It’s common for someone with a mental illness to feel ashamed. There’s absolutely no need to feel ashamed, and this is something I fight against on a daily basis – in my ‘real life’ or through writing – but sometimes it can’t be helped. I think it’s our job as fellow sufferers (and, you know, fellow human beings) to try and lessen that feeling of shame. We need to show people that having a mental illness is valid, and real, and okay.
It can be difficult, however, when a mental health professional doesn’t feel the same way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered some amazing people during my mental health journey. I can’t deny, though, that not everyone I’ve met along the way has been all that helpful.
The one that will always stand out for me is a professional I encountered during my mental health struggles in secondary school. Overall, this person was incredibly kind, but there is one situation that always comes to mind where I was left feeling shamed.
Long story short, this person encouraged me to lie about my absence from school. They said I should tell people that I have been having stomach problems, and that’s why I haven’t been able to get to school. Apparently, people wouldn’t react well to me being mentally ill, so I needed to tell everyone I had to be in close proximity to a toilet.
Now I’m pretty sure this person didn’t personally believe that there was anything for me to ashamed of, so why did they encourage me to lie? Maybe they thought it would be easier for me? Maybe they thought the other kids at school wouldn’t accept a mentally ill classmate? I’ll never know. But someone in that role encouraging a teenager to hide their mental illness from the world is just contributing to the stigma that surrounds mental health, and it needs to stop.
I chose not to lie, by the way, and my friends were supportive and loving and I’m incredibly grateful for them. Anyone who wasn’t that way isn’t part of my life anymore, and I’m better for it!