My experience of judgement with a mental illness
by Aisling, See Change Ambassador
I feel judgement often comes in the small things; often in the things that are not said or done. In secret keeping and layers of shame. I have a lot of judgement towards myself about my experiences.
From the beginning,I felt that I must be ‘weak’ to struggle. From reflecting on these judgements, I came to realise some of these were my own prejudices against people struggling with mental illness that I was projecting on myself. This fed the shame I have been enveloped in for years and kept me from sharing and reaching out for help.
I wonder where these prejudices came from, and from where I am now I think in our culture there are lots of small things that add building blocks to societal prejudice toward people experiencing mental illness.
Seemingly small things; for example, the language and tone we hear other people in our lives using when they speak of unwell people, media depicting characters with various diagnoses as dangerous, manipulative or selfish added to our own and other people’s fear that comes from a lack of understanding.
There’s also a general feeling that that couldn’t happen to me because of particular personality traits. I feel this one in particular was something that stopped me from reaching out for a long time. I didn’t want to be seen as weak, I didn’t want to be seen as selfish or manipulative. It is still a work in process for me to detangle these beliefs from myself and this experience.
As I am writing this piece, I am afraid to be too open; I am afraid to disclose my reality because I am so acutely aware of the prejudice people may have toward people like me.
Most people are understanding, but it always feels like a risk. It’s also hard to put your finger on to explain to other people because it’s often subtle and it’s often quiet; but we feel it on a daily basis. I censor the parts of my life that I share with – even close people in my life from this fear and its isolating. Ultimately, prejudice and judgement isolates people – that’s what it is designed to do, and it’s still a very real part of living with an active or a history of mental illness.
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