laptop to blog.

The dog decided she needed to go outside.

Of course.

So she went. With me.

Then I fixed myself some Twizzler Cherry Bites.

Then the Internet wouldn’t work on my computer.

Hubs tried to fix it.

Three router restarts, a firmware update and another router restart, here we are.

12 minutes before midnight with a HUGE question to answer.

Here goes nothing.

@WalkerKarraa asked the following question: how will Pediatricians and ObGyns diagnose ppd with no dsm specifier in dsm v. Will the icd 10 cover?

I’ve been mulling this one around in my head all week. I wish I had more time to do it justice. But I slacked and I apologize.

First off, I’m not sure what you mean by “no DSM specifier in DSM 5.” As far as I know, they are keeping the identifier as I’ve not read anything to the contrary (if there is something out there, PLEASE let me know because Dear LORD they can’t take it out of there.) As far as I know, they just aren’t extending the onset of PMAD’s to beyond 4 weeks, which, as covered here, is total complete BS.

Secondly, Pediatricians do not need to be “diagnosing” PPD. They should absolutely screen for it but then refer Mom to her own doctor for official diagnosis.

I know what the ICD 10 is, have read it, and remember thinking that it would cover it and in fact, be reason enough for the folks over at the DSM to extend the identifier onset period but… apparently there has to be a defined offset in order for the onset to be extended. I know, my head hurts too.

Just as Jane said at the conference this past year, when the DSM was last revised, they too, fought hard for PMAD’s.

We can’t give up and let our voices be silenced. We also cannot let a book define our own experiences. It is what it is – label or not. Just because a doctor chooses not to label you as Postpartum doesn’t mean that those of us who have struggled with mental illness after the birth of a child will love or accept you any less. We will still love you and support you. We will still be there for you. Always.

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#PPDChat Topic 01.24.11: Potholes & Detours: Relapse & More


 

Join us at Twitter! Just follow the hashtag #PPDChat!

 

 

YAWP!!!!! (a rant)


(the following was inspired by The Daddy Yo Dude Unfiltered’s piece entitled: Bent, not broken)

In the deepest depth of the darkness, I had days unlike any days I had ever experienced.

Days on which life swirled around me, flowed up, down, backward, east, west, and pulled me in every direction. A thought? What was that? Thoughts were for other people, other humans who could engage in meaningful conversation with each other, meaningful multi-syllabic conversation. Other people who did things besides dishes, diapers, breastfeeding, feeding dogs, cooking, cleaning…. other people who did things like shower, leave the house because they weren’t afraid of everyone else knowing their secrets. Other people who could chop vegetables for their families without a zillion thoughts about how to use that knife for something besides chopping the vegetables.

Life was for other people.

Not for me.

Life requires you to hold it together. To not fall apart. To NEVER fall apart – not even behind closed doors.

We hide those who fall apart. We hide ourselves when we fall apart. Because we are not supposed to do this – we are, above all else, to stay together. “Keep it together man!” or “Just keep swimming” are a couple of recent quotes which come to mind here. (And yes, I realize that I am quoting Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. I’m a parent with three kids six and under. I watch these films often therefore the dialogue is applicably stuck within my few remaining brain cells)

Legs break.

Arms break.

Hearts break.

Sympathy for all. No stigma or shame attached there.

But if your MIND breaks?

Holy effin’ robin eggs, batman.

If your MIND breaks …..

Society at large would have you believe:

It’s YOUR fault.

YOU can snap out of this.

And if you can’t snap out of this? YOU will never get better.

Once you get better, you are never ever allowed to break your MIND again.

(yanno, because YOU broke it to begin with and should now know how NOT to break it again)

Dear Society At Large:

My Mind broke. Twice. Or more. I wasn’t to blame. It happened. I sought help. I didn’t get help. I got worse. My mind broke even more. Shattered, dare I say. Decimated. Dust. I got help then. I wandered aimlessly about the hidden place – the hush hush ward of the hospital. The place where they say “You don’t have to tell anyone you were here.” (The first rule of Psych Ward is that there is NO Psych Ward!) The stigma? It starts THERE. It travels home. It spreads. In every direction, in every crook and corner of society it creeps and crawls. And it is there we, the ones with the broken minds, are expected to stay. We are sent home with this expectation, this order to hide ourselves away, to lie about what really happened to us. In the dark corners. The crooks and the crannies. Where NO ONE CAN SEE OR HEAR OUR BROKEN MINDS AND VOICES.

Guess what?

I’m in the middle of the room.

On a table.

Shouting out my story.

TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN.

(Not as sexy as a stripper but I’m there and I’m rockin’ the room)

Because you know what?

I was broken. But I’m not anymore.

I broke the old me. I broke the scared human. I broke her and I left her far behind, crumpled in your dark corner. I gave birth to the new me. I like the new me. She says things outloud. Things that shouldn’t be said and don’t want to be heard by you. But she says them anyway. At the top of her lungs to anyone who will listen.

She is healed. Scarred, but healed. New scars don’t scare her. New scars excite her because it gives her another avenue full of houses to which she can reach out.

I wish you the best of luck, dear society.

The best.

YOU may bend me. But YOU? May never ever break me again.

Love,

ME