For many, maintaining mental health is twice the struggle it needs to be. You may even struggle with mental illness, but then you struggle in your efforts to hide it. Our culture attaches stigma to mental illness, which is absurd when you think about it.
According to the CDC, one in five Americans will experience mental illness in any given year. More than 50% of us will be diagnosed with a mental illness in our lifetimes. How can something that is arguably one of the most common characteristics of modern life carry a stigma?
The stigma is not only phony, it’s stupid.
Why does it have any power over us? The answer is it doesn’t. Decide the stigma cannot hurt you, and you will be free of it. One way to make that decision is to share your story.
So sharing your story helps to free you of the stigma. But it benefits those you share it with as well. Don’t just take my word for it. A 2019 study looked at 77 people who had “received” recovery narratives.
They found the ways in which narratives were helpful outnumbered the ways in which they might be harmful. According to the researchers, “Helpful outcomes of receiving recovery narratives are connectedness, validation, hope, empowerment, appreciation, reference shift and stigma reduction.”
You may be able to provide these benefits to others. Once a month, we offer a story like yours here on the doublesolid site. You can find the stories through the link labeled “ROCKSTARS.” Think you may want to be one of our ROCKSTARS? Your story can be an inspiration to others and a vital step in the process of freeing yourself from the false threat of stigma. This blog post will suggest some of the topics you may want to cover in your story.
What is the nature of your illness? What is it like to live with? What was it like to try to keep it hidden from others? Has it changed the direction you thought your life was taking? You have probably done some research on your illness. What have you learned about who it tends to affect (age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, personality type)?
A Day in the Life
How does your illness affect your day-to-day life? On what kind of days is it better or worse? How does it affect your relationships with friends and family? How does it affect your job? What problems has it created for you in your profession, your relationships, and your family life?
Touch Bottom Yet?
Assuming you have your illness under control (you probably wouldn’t be writing this account unless you have), what made you decide to make the change? What did you hear, see, or feel that twisted your guts and made you decide you needed help? In other words, what was your crisis?
Living on the Other Side
How has your life been since you gained control? What do you feel you have accomplished? What are your goals? How fo you think your struggle has contributed to who you are now? What is your advice for others who are struggling with an illness like yours?
Help Is Coming
What resources and organizations have been useful to you in managing your illness? Where can people with conditions similar to yours find help? Web addresses? Phone numbers?
Share Your Story
My topics are just suggestions. Chances are, the story began to shape itself in your mind the moment you began reading this piece. Go with your gut.
Full disclosure: the study of recovery narratives found some harmful among the mostly beneficial effects. Some people, on receiving a narrative, might feel inadequate, disconnected, pessimistic, or burdened by it. This can happen when the narrative doesn’t describe recovery sufficiently. So when you share your story, you may want to make certain it describes how you overcame your obstacles. Note that the study also found that the harmful effects do not generally occur when the narrative was prerecorded or in print, as opposed to being shared in person.
The arc of your unique story probably follows a pattern. You fall, you get back up, and you move on with a little more strength, a little more self-compassion, and a little more understanding of your struggles and who you are as a person. But within that pattern are the personal details that make your story an inspiration to others. When you share your story, you vanquish the power of stigma for yourself and you provide hope and vision to others. Not bad for a single writing assignment. Become a doublesolid ROCKSTAR; click here for more information.