Project

The everyday stigma project exists to catalogue examples of day-to-day mental health experiences, in order to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness. From the simple reality of maintaining mental health to the challenges of outright discrimination and ignorance, we want to hear your stories. Share as much as you like, use your real name or a pseudonym – it’s up to you. We hope that by making these experiences visible we encourage everyone to feel comfortable talk openly about mental health – something that affects every one of us. Just because mental health cannot be seen, doesn’t mean its effects should remain invisible.

If you prefer to e-mail us at olivia@everydaystigma.com or info@everydaystigma.com and we can upload your story for you instead. Check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @EverydayStigma, sharing your thoughts using the hashtag #everydaystigma.

 

[TRIGGER WARNING]

Warning – some posts may contain the following :
suicidal ideation / suicide
rape
sexual assault
isms, shaming, or hatred of any kind (racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, non-vanilla shaming, sex positive shaming, fat shaming/body image shaming, neuroatypical shaming)
abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual)
self harm
eating disorders (including specific mention of behaviours, e.g. vomit, exercise)
drugs
descriptions of violence (including terrorism)
discussions of sex (even consensual)
death and terminal illness
bullying

Add your story

37 stories

  1. Hello, I am a 49 year old female residing in Philadelphia, PA. I live with Bipolar 1 disorder and Gad (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and I also have confronted addiction over the years in my misguided attempts to self-medicate my pain. However, I now have over two years freedom from active drug and alcohol addiction, 3 years, 10 months and 3 weeks freedom from active nicotine nicotine which I once used to cope with the bipolar depression. Today as a result of my peers in recovery, W. R. A.
    P. [Wellness Recovery Action Plan] and my own efforts to share my experiences with others, my life is richer and full of abundance. I have a beautiful circle of friends and loved ones and I am working toward my de grin Behavioral Health and Social Services.

  2. I have had OCD since childhood. I have been hospitalized when my intrusive thoughts overwhelm me. My manager, who is aware of my diagnosis has said to me, “but you don’t wash your hands a lot.” I work in a hospital, specifically in behavioral health. It’s so frustrating! I don’t want sympathy but don’t make ignorant comments. Be mindful that you cannot see people’s inner struggles.

  3. this is going to be a quick one because I find it hard to write about mental illness. I’m still in a stage of denial.
    My doctor says that I have post traumatic stress disorder. I feel guilty because I don’t think my trauma is ‘bad enough’, but I’m slowly realising that if I’m traumatised by something it’s automatically bad enough. There’s no level of event that qualifies you to have PTSD – it just depends how traumatised you are. At least, that’s what I think. I’m scared to sleep – nightmares. I’m scared to be awake – life feels like a nightmare too.

  4. We have dissociative identity disorder. When I say we, I mean myself and my alters. Alters are different identities

    We didn’t used to know we had it. I wasn’t aware of the other identities – I just thought I was in one place and suddenly appeared somewhere else without knowing how I got there. We’re having therapy and my personalities have increased from 3 to 12. Some are young, some are boys, some are girls, some are shy, some are scared, some are happy – they’re all different. For example, my five year old alter is very silly and happy. You can tell the moment we’ve switched to because she speaks in a high voice and walks differently. When we switch, we become another alter and they run our behaviour and thoughts.

    We’re aware of each other now. We kind of know when each other are around. Apparently I’m the host personality, the one who identifies with my birth name.

    It’s sad that we feel the need to explain my disorder, even on a mental health website. Barely anyone knows what dissociative identity disorder is. They think it’s like Split. My alters are genuinely okay people, apart from one girl who bullies the rest of us. We were traumatised as a child, so we developed imaginary characters to help me cope, so we could pretend to be someone else. It’s a distressing mental illness. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a mental illness, not a plot for your horror movie.

  5. This is the latest story.

    Yesterday I evicted my dauhter and her husband, they had been staying with us until they could save up enough to move into an apartmen. Her husband had an overdose in our garage and 911 got called. Lots of ambulances, fire trucks, and police. I was an hour away visiting my wife at a psych hospital. I got a call about this on the way home.

    This was the second time he’d done this, so I tried to evict him when I got home and heard the full story. He refused to leave, so I called the police again. While they were packing up, as the police watched, my daughter tried to frame me for drug use. When that didn’t work, she told the police that her mom was a psych patient and that I was often in the hospital as well. She told them to watch out I was very dangerous. My own daughter! She got evicted too.

  6. Trigger warnings: intrusive thoughts (germs, murder, violence, pedophilia)

    Posted on behalf of a friend.

    I have OCD. People often think that OCD is just being afraid of germs and wanting things neat. They think it’s not serious. My OCD was neither of those things. I was in hospital for Harm OCD (H-OCD), and I stayed there for 13 weeks.
    H-OCD is where you have intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or others. I began to know they were intrusive thoughts because they terrified me, made me feel yuck, and I couldn’t get them out of my head. Some of my intrusive thoughts were that I wanted to murder people and that I was a pedophile. I’ve had to get someone to type this for me because I get too triggered when I write it out.

    I couldn’t go near wires because I might use them to kill someone. I couldn’t open doors for people incase I slammed it on them. I couldn’t eat with a knife and fork in case I hurt someone. I had a compulsion to always squeeze my hands shut and my nails would poke in, and other compulsions. I couldn’t go near my sister because I thought I might hurt her. I had to be hospitalised because I was so scared of hurting someone, I wouldn’t get out of my bed.

    I’m doing a lot better now. Exposure therapy really helped me – I had to do things like sit next to wires and eat with a knife. Eventually, I even watched horror films. I did this in hospital. It was terrifying, but it has helped. I’m out of hospital and doing a lot better, and I’m learning to notice when the thoughts are ‘bad’ (i.e. intrusive thoughts.)

    A positive thing that a friend said: ‘You are not bad. Your OCD is bad. Your intrusive thoughts are not your thoughts. You are wonderful, and kind, and caring. Don’t let it trick you.’

  7. When I was in a psychiatric hospital, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I went in for depression, but I was diagnosed with BPD was well. As soon as my diagnosis changed to BPD, nurses were more hostile towards me. BPD isn’t very well understood. I’ve even been discriminated against by medical staff – they called my suicide attempts ‘attention seeking’, but they never used to when I was diagnosed with depression. My sister has bipolar and doesn’t suffer quite the same stigma as me. I think some people with mental illness are subject to more stigma than others. Males are sometimes stigmatised more if they are depressed or have anorexia because they are seen as a ‘female illnesses’. People with disabilities, or LGBT people, or people of colour – any minority might experience more stigma because their other identities are already stigmatised. Some disorders also are more stigmatised, I think. People with schizophrenia or personality disorders are often portrayed as murderers in horror films, but it’s rare to see a horror film centred around someone’s anxiety or depression. Perhaps it’s due to less understanding? I think we need to raise awareness for all mental illnesses. I read a lot of awareness stories for depression and eating disorders (of which I also have), but not very much for my other disorder, BPD.

  8. In my late 20’s, I am missing the carefree younger person I used to be – I struggle every day with some sort of anxiety that sometimes cripples me so much I can’t get out of bed. The weird part is I love to be the person my friends turn to for support, for an ear to listen or shoulder to cry on but right now, I am not ready to share that with anyone. I’m not sure if my very loving and understanding boyfriend even understands how bad it is because I don’t want him to see the depths of my darkness and how often I am reaching those depths at the moment. I can feel myself crawling towards a light at the end of the tunnel but I also acknowledge that life is hard and some days just knowing that I got through the day is enough to feel like I’ve succeeded. Talking about it and knowing there are so many people who feel the same helps massively. I also don’t want to feel like a burden to my friends and that makes me feel anxious too!!!

  9. I struggled with anxiety throughout my twenties which had a big impact on my social life. I’m lucky enough to have very close and supportive friends and family who helped me to overcome it and I feel in a much better place now. One other thing that really helped was physical exercise, it helped my self confidence in a big way and gave me an outlet to channel my negative energy into something positive.

  10. I have struggled for most of my adult life with a serious eating disorder and self injury habit. I was told by people close that I was ‘too put together to be a cutter.’ Nothing could be farther from the truth. During recovery, my therapist told me I have ‘the right kind of depression.’ Just because I wasn’t acting like other experiencing the same issues meant I wasn’t receiving the help I desperately needed. To this day I suffer from eating disorder behaviors and struggle daily to pull myself out of depressive and anxious ridden moments. Innocuous weight and workout jokes can make me spiral; but because I don’t look or act like I’m struggling with a mental illness people don’t stop and think about how hurtful they are. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable to speak up about my issues because I get brushed off. End the stigma against speaking up and what mental illness looks like.

  11. My son had severe ADHD. His headmaster at his school (at the age of 6) said ” I don’t believe in all this ADHD stuff. Your son is evil and subversive. He will never be educated in a main stream school”. We were asked to remove him. We were lucky enough to be able to access a very good child psychiatrist who constantly fine tuned his meds. He made it through main stream schooling and is now in his last year at a good university, having got an A*and 2As at A level. I would like to kill that headmaster.

  12. I am a very privileged and lucky person, and although my father died when I was 14 years old, I was blessed with having a close knit family around me to provide support. The eating disorder, anxiety and depression that rose its ugly head two years later was often connected by others to that event. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t…who knows. However now that I have become completely open about my experiences, I have discovered that there are many people out there suffering from similar conditions. Mental health disorders do not discriminate, they can impact anyone of any age, sex and race. As a society we need to have more open discussions to stop it being the taboo subject it currently is. This is turn should create a greater public understanding and hopefully help those suffering, to seek help more openly and promptly.

  13. As an individual with high-functioning autism, feelings of severe anxiety and low-self worth are an almost daily battle for me. Some of my hardest times were at my first year of University before I received my autism diagnosis. I found it extremely hard to make friends and indeed, still do. Either nearly everyone else at uni wanted to go to nightclubs or loud house parties and everyone seemed very confident. When I tried to make friends my anxiety and autistic behaviour pushed people away. I remember feeling isolated and am not ashamed to say, felt at times, suicidal. Today, however, I count many of the same people who I met at University as my friends after they came to understand my autism and anxiety.

    As such, though things improved for me during the 2nd and 3rd year of University, these feelings of not being worth anything and sometimes, suicidal thoughts, still often resurface in my continuing efforts to find an inclusive and supportive job, where people will understand my anxiety. This is especially frustrating, as I know that once I get a job my self-esteem and confidence can only go up. I also get very depressed as I find it hard to form relationships with girls and really want a girlfriend, but feel I am not worth anything or successful enough to find one.

  14. My manager at work when I called in sick because of stress: ‘we all get stressed’ and another time immediately responded: ‘I’m worried you’ve been taking too many sick leaves’ (before he even asked about my health).

  15. I was crying and shaking in the back of the car and my brother, sat beside me, told my parents in the front he couldn’t deal with it. “She’s crazy.” He thought I had lost it.

    For months I had been unable to cope, unable to go a day without breaking down, unable to find any sense of worth in myself. Every rejection, whether personal or professional, was confirmation that I was not good enough and never would be. I tried to focus on work, I tried to be good to myself. But I was still struggling. I would find myself collapsing at random moments into a negative spiral, isolating myself or dumping these feelings on those around me, which made me feel like a burden.

    I started medication and seeing a therapist. After multiple therapists throughout my life, this one finally felt right. But it was so expensive. A hundred euro every session and sometimes two sessions a week were advised. When you are sick, it’s hard to work. I was sick. But stress over money only complicates feelings of worthlessness and anxiety. It felt like a vicious cycle.

    On paper, I looked great. When friends get in touch their messages are all about how well I’m doing, how good everything seems to be going. They are not wrong. Maybe it’s suddenly having the woods come back into focus after staring at the bark of a tree for hours.

    The friends who did know the whole of it, I sometimes sensed fatigue setting in. However good their lives might look on a screen, they are staring at their own bark, trying to work out its patterns, fixating on the dark welts and grooves. The dancing leaves above and around feel like camouflage. But they are still there. Just today, during an enjoyably inane chat on Facebook, I suggested to an old friend that we chat properly sometime. I was feeling down at the time, but there was no urgency to what I had said. He told me: I can call you anytime. How about now?

    I have started to know myself better and to accept myself. To appreciate the moments that are good and to try let the darker thoughts pass through. I read somewhere a perspective on worth that has helped motivate me: our nervous system is automatic. Our lungs breathe and our hearts beat without us having to consciously will them to. No matter how down we might feel, our lungs and our heart are there breathing and beating for us. We can pause and let everything go in our minds and our body will support us.

  16. I spent weeks being late for work and ended up taking 2 days off. When I returned to work full time again they said they were about to fire me. I then explained that I had been looking after my flatmate who had been severely cutting herself and then she tried to kill herself. This made absolutely no bearing on how I was coping with the last few weeks. I told no one since I had promised my flat mate and it was her private issues but I tried to instill in her that you shouldn’t be embarrassed by your mental health. Clearly though in this day age there is still a stigma.

  17. A close friend of mine’s mother suffers from bi-polar disorder. I recall when my friend told me of his mother’s diagnosis that he didn’t think it would be so bad. I also had no idea what it would really mean. Over the next few years though we both learnt a hard lesson about what bi-polar disorder means for suffers. Whilst my friend went through acute difficulties with the changes in his mother, I felt like an observer, seeing some of the effects of this illness in my friends mother and the effect it had on him. Through this I now never underestimate the impact of mental health disorders such as bi-polar and the far reaching effects it has on not only the suffers but their families and friends.

  18. I have one anti-stigma example. When my husband told one of our distant relatives that I have bipolar, she looked at me and said “that must be difficult to live with”. The comment has made me feel better about it for a long time

  19. I’ve grown up in a household in which everyone suffers from a mental illness (a grab bag of anxiety, depression, anorexia and bulimia). My friends and I are able, by and large, to talk positively and openly about our mental health. Several times, this openness has been the only coping mechanism that prevents a downward spiral. However I do not have this same openness with my family, despite the fact that we would clearly benefit from it. My parents have never dealt with their own mental illnesses effectively and there is therefore a sense of shame surrounding the issue. The implicit (though unintentional) lesson is that life is tough and you should get on with it. I’ve internalised this to the extent that I am angry at my sister for having depression in a way that I would never be angry at those friends who I speak to so openly.

  20. I hope one day people will stop thinking anxiety is cool. It seems to be a new trend and I hate it. I have gone through co-dependency that morphed into depression and I am now stuck with anxiety. Normal should be cool. I’m on a hunt to being average again.

    As this is about opening people’s eyes about mental health I’ll give you a story.

    One of the weird quirks I developed in high school is that I cannot stand when someone looks at me working. So if during an exam a teacher stayed behind me I couldn’t write and I would just fail. Now being at work this translates by me not being able to sit at a desk if the screen isn’t facing a wall.

    Because I want my colleagues to understand why I’m sometimes a little bit off I’ve always been very opened about me being anxious, but I think until recently they never understood what it meant or never believed in it. A few month ago we changed offices and I immediately told my manager “you cannot put me in a seat where the screen is facing other people, I need my screen to face a wall or a window” and she laughed and said “Right”.
    OBVIOUSLY my new seat was… facing other people. AND in a “hallway” part of the office so people would always walk behind me for sure. As soon as I saw this I laughed and I said “this is not going to work”, but again they thought I was joking. I tried to calm down, and talk myself into this seat. It would be fine. It would work. But the minute passed and I just stood there watching people settle while I was breaking down. Over. A. Seat. I felt the tears begin to fall and I hated myself for being so weak for something so stupid. But I was also ready to go home and write my resignation letter. For. A. Seat.

    Eventually my colleague looked at me and realised what was happening. I remember the look on her face shifting, like it finally clicked. At that moment she understood what I meant when I said I suffered from anxiety. She immediately offered to switch with me (her seat was with a screen facing a window). So we did, and even though I felt very ashamed I also felt instantly better.

    HOW is this cool to anyone? Why would anyone want this? Unsure. I don’t.

    Anyway, this was one of the numerous degrading moments anxiety brought me. If anyone think this is not real well, I’ll call you next time I’m having a panic attack over a desk so you can help me get over it!

  21. Had a nice double whammy of mental health stigma and misogyny yesterday when a (male) friend referred to a middle-aged woman we both know as a ‘mad old bat’ because she spoke to him for a few minutes too long about her family. Wanting human interaction does not qualify as a mental health problem and much less does it warrant the use of offensive stigmatising language. Very frustrated/disappointed.

  22. I’ve never really been sure if I suffer from anxiety/depression or whether that’s just “life”. Sometimes I feel scared I won’t be entertaining enough/am good enough to do certain things/go out, sometimes work makes me so anxious I feel like I’m having an anxiety attack (but still not really sure if I’m idenfying correctly what it is), sometimes I feel blue but maybe that’s just feeling blue. I’ve often considered seeing a therapist, but have always been scared that that would make me feel like I was more ill than I am (even though I know that’s not true!)
    I guess destigmatising these things will help me make take that step one day 🙂

  23. I’m in my final year, and the thought of leaving the place with all my friends next calendar year terrifies me.
    On a daily basis I get anxiety attacks over the simplest of day-to-day things if I have to decide what activity to take part in. Deciding whether to meet a friend in town for coffee or stay in my room and watch a film someone makes me anxious, nervous, and stressed as I feel like I’m picking/choosing who I’ll stay in contact with after uni. I feel like I have to see everyone and not miss out on a single social activity otherwise people will forget me. If I pick one activity, I instantly feel like whatever I decided not to do was the better option and I would have had more fun, regardless of what it is. So now I’m draining myself trying to see everyone and do everything on top of work.

    Sometimes it’s nice when a friend will suggest doing something collectively, as it reassures me that we’re part of a large group and then I don’t feel like I’m ‘missing out’.

  24. After graduating uni I felt like I had lost all purpose and my entire support network and I became really depressed. I felt so stuck and useless. But I couldn’t talk about it with anyone because I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t coping and become even more pathetic in everyone’s eyes. My family and friends who already had jobs kept telling me to cheer up and enjoy my ‘free time’ – which basically consisted of applying for and being rejected from jobs. I never had anything new to say to anyone so I didn’t want to meet up with people and I became increasingly isolated. It wasn’t till after I got a job and felt like my self-esteem was high enough to reach out that I realised how many of my friends had gone through a similar kind of isolation and how much we could have helped each other by asking, ‘hey – are you okay? This post-grad time is crap, isn’t it?’

  25. So, I will try to keep this as brief as possible.

    I feel a lot of the time the way that workplaces; schools and universities are run are for people of more normal neurotic pathways with no regard to differences. In short, as a sufferer of ADHD, I just don’t feel that usual methods of teaching, learning or structuring have ever been made accessible to me. I know that (good) teachers and lecturers try and cater for everyone-but as a society we are far too focussed on ideas surrounding recall and memory from an early age, meaning that “bright sparks” of creativity in the arts and slightly out of the box thinking in the more usual subjects get you nowhere or are actually punished because they are different. The phrase “don’t do it like that” is far too common, I feel.

    Constantly at school I was met with those phrases and ideas that I was too different, when in reality I was getting better marks than most people. One teacher even tried to make me drop my best subject because it “didn’t teach workplace skills”-This obviously reflects on the ideas dominating the procedures at normal work-places too; so it goes to show how deep the rabbit hole goes. This push for uniformity in teaching and society is really damaging to younger people, especially those with learning difficulties. Of course if results are poor then maybe there is some aid in doing things a different way; but often I feel that students are advised to do something a uniform way to make it easier for the staff.

    My ADHD brain just doesn’t work well with stats, maths and dates; that’s just a fact. Therefore I attempted to learn those skills in a more creative route that was deemed “wrong” by teachers or “stupid” by pupils. In the same way some young people won’t be as good with words; but if they are pushed to think in certain ways by schools or parents or universities then they won’t end up celebrating how their mind works differently; ie they wont’ be comfortable with who they are. Luckily I saw through all that, eventually. It made me value my own brain and that has been vital. Thousands may not ever feel that.

  26. Two of my best friends have anxiety, and it took me a while to truly grasp what they were dealing with. I often got frustrated when my roommate couldn’t go out because she was “tired” or “stressed.” I finally realized she was truly suffering and physically could not leave the apartment. It took me longer to understand because she was too afraid to talk about how she felt. She had grown up with parents who said anxiety wasn’t real and she just needed to get over it. I wish she had felt more comfortable talking with her friends because now that I understand, I’m able to help a little more!

  27. My daughter’s borderline personality disorder, which comes with debilitating depression, anxiety, and executive function issues, made it almost impossible for her to get through high school. She got through the early grades on raw IQ points alone, but when being organized and getting assignments done on time started to “count,” there was no way that smarts could help, and her repeated “failures” led to a vicious circle of anxiety, depression and more failure. Her problems were compounded by the consensus among her authority figures (aside from her parents, who were simply baffled) that she was just lazy and rebellious. It took a suicide attempt to get her something resembling the help she needed, but then we found ourselves stigmatized almost as much, as obviously we must have done something to cause her problems.

    It was only when I started to think of her disabilities as analogous to physical ones that I could think productively about getting her real help, and also explain things to those teachers who saw her brilliance and really wanted to understand why she wasn’t their star pupil all the time. If she were in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t put her at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and tell her she could get to the top if only she tried hard enough. You would build her a ramp, or take her around to the elevator, or bring down whatever was at the top of the stairs. If there was a remedy for what put her the wheelchair, you would get her the surgery/medication/physical therapy she needed. What you would NOT do is stand there and berate her for lack of effort, or threaten her with detention/suspension/expulsion if she didn’t get to the top in the prescribed timeframe. You would be appalled at the very idea.

    Once I made my own breakthrough in understanding, I was able to help her better. She did get through high school with the support of some amazing teachers at the private school she attended after we got her out of the hellhole of a “good” suburban high school that simply wasn’t set up to address the issues of kids who aren’t in the cookie-cutter “good student” mold. Even the people nominally in charge of “special needs” were judgmental and suspicious, since their job was not to help but to be the gatekeepers of limited resources.

    Now she is considering a career helping other kids like herself–catching them early, before their intrinsic neurological differences lead to traumatizing interactions with an inflexible system that will only make things worse. And she is building her own ramps as needed. We could not be prouder.

  28. “I’m fine.” This rather short and explicit sentence has been overlooked so many times. Too often have I not realised that my family/friends were on a pinch because they did not feel safe enough to open up to me, until the thought of suicide became to clear in their mind. It is okay to talk, because people actually care when they ask “How are you?”

  29. My friend has schizophrenia. When I found out, I was really confused because she seemed ‘normal’. That’s when I realised that I was prejudiced against schizophrenics. I’ve seen her in a psychotic episode and come to visit her in hospital. It’s all just a matter of getting the right medications, a bit like other illnesses like diabetes. She gets ill, they change her meds a bit, she gets better. It’s so so hard for her and it’s awful to see her like that. It’s hard for me too because she’s so distressed and scared, but I stick by her. I read the news and it makes me so angry – people are so ignorant, thinking schizophrenics are really weird people or bad people. They just get ill sometimes, like people with depression get ill sometimes. It’s the same as other mental illnesses, other physical illnesses – people get ill. I’m really glad I know her, and I’m glad that she’s helped me understnad so I’m not like those ignorant people anymore

  30. I was working in a private hospital as a psychiatrist. Many other non-psychiatrist colleagues. Always teasing about my profession. Changed when one of their colleagues killed himself. Perhaps if there had been less stigma, that person would still be alive

  31. Over the years, I have experienced many instances of stigma, some of which have affected my safety, my children’s safety, my work prospects. The list is actually endless and at times, too painful to contemplate. As a psychiatrist myself, I have kept as quiet as possible about my diagnosis (Bipolar 1) as undoubtedly any knowledge this in the workplace is seriously undermining. I have heard in consultant committees, the sneering at colleagues with metal health problems; actually, from my point of view, stigma directed at those who are in the professions related to mental health problems is probably at its worst. In one phase of illness, either it wasn’t recognised by many (although I became adept at concealing problems – even from a professor of psychiatry who was supposed to be looking after me, but missed it “I thought you were eccentric”. If this had been another branch of medicine, a legal action would have been appropriate. ) The damage reeked by untreated illness; debt of 100,000, an ill advised and in retrospect disgusting sexual encounter, children nearly being thrown out of school, extreme pain caused to my father when I accused him of sexually abusing me – he had not. The debt people can identify with to an extent, but the rest probably not. Then, of course, the subsequent depression when people are too embarrassed to help. Overall, the good Samaritans were not out there. It felt like being left in the ditch with people passing by – less likely to happen if you are having a heart attack. All this in the context of working in the midst of mental health professionals.
    I have cried writing this. I am still working, still fearful of “coming out”

  32. I’ve had really bad depression for the past two years and was afraid to tell my grandparents. At first they didn’t understand why I’d be depressed, but I explained you don’t need a reason. They’ve read about it since then and are really supportive and I’m so glad I told them! Sharing can be really helpful, even if you’re worried about the reaction

  33. I am a Consultant psychiatrist, I have seen the stigma of mental illness from all angles. As a medical manager I hear the dismissive and judgemental language used, about colleagues who are off sick with a mental health diagnosis, by other colleagues, H.R. and other middle managers. Even in the NHS there is an undercurrent of stigma that if you’re off with mental health issues then you’re not up to the job.

    I also experience patients begging me not to put a mental health diagnosis on their “sick note”. Whether this is due to their own prejudices or a valid concern that their chances of promotion or references etc will be effected is not clear but the fear of it getting out is palpable.

    I also had letters from patients’ workplaces emphasising to me that the patient had a “responsible job” and would I please guarantee that they would not get ill again.

    I’m afraid I would advise my own children never to own up to a mental health diagnosis in the workplace unless they were ABSOLUTELY forced to because people can and often write you off; and it sticks.

  34. Sleep is a very personal experience. Dreams can have a huge effect on my day, but the quality of my sleep obviously determines far more. I know that the best way to ensure this is to sleep when my body tells me to, and to exercise or work or play games when my body simply isn’t ready for sleep. I feel like it’s a minor issue compared to the mental health issues that so many others face, but lack of sleep or the wrong kind of sleep has an enormous impact on my work, my social life, and my ability to enjoy whatever it is I’m doing. Sadly, I often concentrate best late at night, and sleep quite happily during the day. It isn’t always this way – early mornings and shifting bedtimes depending on other stress factors in my life can be important. It’s this kind of flexibility that partly pushed me to quit an office job and start my own business. But there’s still stigma attached to late risers and night owls. I understand it primarily as a generational disconnect, but even younger people can have very fixed attitudes about which time is appropriate for which activity in my life. I’m often told I’m strange, or accused of laziness. It’s less that these insinuations have a direct impact on my mental health (although they don’t generally help), but more that getting my sleep right is so important for keeping me on an even keel that I don’t need anything external to make that even more difficult than it already is. The lack of understanding I face in this regard, while not as severe as others will face in different ways, still taps into something I struggle with: people finding it hard to relate to those who don’t follow the same rules as them. We’re all different, special, and vulnerable in many beautiful and unique ways – and that is something to be afraid of, but to be understood, nurtured, and celebrated.

  35. Trigger warnings: anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, hospitalisation, rape, anorexia, eating disorders

    I’m a 21 year old student at the University of Cambridge, and I have Bipolar Type 1, PTSD and EDNOS. I’ve been mentally ill since early childhood, but was only given the correct diagnosis this year. Young people with mental illness aren’t taken seriously enough, and that’s why I want to write my story.

    From as young as two, I suffered from general anxiety, social anxiety and elective mutism. None of these were diagnosed – I was considered ‘shy’. The term ‘shy’ didn’t quite cut it. I only spoke in whispers until I was six years old. I got a award in assembly for speaking. It really wasn’t the best idea to make an anxious child stand up in front of the whole school to collect an award relating to her anxiety, but that’s how childhood mental illness was treated. It was treated with a lot ignorance.

    My Bipolar started emerging at the age of seven, in retrospect. I remember leaving school, complaining I felt ‘tired’. This ‘tiredness’ wasn’t the physical fatigue you get with a virus. I felt tired in my soul. My mum picked me up from school, and I stared out the window, wondering if I should jump. I was a suicidal seven year old, but no one suspected anything was wrong. Little children don’t have depression, after all. Each winter, I would get ‘tired’, each episode between two weeks and a month. They thought I had a weak immune system.

    By the age of twelve, I was so mentally ill that I spent two years off school with severe depression and OCD. Other kids my age would be planning out their birthday parties, but I spent my thirteenth birthday planning my funeral. I was hallucinating – a black blob followed me from windows and screamed at me if I cried. I thought it was poisoning my body to make me sick. I was referred to CAHMS and told my psychiatrist about the suicidal thoughts. I was ignored – twelve year olds aren’t suicidal, they’re just dramatic. I told my psychiatrist about the black blob. I was ignored – twelve year olds don’t hallucinate, they just have active imaginations. I wasn’t even put on a waiting list for therapy and, despite hallucinations, no-one suspected psychotic depression.

    At the age of fourteen, I had my first hypomanic episode – a very mild one, but lasting around a year. I appeared almost normal in small doses; friends report I just seemed very childish and ‘too happy’. What they didn’t know was my energy never stopped. I’d run up and down hills, making dens, yelling to myself ‘I’m Emma the UNSTOPPABLE GENIUS and there’s NOTHING I CAN’T DO’. I told the psychiatrist I felt wonderful. She told me I was depressed, and gave me a depression survey. I knew something was wrong with me, so I self reported as depressed, just to keep her quiet. Mentally ill teenagers are always depressed, you see.

    The same pattern happens throughout my life. As soon as I displayed symptoms of bipolar, I was dismissed as a dramatic child or a hormonal teenager.

    It didn’t get much better. By 15, I was deemed so ill that CAHMS gave up. They told me they didn’t know what to do, that I wasn’t ‘engaging’, that I had to ‘choose’ to recover. I left CAHMS. I’d developed severe anorexia, on top of everything else, and was near the point of hospitalisation. I managed to pull things together after my first suicide attempt, and somehow got A*s in all my Year 10 GCSE’s.

    By 16, I was recovering. I was in Year 11, and almost better. I was still battling with anorexia, but I was doing okay. Rather tentatively, I tiptoed about the place, worrying that if I breathed too loud everything might come crashing down. I left with 10 A*s and 2A’s. I had a boyfriend (we ended up dating for over three years.) I had amazing friends. I was starting to feel happy, and then I was gang raped.

    I dissociated after being raped. I went into a state of denial, to the point I blocked it out for four years. I only remembered two months ago. I can’t write anymore about this, I’m dissociating just trying to write these words down. I can’t even look at the word.

    I felt dead inside. I lost all love for people, and I lost all my feelings. I knew I *should* love my family and boyfriend, and that I *should* feel sad when my Grandad died, but I didn’t and couldn’t. I became a machine of productivity – it was the way I survived. I managed to hold my life together and leave sixth form with 4 A*s and a place at the University of Cambridge.

    My first term went well. My second term went amazingly – I was hypomanic and fell in love. I was also alcoholic, but hypomania put a positive spin on things. Things went a bit downhill in third term. After all my mental illnesses, I’d developed PTSD (particularly from the two year depressive spell when I didn’t leave the house.) My grades slipped from a 1st to a 2:2, which destroyed me. Work is how I hold myself together.

    But, in my second year of University, I had a mental breakdown. Over summer, life was going fantastically. In fact, it was going too well. I stopped eating (anorexia), I ran up to twenty miles a day, but I was full of energy. At the start of first term, I felt even better. Sleeping only three hours a night, I wrote articles, joined committees of several societies and was achieving firsts in all my essays. To others, I seemed relatively normal, at first. Over time, things got out of hand. I went from first grade student to lying in a bush, hiding from the cleaners who were secretly assassins set out to kill me.

    I didn’t get much better from there. I was hospitalised, and tried to hang myself in the psychiatric ward. I rapidly cycled (meaning that bipolar episodes lasted weeks rather than months). Some weeks I was so depressed that I was too tired to speak. Other weeks, I was manic and thought I was the grandaughter of God who could time travel if I did enough roly polys. Occasionally, I had psychotic depression – I thought that assassins were poisoning me through paintings, and that I had to get the New York to survive.

    I got better. I’m on three drugs and I’m stabilised. I’m having therapy for PTSD and I’m hoping things will improve. I’m still bipolar, and currently ill with PTSD and EDNOS, but I’m enjoying life most days. I have a job, I write articles, I go running. I’m functioning. Even when I don’t function, that’s okay, because I will again.

  36. My parents are doctors but it seems like everyone else is allowed to have mental health problems but not me.

  37. I was in a car with my sister, her best friend, my brother, his girlfriend and me. We realised that all of them bar me were taking medication for either anxiety or depression (and I have some pills in my drawer waiting for a string of enough bad days to take the plunge and see if they make a difference) but none of us would admit that to people outside of that car #everydaystigma. I guess knowing you’re not alone even among friends is a good first step but I wish we could all be more open about it. I wonder how many other friends are in the same position.