(August 5, 2008)

At Living Room this Friday I’d like to once more discuss the topic of stigma. Stigma is something so many of us have trouble dealing with. Stigma often causes even more pain than the symptoms of our illness do. Stigma causes many of us to deny we have a problem. We’re afraid to face up to the fact that we have a mental illness. So we don’t go for help. We reject the medical care that might help us live easier lives. Stigma causes a lot of damage.

In Jesus’ day too there was stigma attached to all forms of illness. Illness and disability was believed to be caused by a person’s personal sin.

Jesus and his disciples came upon a blind man. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:2-3)

If we could only believe what Jesus says here! If we could only stand up to that stigma and not accept it! If we could only live, knowing that our illness is not our fault and that we are as okay as anyone else! We only happen to have a disorder, just like people have other disorders. If we could only manage to live without any sense of shame!

I have spoken openly about my life with bipolar disorder for over ten years now. I’m fortunate that I was able to do that, without fear of reprisals from employers that might not take kindly to having someone with a mental illness working for them. (My husband supports me well.) Having my articles and book published has been tremendously helpful. People respect me for coming out. I have found friends who support me and understand me, fully knowing my problems.

There’s nothing more wonderful than to be able to live without having to hide anything. I have no need to lie. I can be myself – fully, authentically myself. What freedom!

I wish this were possible for everyone!

Is this possible for you? Could you afford to me more open about your problems? How are you dealing with stigma?