An Excerpt from My Battle Against Stigma (revised version of I Will Not Hide) by Marja Bergen

Perhaps it was my cries of pain that caused word about what had happened to get out. Stories about me spread like wildfire. I, the victim, was given the blame. The person in authority who caused my pain was thought unquestioningly blameless. “It takes two to tango,” was his message.

I was ostracized, no longer talked to by people who used to be friends. And why? I did nothing I could have helped, yet was blamed for the very pain I had been afflicted with. I had not asked to be so cruelly treated, especially not by one who had been my confidant and mentor for years.

I needed help for the behavior that irked him. All I got was mistreatment.

But I’ve discovered that this is the way it is. In conflict situations, when a person with mental illness is up against a person in authority, she isn’t given a chance to defend herself. She will not receive a hearing.

As I’ve said before, I suffered for years after this with traumatic memories. Eventually that pain became less severe. What was left was the realization that I had lost my good reputation. And that caused the greatest pain of all.

Not so many years earlier I had been raising mental health awareness in the church, having been a pioneer in this work, starting in the years 2000 and 2001 when I organized two depression seminars in my church at the time. In 2006 I founded Living Room, a faith-based peer support ministry. By 2015, the year of all the troubles, the cruel treatment and words, I had completed nine years of leading a group, helping many individuals with their emotional problems.

But now that work counted for nothing. None of it was remembered. All that was left of me in the eyes of everyone familiar with the situation, was a person who had complained against wrongs that were done to her—a person deserving of shame.

As I always did, throughout my life as an activist, I cried out against injustice. I cannot do otherwise.

But it cost me.