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.

Postpartum Voice of the Week: The Comparison Game – Facebook you suck


Comparisons. Judgments. Look at her, she’s all put together and flawless. Nails perfect. Lipstick matches her shirt/dress. She’s got the latest stroller, designer clothes for her baby, not a hair out of place , everything looks fine. Family photos, family vacations. Not a single smudge of flour in her kitchen anywhere in her pictures. On Facebook.

LOOKS fine.

When people post photos, they tend to post the best, the brightest, the cleanest. They post photos which portray the life they are “supposed” to have. Now, some people may post pictures of their real lives. They may be honest with their portrayal of their lives. But for those of us who feel less than perfect, photos which appear even remotely perfect cut us to the bone.

They bring judgment into our head. Misconceptions. Lies. The cycle begins. We get lost in what should be instead of what IS in our own lives.

With the advent of social media, we get a closer peek into the lives of people we know (and even people we don’t) every day. Social media has gained a new foothold into loading us down with Mama Guilt.

Today’s Postpartum Voice from Carrying Me Through, shares a very powerful post about how these photos and ideals shared and portrayed (through Facebook specifically) have affected her as a Mom struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder.

Please go read it. You won’t regret it at all…. in fact, it may cause you to think in a new way about the effect of Social Media.

Shame on Oprah


Today as I was watching TV with Grandmama, I saw a commercial for Oprah’s show this afternoon. The ad made mention of overwhelmed parents. So I asked my husband to set up our TiVo to record the program as I thought that maybe Oprah would be talking about Postpartum Depression or something similar. I was OH SO WRONG and OH SO MISLED by the ad.

I turned on the show to watch just a few moments ago and deleted it just a few minutes into the program. The topic was about overwhelmed parents but the lead interviewee was a mom who had tragically left her two year old daughter in her car for eight hours. Graphic 911 calls were played prior to the first commercial break (which, by the way, I did not make it to) and the mother wept as they were played.

Really, Oprah? REALLY?

Yes, this is a tragedy and needs to be addressed. But to advertise it as a show about overwhelmed parents with no warning regarding the true topic and stories to be included is sheer irresponsibility. Clearly this is a situation that may arise from being overwhelmed but I would say this is more than just Overwhelmed. My heart and prayers go out to this family as I cannot imagine being in their shoes but SHAME ON OPRAH for misrepresenting her topic and possibly causing harm to a mother out there who may be suffering from Postpartum Depression and had been told to watch the show by some well-meaning family member or like me, seen the ad and decided to watch because SHE TOO was feeling a bit overwhelmed and saw the possibility of hope and help. Afterall, it IS OPRAH and that’s what she does, right?

Reflections of Shame


A good friend of mine sent the following to me in an email and after reading it, I HAD to share it so I asked for her permission and it was granted, provided I remove any identifying phrases. This piece is very powerful and I sincerely hope that it speaks to some of you as much as it spoke to me.

I have the wonderful opportunity to be attending some marriage strengthening classes. As part of these classes we have started talking about shame. As we have started to do this and I have started my workbook, I realize I carry a lot of shame. So at this late hour when I can’t sleep I am coming to terms and releasing my shame.

I feel like I hide my real self and learned to do this at a young age. I hide my real self in many different ways, one of them by not expressing myself. So here goes.

I have an aunt whom I love very much and look up to a lot. In fact she is not too much older than me, and while she has some children older than mine 2 of her younger ones are about the same age as mine. Well she is very expressive and does not care what other people think. And I think people love her because of that. I know I do. I want to be more like her… anyway, onto the shame.

I feel shamed because of the fact that I suffered from Postpartum Depression. Many people have made me feel this way. I also feel shamed because of the alternative route I sought out to help me overcome it. I sought out alternative medicine because western medicine and I don’t get along very well. Some people have made me feel that I should have just been able to “snap out of, or Get over” my depression. Don’t you think I would have if I could have? I have a family member that no matter what I say or do feels that I have PPD yet again. I DON’T, I have not had issues with PPD this time. They feel though that I do because someone who had PPD said to them that once you have it you always will, and it will get worse with each child. I feel bad for this person who has suffered from PPD more than once. I also feel bad for my family member that refuses to see that I am not suffering. I think part of the reason that they feel this way is because they feel that I sought treatment from a source that was less than godly. I feel they worry about my very salvation.

I feel shamed because we are covered under state run medical plans. Most of those people who shame and judge me for this have never been a student, they never sought higher education and got married and worked in high paying jobs and some have had their wives work, and sent their children off.  I chose to stay home and raise my own children and we chose to have children before we graduated higher education. Because of this and because of the fact that NO employer will pay for medical insurance for a part time employee, we have state run medical coverage. I don’t enjoy being on state coverage and have had to suffer through some pretty horrible doctors because of it.

I have been made to feel shamed because my son has Sensory integration disorder and I sought out a diagnosis of this and I sought treatment for him. Well some people have told me that I should just let him be him and not try to fix him, and to let him grow out of it. I, on the other hand, wonder how a mother could stand by and watch their child suffer on a daily basis and do NOTHING about it. Yes I sought Occupational therapy for my son, sue me, I am the world’s worst mother.

I am currently working as a moderator of a support group for women suffering from PPD because no woman should be made to feel alone or shamed because she suffered after the birth of her child.

I also am currently seeking more help for my son as he has slipped in his progression since his release from OT. I am also doing this because other people see that he is different. In fact tonight at a party that we went to some one started talking to me about autism and the question arose if my son has been diagnosed with autism or not, because her grandson is autistic and she sees some behaviors in my son. Well this is the 4th person, three of them being professionals that have approached me without being asked for an opinon and talked to me about the possibility of my son having autism, at least in an extremely mild form. I am not seeking a diagnosis for him for any other reason than to help understand him more and help him to lead a full and productive life.

I will not stand shamed for these things anymore.

I will not stand shamed because I fought and recovered from PPD.

I will not stand shamed because I can not tolerate western medicine and thus seek holistic or alternative medicines.

I will not stand shamed because we live on help from the state, because it won’t be for forever and my husband is working and paying into the same system we are taking from.

I will not stand shamed because I am trying to find ways to help my son cope with life and live a full life for himself.

The Cracked Pot


Today a reader left this as a comment on the post entitled “A Gift.” I HAD to share it and could not let it be hidden amongst the comments. It’s such a beautiful story. I hope you enjoy! (Thanks Kate!)

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the masters house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his masters house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your masters house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.” The pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the masters house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the Pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pots side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my masters table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Fathers table. In Gods great economy, nothing goes to waste. Don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty. Know that in our weakness we find our strength.