Shhh… That is Stigma

With all the illnesses in the world to pick from I had to get mental illness. I had to get the only kind of illness that condemns you and destroys you for having it. If mental illness does not kill you on its own the stigma related to its name will eventually destroy you.

I am hurt and deeply saddened today for many reasons but one of them is because my own mother has been slowly killing me for twenty-five years because of stigma. My entire life my mother only loved me if I was good and perfect. There was no unconditional love and if she had it she did not know how to show it.

When I was diagnosed with mental illness twenty five years ago that was the day my mother’s daughter died. I was dead in her eyes. She never saw me the same again. I saw that look of disgust and pity in here eyes each time she looked at me. I felt the pain I caused her every time I spoke to her. She could never hide it and I could not forget it even though I tried desperately to. I always tried to make my mom happy and love me. Everyone wants their own mother to love them but mine did not have it in her to even try anymore.

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Her views of mental illness have always been archaic. She was old school. Mental illness was something to laugh at and be ashamed of and fear. This is what her oldest daughter had become.

My mother’s way of dealing with my mental illness was to not deal with it at all. Maybe if she pretended like it was not real and I was not real, we would both go away. Just don’t think about it and it will all go away.

The problem with that was that I was very real and I did not go away and neither did my mental illness. While she was pretending my mental illness was not real my mental illness became more severe and real nearly killing me many times. My mother continued to stay away and pretend. It hurt her too much. My mental illness hurt me too much too, but I could not leave the “too much” as I was the “too much.”

My mother is a very smart woman, but she chose not to educate herself about my bipolar disorder . Don’t talk about it. She said things like, “Nobody talk about Suzie’s mental illness. Shhhh… Don’t say anything. Don’t bring it up. Shhh…”

Let me tell you what shhhhh… does.

Shhh… belittles.

Shhhh…. shames.

Shhh… humiliates.

Shhh… detroys.

Shhh… makes you feel like you don’t matter.

Shhh… makes you feel like NO ON CARES.

Shhh… makes you feel like you aren’t worthy of anyone’s words, care or concern.

Shhhh… slowly kills.

The other day my mother complained to me about how awful it was that none of her children came to her Ovarian cancer meetings. I visited my mother in the hospital many times and sent her beautiful flowers and many cards. I painfully reminded her that for 25 years she never once came to my mental illness family meetings. She never once visited me in the hospital even when I was near death. She never once bought me flowers. I am her daughter but she couldn’t find it in her heart to care enough to even visit me in the hospital. She barely acknowledged the illness that is and has been killing me for years.

I thought after 25 years she was better, but I was recently reminded how I was sadly mistaken. Yesterday over the telephone my mother was making fun of my “crazy” (great) Aunt Lilly. Great Aunt Lilly was never spoken about and my mother only told me about her five years ago. That was how shaming it was to have an Aunt Lilly in our family. She was the relative you held your index finger up to the center of your lips and said shhhh… That was how Aunt Lilly was referred to. Her family, my family, put her in a psychiatric hospital (Insane Asylum) and threw away the key. My poor beautiful Aunt Lilly never got back out. She never got to go home and died in the Insane Asylum.

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I am the “crazy” Aunt Lilly in our family today. They didn’t lock me up in the Psychiatric Hospital, but maybe only because they couldn’t today. Mental illness stigma has decreased and treatment of people with mental illness is better—at least that much better.

My family still calls my beautiful Aunt Lilly “crazy” Aunt Lilly and laugh about it. It breaks my heart. Don’t they understand? Don’t they care?

Why can”t my mother and the rest of my family understand that when they laugh about “crazy” Aunt Lilly they are laughing at me?

Why don’t people understand that when they make fun of people with mental illness they are making fun every person with mental illness?

Will I be known as “crazy” Aunt Sue? In my family, I think so. I am trying to help them understand and I keep trying, but my family has a very hard surface to break.

Will stigma only end after the older generation dies. Maybe.

I believe the younger generation will be much better about treating people with mental illness wisely and compassionately. We need to end mental illness stigma now, so we do not have to wait another generation for it to improve.

We need to end mental illness stigma now, so we do not have anymore “crazy” Aunt Lilly conversations in this lifetime.

Start normalizing the dialogues about mental illness.

Let mental illness become part of a “normal” every day conversation. Mental illness is  much more “normal” than you realize.

~written by Susan Walz

Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

32 thoughts on “Shhh… That is Stigma

  1. Pingback: Shhh… That is Stigma – The Bipolar Writer – International Badass Activists

  2. I can so relate to this. My parents barely acknowledge my depression as well. What bothers me is that- I am from a “third world” country and here, it is quite challenging to talk about mental health (though the scene is slowly changing).

    However, if it happens in developed nations as well, then the overall scene looks so grim. 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: Blog post share: “Shhh… That is stigma,” by Susan Walz. – My Wellbeing and Learning Journey

  4. I am so sorry that you have been through so much of pain but I am very proud that you have decided to open about it and choose empowerment over shame…..stigma of mental illness still exist and sadly it costs lives and I am glad that people are not hiding anymore in there shells…..wish you lots of love and positivity 😘😊💕🦋

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have severe chronic depression and two of my children are bipolar. The way I always explained mental illness to them was to compare it to diabetes. Having diabetes is not anything to be ashamed of, it happens to many people who haven’t done anything wrong, and with treatment and sometimes medication people with diabetes can live a normal happy life. Because of their illness, they have to be aware and not do things to make it worse (sugar with diabetes, drugs and alcohol with mental illness). My children have all grown up to see mental illness for what it is, an illness just like any other.
    I truly hope your family is able to realize that before it’s too late. You deserve to be loved and they’re missing out if they can’t see that.
    You’re in my prayers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words. I am blessed with the most amazing children. They save my life every day. God blessed me with them. My siblings and parents are a completely different story. I live despite them. I have lived with shame from them my entire life. I have PTSD from them as well. I try my best to forgive them but it is hard to forget. I pray one day they could see life differently and learn to love unconditionally. Hugs, Sue


  6. So sorry you have to live with this. Being the outcast is beyond painful. My mother understood the pain of depression since she was living with a chronic illness that changed her life. She learned to cope and was probably the reason I coped until I was away from home. Her strength helped me. I am 77 and so also grew up when people were just stuck away.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It sounds like your mother was a wonderful woman despite having to live with difficult obstacles herself. I am happy you are blessed to have such a wonderful mother and you sound like an amazing woman yourself. Thank you for your great feedback Hugs and blessings to you. ~ Sue


  7. That’s just awful and cruel! My mother is kind about it, but doesn’t get that bipolar is a brain disorder. I believe she thinks my “issues” are more personality traits. Says things like “we all get down sometimes”. She is big on denial. I suspect that she tells family members that I’m on disability for my back , as I just can’t see her being honest about it. She’s hidden other things about me from her family so I would not be surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am happy your mom is kind about it. It is too bad she might feel the need to hide things sometimes. Maybe she is just private. My parents hide things as well and I find it hurts to know they have to hide the truth. I am not ashamed of myself and they should not be either. I figure God wrote this plan for my life and I have nothing to be ashamed of. Thanks for your great feedback. As always I appreciate it greatly. I hope you are doing well and are happy and healthy, Hugs, Sue

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow! What a deep piece! Very touching. And so true. I see this happening all the time. Such a shame but I’m glad the tide is changing as more and more people are becoming memtal health aware.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Shhh… That is Stigma – Goals

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