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What stigma? Thursday September 14, 2017

When I'm well I believe there is no stigma to mental health. Of course, I mean there is no stigma coming from me. Having battled for good mental health for nigh on 30 years I do not judge anyone who is tiptoeing their way in front, beside or behind me. But of course there is a stigma. I wave that flag myself. By being ashamed and hiding. And I do. I still do. I probably always will because in the hiding I offer myself a layer of protection. I need that layer for my health. Not unlike long johns. Who knows they are there? Who needs to know?

Our own attitude to this stigma is the important bit.

If we carry our mental health like a slogan t-shirt then others may flash their own t-shirts and smile that smile of connection. If we hold our mental health like cards in a poker game then others may recognise the face and respectfully admire your hand. If we wrap our mental health in tissue and place it in a small box others may witness our precious cargo and provide extra space in which to lay the box.

And if others do not wish to wear the t-shirt, witness the game or tolerate the box then let them. Their stigma does not need to become ours. When we are strong of health we might be part of the campaign. But whilst we are growing, building, nurturing and regenerating, there is little space to join the campaign. Stigma is there, may always be there in some form or another, it is our approach to it that counts.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Bearofliddlebrain Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 8:28am

Being a wearer of cosy long johns in winter on doggit walks, I know this analogy well! Thanks RATG!

There are many friends who know about my mental health - the good and bad days, but there are friends who cannot be trusted with what they'll do with the knowledge - so I say nowt....that's because of what they have said in certain contexts about others with poor mental health issues - there has been no sympathy and definitely no empathy so I keep the long johns well-hidden under my trousers!
Only a privileged few get to know!

It's always our choice with whom we share...thank you Ratg- hoping you are feeling well today.
Love and hugs,
Bear x

Leah Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 8:45am

Bear, I am sorry you know people you can't trust. I suppose once I started telling people and doing talks I could not go back. If people treat me differently because they know I have a mental illness, that is their problem and I suppose we would naturally drift apart. Yes I agree it is our choice and I would want everyone to be comfortable. Hugs Bear xx

the room above the garage Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:32am

Hello Bear, yes I have heard similar. I find it quite astonishing to hear others willing to pass judgement on anything at all without having experience of it. Would we pass judgement on an expert in their field if we knew nothing about that field? We would not. And we are the expert in our field. When I hear it I have a little film go off in my head...picture something like Indiana Jones with a metal gate slamming to the ground, dust rising around it...silent humour helps me gets it sorted. I am feeling quite good today which, as we know, is nothing short of huge! :-D I'm picturing you and Mr Bear in matching long johns layering up before your walks, love it! Love ratg x.

Orangeblossom Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 8:28am

Thanks RATG for your blog which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and found it a very relevant blog for me where I am right now.

the room above the garage Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:33am

That's great, I'm glad it came at a good time for you Ob. Good to see you, love ratg x.

LP Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:55am

Hi ratg, Lovin the long johns too! ;) I agree that not everyone is in the right emotional place to expose their personal issues to all and sundry! It's great that there is a drive in the UK media to talk openly and comfortably about mental health to break down the stigma. I hope that funding follows so that more NHS support available! Breaking down the stigma educates people and makes it easier for people to be themselves. As an analogy, I've never been comfortable with the underlying judgmental attitude towards"in the closet". Of course no one should feel that they have to hide who they are and the hard work that has been done for people not to have to hide has been vital and needs to continue. It's the implied, judgemental shaming of people who for what ever personal reasons either aren't there yet or choose to keep private issues private that has bothered me. I guess I'm not a fan of pressure. Thankfully as we have become more educated as a society there doesn't seem to be as much of that around. Another niggle that I've had is words like tolerance and acceptance and even inclusion of people who are "different" whether physically, mentally, racially, culturally or in terms of sexuality. Surely we are all different! Those words imply that there are the "normal people" who belong and are OK Jack and the rest of us who sheepishly hope to be tolerated by them! Everyone has their insecurities, no one is perfect and we are all equal. There is seen to be a superior majority who decide whether to allow the minorities to join in!!! Sod that! :))) So having worked myself up onto a very tall soapbox, wishing freedom, choice and a sense of human equality to all! With Love of course, LPxxx

LP Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:58am

Ps thanks for a lovely blog ratg :))) xxx

LP Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 5:03am

Pls! I hope my rant didn't come across as being against your blog in any way ratg, I agree with it! I guess you're right, it's about our own attitudes that matter most. Far better for our mental health to remain calm and not take other people's stuff onboard, than get all worked up about it! ;) xx

Leah Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 8:39am

I always like your blogs as they present different ideas.
AS not only a slogan wearing shirt girl,I also wear a sandwich board, broadcast to who ever will listen. I am so far out there there is no going back and thats my choice my life because I know I need to speak up for those not ready to do so.
Leah x

the room above the garage Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:36am

Hello lovely lass, I adore that you are so far out there! I'm in the audience applauding loudly, maybe even the one on my feet, probably not the one whooping as I don't live in a geographically whooping kind of a place :-D Seriously, I'm a little in awe and wonder if I might ever be there. Probably but only once I feel free. I'm getting there. I'm definitely a slow burn :-) Good to see you, love ratg x.

Jul Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:19am

Hello ratg. I don't tell people as I find it too difficult to express how I feel. As you say this is especially difficult when feeling low. Then the words do not do justice to how I feel. When I'm feeling OK, I could explain but am too busy enjoying myself to dwell on my depression etc. The other thing is I don't want to be defined by my depression, insomnia etc. As it is, I am trying to stop seeing myself as an insomniac and the people to whom I've complained of having bad nights are now met with a shrug and onto the next subject or a cheery "Oh fine thanks"when they ask me how I've slept. I am hoping in time it won't be the first question I'm asked when we meet. I have a few friends here who know me quite well. They are very sympathetic empathetic people who are concerned and show compassion in life. However I know that if I told them of my depression, every time we met, I would be asked how I feel. It's natural to be inquisitive about insomnia and mental health issues especially if you don't suffer yourself. Your blog did make me think ratg though about my friends and whether any of them suffer like I do. One of them does a bit as we have discussed it but only on the surface and not deeply. We've sort of brushed it aside and gone on to talk about other stuff. I know we all think differently on this subject as comments to your blog already show. Lastly I hope very much that the stigma element will disappear soon, not just for celebrities and royalty, but for all us normal people who have suffered silently for years. Jul xx

the room above the garage Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:47am

Hello Jul, you have hit the nail on the head. Being defined by our depression...yes, I agree, its a big concern. For the stigma to truly be wiped away there has to be acceptance that doctors can doctor, entrepreneurs can entrepreneur, firefighters can fight fires, electricians can work magic, plumbers can plumb, teachers can teach, dancers can dance, leaders can lead, and that also on some days they might need to close the door and repair to be able to do those things again. Yes, its a reason I share little. I would not like to be seen as the solo parent who suffers depression because that painted picture bears little resemblance to who I am or who my children are. You know, the friend you have who you have discussed it with just a little...perhaps if you each needed to discuss it more deeply you would. Maybe knowing it about each other is enough. Its blue skies here, and I wish we had a coffee and cake for our Moodscope gathering this morning. Such interesting comments today. Great to see you, love ratg x.

Ach UK Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:27am

Hello RATG,
Like Orange Blossom I find your blog very relevant at the moment.

I have over the last couple of years been having a pretty horrendous episode of bipolar and my illness has been stressful and visible to those around me.
I came to the conclusion much earlier in my life that I couldn't and shouldn't hide my mental health glitches as it was much too stressful to lie about large parts of my life.
I also felt (and still feel) angry at the discrimination and stigma that I saw metered out to to those with mental health problems especially by members of the Mental Health Services themselves.

There are definitely times when I am able to carry the banner and wave it high in the air, but there are other times when it is safer to go tread softly and slide around the whole subject of mental health in order to cope with daily life with minimum hastle. - Apart from it being incredibly tiring to be in the limelight all the time, my family and friends also need some time out of the spotlight.
I think we all do our bit when we can and I'm grateful for those who can put the banners and sandwich boards on and go out and fight for us.
One can't be all things to all men, but, ;)) I do think that I'd make a pretty good chameleon.

Ach UK Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:33am

Also agree with jewel that my mental health condition does not define me and it is incredibly wearing to always be talking about it to one's friends one tends to lose them. And it's much nicer to have normal conversations with one friends and feel that the mental health bit is just a tiny hiccup in one's days.

the room above the garage Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 9:50am

Hello Ach, you are having to tiptoe through a bit then. Sometimes feeling free and sometimes having to reign it in. Whilst that sounds hard...explaining it as a chameleon is utter wordy genius!!! And makes me smile broadly :-D Love ratg x.

The Gardener Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 11:20am

The only T-shirt I want, after days of negative or bad (not quite the same, can't explain) news, is one proclaiming 'Please take your troubles elsewhere, my in-box is full'. My manic-depression episode was long ago, and wrongful diagnosis anyway. My 'stigma' was financial. Insurances companies wrote ANY psychiatric problems out of the policy - that information stays you for life, like once having a police record. I don't know if anybody else has noticed, but virtually every day there is a plea to the 'authorities' for funding, and personnel, to cope with yet another 'branch' of mental 'abnormality'. Today, it was children who shows signs of psycopathic tendencise. My concern was personal (I'm not going round threatening people, yet). The boy cited was adopted - and the 'experts' on the programme said it could be genetic. This could have long-term problems for adoption - when we adopted our two girls both our mothers were aghast 'You don't know where they've come from'. It would be awful if people were scared off adoption, or even fostering, especially of children who are already suffering difficulties from a disturbed childhood, or who have suffered violence. Am I over-reacting? And where does nature and nurture come into the equation?

Mary Wednesday Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 8:21am

So pertinent to me, Gardener. I have known a number of families where a child has been adopted and - save in one case - it has not worked out well. In that one case, the adoptive patents did know where the child "had come from". I am aware that my opinion on this (formed from my own very personal experience) is not at all popular or politically correct. As a family, we "adopted" Tom. Sadly, this has not worked out and he is currently estranged from us (His choice) which is an enormous grief. A more "arm's length" adoption (owing to Geographical circumstances) is the young man, Richard - another motherless boy. His birth circumstances were into a similar kind of family. He fits in with us as if born to it. He skypes me every Sunday evening without fail and is a complete joy. This is not necessarily linked to mental health of course, merely my response to your comment. I will never regret adopting Tom. Our door is always open to him, but we cannot have him living with us as. So very sad.

Leah Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 10:17am

Mary, I don't know where to start. As you may know my brother was adopted from birth and so was my partner. I personally feel there is a huge difference between being adopted at birth and making friends with a young man in his 20s. An adult is set in their ways and you were very kind to welcome him into your family .My brother who is 8 months older than me and without whom I may not have been born as mum had numerous miscarriages, has never wanted to find his birth family and is one of our family like my other brother. My partner did not ever feel he fitted in with his adopted family and later in life found comfort in finding two brothers and cousins. His birth mother had died years before. He had far more in common with his brothers than his adopted family. So it depends on the family and personalities. I know people who are not adopted who are estranged from their parents and siblings. So I feel it has more to do with the individual than whether the child is adopted. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Another Sally Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 12:35pm

Hello everyone, like Jul, I find it difficult to express how I feel. The Moodscope score helps a bit, but I find the cards don't seem to cover what I think I'm feeling. I seem to suffer from chronic low grade depression. No manic highs or lows. I do get tired at times and make sure I have a nap. Thankfully I don't get migraines (hope you are feeling better Mary).
I do have a friend with whom I share a bit and she with me, however she doesn't do phone calls and we can only meet once a week if I'm lucky.
I have been away, which was nice and explains my absence from the blogosphere. It seems easier to display a low mood since I was bereaved and people have been very kind. I'm not sure where I go from here. One day at a time I suppose
Hugs and waves to one and all.
Another Sally

Molly Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 12:29am

Another Sally, if there is a reason that people can put to the depression etc, then it is so much easier for them to understand. I get fed up with people trying to find reasons for mine, or even on a good day, they will find a reason for that! Suffering your bereavement along with struggling with mental health - makes things ten times before difficult. I feel you are coping so well (at least on the outside) and you still have kind words for us on here. A constant low mood is sometimes worse as you don't get any respite from it. Sending love and hugs to you xx

Maria Thu, Sep 14th 2017 @ 4:23pm

Thanks RATG for your wonderful blog! It inspired me to comment but my words disappeared when I went to add them. I guess I rambled on too long! In a nutshell I am on the education committee for an anti-stigma campaign called "Let's Talk" that my city (Lonmgont, Colorado) just launched. We are trying to capture the media's attention about our new campaign, and I was asked if I would agree to be interviewed about living with bipolar disorder. I said yes but was surprised by how apprehensive I felt about it. I have always chosen who I tell about my condition and this revelation will be public for ALL to know. After some soul searching I truly believe nobody, including myself, should be ashamed of having a mental health problem. I respect each individual's decision as to when or if they tell others about their mental health problems but I believe the more people talking about mental health issues the better. It's a way of normalizing the topic and reducing stigma. I think we can agree that if we can educate others and banish the negativity associated with having a mental health disorder we all benefit. I'm ready...Let's Talk!
Sending love and peace to all!

Lexi Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 12:06am

HI RATG - you always have such thought provoking blogs. I wish I could be more like Leah but I have to say I only feel safe revealing my struggles with close friends and the Moodscope community . But I don't feel safe sharing it with most others. Maybe I will one day :)

Molly Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 12:20am

Hi RATG, this was an interesting blog along with the comments. Generally, I have always been open about my mental health as others have said, it is the only way to reduce the stigma. However, I do understand why people are not open because of reactions and judgements, it's a personal choice and maybe depends on our own personality. I also agree with the other point that was made about not wanting the illness to define you. One family member, who has tried to be supportive, will call every time and say "how are you?" in such a sympathetic and sorry voice, I do not like it! But then I moan if someone doesn't ask! But whether I am having a bad day or a 'good' day, often I am trying to take my mind off it and I will just discuss it when I feel I want to or when I feel it is appropriate. I like the idea that it is our approach to others attitudes that count, in that respect, I just prefer to distance myself. Molly xx

Mary Wednesday Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 8:25am

What a thought provoking blog! Thank you. I wonder if I am intolerant of the long-john wearing community? I hope not. I hope i wear my bipolar as I do my faith: it's there, clearly visible. I will refer to it casually, without apology - but will not explain or talk further without invitation; it is my business. What I do, is talk about Moodscope and my writing for it - as I believe Moodscope can help so many people and I wish to make it better known.

Nicco Fri, Sep 15th 2017 @ 3:50pm

Thanks for your blog, ratg. I can resonate with it, esp '...when we are strong of health we might be part of the campaign...' I feel I can fight a Trojan when I'm well, but when I'm in the depths it's all I can do to breath & survive. I don't think I hide my mental health issues but I only see people when I can manage to get up, washed, dressed & out, & when I manage to do that it's obviously a good day so it probably doesn't show. If anyone were to ask me though, yes I would open up about it, depending on the person of course, as I am no longer ashamed. It's similar to when I started being open about the abuse I suffered when growing up - none of my school friends knew but as I'm in touch with a few of them in my later years I started telling them - not for sympathy but for a way to more healing, and I can't even begin to tell you what a relief & release it was to get it out there in the open - not for all to see but for a few trusted friends who knew me back then & knew nothing of what I was going through. I have no idea why it brought such relief, but it did. It's like, when you talk about it, it somehow begins to lose it's power, it's hold & grip over me wasn't so strong & I felt a weight lift off so that I could continue to forge ahead in my life journey without so much weight in my excess baggage. Thanks again for your blog, ratg. x Nicco x

Lacey Sat, Sep 16th 2017 @ 4:20am

I'm open and honest because,like you,I have had this "stigma" for over 30+ years
I tell folk that understand
And I don't the ones that will not
I still hide awaywhen I'm ill but that's part of the illness.The problem.That.We.All Have.....
Thanks for reminding me that I can only be me cos everyone else is taken
Embrace your "stigma "
Let it work for you rather than against.....just like the rest of us
Baby steps my Darling
Lots of love Lacey <3

Lacey Sat, Sep 16th 2017 @ 4:23am

So typo
RATG I meant not Rutgers!!
Ta ta for now
Chat soon,I've been away but back now.My Mum had a fall and smacked her face up something rotten
She's getting over it now

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