"Don't let the dirt hit you in the face"

The last couple of weeks I have been faced with the one thing I work tirelessly on trying to break down and eradicate; stigma and discrimination.

I was faced with two options. 

  1. Tell the truth about what I was feeling and be honest (which is best for my mental wellness) or 

  2. Lie and not say anything (at the cost of my mental wellbeing and further trigger myself). 

These are probably two of the hardest choices I have been faced with. Why? Well has much as I'd love to believe everyone is understanding and more accepting of mental illness, sometimes the reality is they aren't. Stigma and discrimination occurs daily for people living with mental illness including myself. 

I decided to go with option 1. Something I was very proud of (One small win for breaking down barriers and stigma). While still dancing on cloud 9 that I finally made option 1 my go to choice; I was quickly brought back down by the actions of others. I told myself "don't let the dirt hit you in the face Ste, this isn't about you this is their lack of understanding and education". That mantra soothed me enough to get me home where I then broke down in tears at the in justice of it all and the trigger of being judged. 

I've come to realise that as much as we have made progress as a society we still have a long way to go. If someone had cancer, gastro, a broken limb or a death in the family to say a few the reaction is far different to when you say my illness is playing up. It shouldn't be like this and nor does it have too. I'm grateful for the experience of the recent events as it has ignited the fire in me even more and showed me why it's so important to be doing the work my fellow colleagues and I are doing.

For the people currently dealing with weighing up the same two choices as I did. Do what is right for you. By choosing to be open and honest, you are putting yourself first and yes you may be faced with possible judgement/stigma/discrimination BUT that is a small price to pay rather than letting yourself spiral. 

We can be the change we wish to see. 

Live, breathe, embrace; 

Stef 

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Tenille Westerhout