Did you know that 1 in 5 people lives with a mental illness? And 1 out of 17 people has a severe mental illness such as Bipolar or Schizophrenia? When we use percentages, the numbers don’t sound as astonishing. 80% of people don’t have a mental illness. Sounds like a hefty majority, right? But when we start talking in terms of people, (1 out of 5 and 1 out of 17) mental illness touches every family and every social circle. There’s no need for stigma. Let’s end it.
There are those spans of time when I forget I have a mental illness. Life moves along in a comfortable way, where it’s not necessary to think about every step. It’s during these spans of time that I am free–free of the illness and free from the stigma. And I gratefully enjoy the same highs and lows common to everyone.
But then it happens. That moment that takes you right back to the shame. And you feel your eyes cast downward. Most recently, that moment came when I had to tell the perfectly friendly young pharmacy tech that I was switching my medication.
“Nope, I don’t need the anti-seizure medicine anymore, (you know, that kind drug that also conveniently happens to treat Bipolar so no one has to know), I’m switching to the anti-psychotic. (yup, I said psychotic).”
And on my walk home it hit me. I’m not stigma free. I live like I am, most of the time. And I want to be free. But I’m still carrying the shame. I’m determined to get there, though, and to help the world get there.