Stigma Fighters : Justin Lioi

Reducing Shame When Seeking Help for Your Family

Given all the obstacles that children face these days it’s easy to understand why parents may choose to hide that they are seeking therapy or psychiatric treatment for their child. It’s one thing as an adult to choose whether to share your diagnosis and treatment. Much more is often taken into consideration when you’re supporting a child with a mental health issue.

The parenting world is fiercely competitive. Many moms and dads work hard to eliminate even the slightest perception of weakness in order to protect their child. Unfortunately, though, a parent’s protection can create shame in their child. This happens if the child interprets needing help as something her or his parents are uncomfortable with.

As much as you want to focus on your child, it’s vital that you are honest and look into any sense of shame that it may bring up in you. Your child will sense this and their issues may be compounded by the belief that they are doing something that is causing you pain.

Worrying About Others’ Judgment

People who’ve been diagnosed with bipolar I or II disorder, schizophrenia, or any depressive or anxiety disorder have strong reasons that they don’t tell many people.

It’s very likely that they’ve endured shaming—intense shaming—by family and friends. Even the way pop culture and the media discuss mental illness is often in a mocking or shaming manner. Anytime a heinous act occurs we are so hell bent on discovering the “why?” and a mental health diagnosis allows everyone else to point a finger and get angry at Mental Illness without taking any cultural responsibility.

But the next question—and the one that every mother and father fears—is, “What did the parent do wrong?”

Your child’s stigma is, sometimes unconsciously, compounded by your fear of how others will be judging your parenting. This isn’t paranoia: People do judge. Until it happened to you and your child you may have even been one of those people.

What I’m saying is that when a parent realizes that their child needs the kind of help that can’t be taken care of by their primary physician, it’s no wonder they’re nervous about opening up that door.

Parents Are the First Teachers of All Emotions

Unfortunately, what this means is that the first place a child will learn about stigma is most likely from their parent.

From early on children are savvy to what information is not supposed to leave the family home, even if it’s not directly stated. From “It’s not anyone’s business but ours” to “You don’t want everyone at school to know that you see a therapist, do you?” there are many ways parents inform a child that getting support for a mental health issue is a Big Secret.

And Secrets mean Pressure. And most kids, especially ones with a diagnosis, have more than enough Pressure.

That a parent and child could benefit from professional support does not mean that the parents did anything wrong.

I’m going to repeat that and use a bullet point. Tweet it if you like:

If you as a parent seek professional support for your child it does not mean that you did something wrong.

Parents would be shocked if they realized how many other parents are getting help—but so few moms and dads are talking.

I had a discussion with a new dad who painfully spoke about how parents will vent, complain, exalt about so many things when they get together, but this man still felt so alone. He felt so alone with a problem that I as a parent counselor hear about all the time.

Not enough parents are saying they just don’t understand why their child is responding in a certain way to particular issues, or being honest about how angry they get with their child, or the sadness and fear of not understanding their child.

Fear of the Bad Seed

It’s inevitable that a weary parent will bring up something like the book and movie We Need to Talk About Kevin or The Bad Seed. I’ve worked with lots of families. Lots of families with kids who’ve been given the title of “Seriously Emotionally Disturbed.” I can’t think of one child or adult that I’ve worked with or heard about that I would say was “born bad.”

Some parents hear blame in that and stigma is about blame. A Bad Seed means they didn’t do anything wrong.

But…there are chemical imbalances, there are traumas, there are traumas that combine with chemical imbalances. There are parents who make poor decisions. There are kids with issues that get in the way of a parent’s ability to connect.

But there is hope to move through this if you’re willing to confront it as a family.

Seeking Support Together

Parents in their quest to shield their children from labels and embarrassment often don’t seek treatment at all or, as I wrote above, make the treatment such a secret that it reinforces to the child that there is something to be ashamed about.

There’s a difference between 1) telling everyone you know that your child visits a shrink and 2) letting the important people in your life know that you as a family are seeking some support because there are issues you’d like help with. There are friends and family members you won’t tell because they’ll reinforce the shame and blame. There are some teachers at school who should know but other issues they don’t need to be told about.

The caution here is really if the message is, No One Must Know.

This reinforces that there is Something Wrong and we are all ashamed of you because of it.

As a therapist I’ve more and more moved away from the model of working just with the child as the client while the parents act more as consultants. There are enough reasons why kids get scapegoated in life. If I’m working with a whole family then already the onus for change has been removed from the child who is often the weakest member of the family system. Sometimes it’s even effective to work with just the parents. Not because they did something wrong or caused the problem, but because often this is where the most effective change happens.

We stay away from blame and everyone gets some responsibility for making the family stronger.

Where’s the shame in that?

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justinlioiheadshotJustin Lioi is a therapist who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. His clients include parents, new fathers and other adults who are struggling with relationships, anxiety and depression. His sees his job as supporting individuals and families in solidifying what’s right and assisting people in undoing what doesn’t work so well. Justin is a board member of the National Association of Social Workers and is also a clinical supervisor for other therapists. He writes for and is one of their “Topic Experts.”

Justin can be found on  his blog, Facebook and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Kate Byrne

When one finds out that a friend has cancer one’s heart breaks. There may not be a cure for the cancer as yet, but damned if people aren’t trying. Everybody has lives that have been touched by cancer – whether family or friend. Heck, for me every Holy Week reminds me of a close family friend from when I was growing up who passed away right around Maundy Thursday. This was my first close and intimate experience with the effect cancer can have on our lives (sadly it wouldn’t be the last). When one finds out that a loved one is HIV+, one struggles with how to respond, but hugs and love typically ensue. Hell, when one finds out a loved one has a cold, soup and orange juice will happen.

But when one finds out that a friend or loved one is suffering from major depression or any other mental health issue there aren’t questions about how to respond appropriately. In the absence of a guidebook sometimes there’s no reaction at all, but worse than no reaction is a verbal or non-verbal eye roll. After all, there are so many people that see mental health issues as “fake” or “manufactured.” I know that, even as someone who has been diagnosed as an adult with ADHD and major depression, I sometimes mentally roll my eyes when I hear about six and seven year olds being diagnosed with ADHD. Part of me wonders how much is ADHD and how much is them being six or seven, but that doesn’t mean there’s no validity in these diagnoses. When someone who does fight these battles every day questions said diagnoses why are we surprised when folks not facing these situations question the diagnoses’ validity?

The questions one endures when one suffers from mental health issues are insulting and hurtful. They’re not always, “How can we help you?” They’re “what went so wrong in YOUR life?” “What happened?” “Did someone hurt you?” And, yes, those do often play a part in the mental health issues one is trying to alleviate, but not always. I mean, I’ll be honest. My life is cushy. I have not just friends who love me – who refuse to give up on me – but family who won’t do so either.

I haven’t endured abuse. I haven’t been assaulted – sexually or physically. I have a job. I have a roof over my head. I have a whole slew of comforts that many in the United States (let alone the rest of the world) don’t have. But for the most part the only ones asking what they can do to help are friends and loved ones facing their own health Issues, mental or otherwise. I can’t speak for others, but I hate to talk with them about what I’m going through when I know they already have so much on their plates.

Another thing? Everything has a ribbon nowadays. From X, Y, Z cancers to autism to this/that/the-other-disease-that-affects-1%-of-the-population. And that’s great – awareness needs to be brought, funds need to be raised for these causes because they are so important and touch so many, but when it comes to mental health issues we don’t get a ribbon. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a ribbon. I doubt there are many people experiencing mental health issues who would want a ribbon, but I know I wish mental health issues would cease to be taboo. Cease to be seen as something that only affects the “bad” kids. Cease to be thought of as something far rarer than it actually is.

Don’t take this to mean that I want more people to experience mental health issues. I don’t. It means I want fewer people to feel ashamed of their mental health issues (okay, I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed of their mental health issues). And I don’t know if, even if a cure was miraculously found for my mental health issues, if I would pursue it. After all, my mental health issues are a big part of what makes me me. I wouldn’t recognize me without my major depression or ADHD, but the thought that the people who are looking for a cure are considered quacks or kooks, or unworthy of funding, because of the “fake” illness they’re trying to cure is absurd and insulting. Mental health issues lead to death and injury much like heart disease does. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to see the scars that come from mental health battles, but if you’re good at hiding the self-injuring it’s a lot harder to pinpoint where the sickness is. A cure for cancer or AIDS may be a long way away, but at least there’s a target for the bright minds in the science fields to attack. When I can’t find the words to describe how I hurt, when I don’t feel justified feeling hurt, there’s nothing clear cut for scientists and doctors to attack.

When my major depression is different than that of Joey or Jenny or whomever – even though we’ve all been diagnosed with major depression – it’s going to be tough for doctors and scientists to figure out just what they should be trying to cure. And often people talking about curing mental health issues aren’t talking about “vanquishing the issues,” but more about “fixing the issues.” That sort of language choice implies that we’re not okay just the way we are. Do we need something to regulate our feelings and thoughts? Sure, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re not okay the way we are just like receiving chemotherapy doesn’t make you less of a person because you’re trying to kill the cancer cells.

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IMG_7177Cafeinating. Loving. Friends. Family. Maine. SLU.

Kate can be found at Huffington Post  and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Sherry M. Joiner

Understanding Stigma

I am the first Portland, Oregon-area woman author to publish a memoir about schizoaffective disorder (a little talked about diagnosis of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia). My memoir is called, Sherry Goes Sane: Living A Life With Schizo-Affective Disorder. Most books on mental illness are written by doctors and clinicians, but I feel the personal stories of “lived experience”- like mine and others fighting the pressure of stigma with mental health disorders- are more meaningful because they help us to see the person first, not the diagnoses. Schizo-affective disorder is a hard disease to tackle. Societal pressures seem to dominate your routine and the sheer process of overcoming the stigma of this disease is complicated.
I remember when I was young, I used to think people were talking about me and judging me because of who I was. My paranoia carried over into my adulthood. I felt paranoid because I couldn’t focus on something beside myself when people looked at me funny. When I was really upset about something I shook. My knees became rubbery as I disagreed with a speaker in a meeting. Being around higher ups, I felt like I was going to erupt like a tempestuous volcano. I hung my head, not humble like, but in disgrace of not accepting myself for being me. My ship was sinking. My shakiness and weak knees didn’t necessarily stem from my disease. It happened when I was physically abused by my stepfather for defending my brother when he was 7. My stepfather and my mother left him alone to go drinking and when they came back home, I arrived home from work and stood up for my brother. I took a blow to the jaw. My world fell apart and my life changed course.
In my later teens, I lived through the hippie era. Those years were characterized by driving around in a white Studebaker with flowered decals on the top and sides, struggling with hallucinations from stress and experimenting with drugs. In my 20’s I was in lockdown in several mental health institutions and Oregon State Hospital was one. 1972, I marched to the state capitol in Salem by myself and fought for equal pay rights- and was later sent a letter from the attorney general that there would be no more discrimination in the work force. I became an artist, a certified nurse aide and a teacher. With the help of medication and health care professionals I overcame the childhood abuse from my alcoholic parents, the suicide of my mother, and the loss of my brother to AIDS.
There were the times when I was off of my medication that depression seemed like a dead end street and the suicide attempts made it unbearable. I’d be so high on life that I thought I was Jesus Christ. I asked myself, “Did anyone know the person who lived inside my head?” The answer is “No.”
The thing is that my sister, my friends, and other people of society were busy with their own lives. There were weddings to plan, deaths in the family, and babies being born. Life was going on before all my trauma and continued to go on. They weren’t shunning me. They were just having different experiences than me. But I felt I carried the weight myself. I lost my job as a Preschool teacher but there wasn’t any reason for me to lose my job. The establishment did know about my disorder. I applied at another Day Care Institution and there was a question on the form that asked, “Do you see a psychiatrist? Or have you seen a psychiatrist? Do you have any mental health issues?” I said, “Yes,” because I wanted to be honest. Their reply was to give me a lot of propaganda- like Psychiatry is the theater of death. So I filed a civil suit and won my case. That was my legal fight against stigma. I realized that if I wanted to reach out to the health professionals about my disease and vent to them that I finally could.
Over the last 46 years of dealing with schizo-affective disorder, I found that beating the pressure of criticism and self doubt was to establish a plan. I created Sherry’s Master Plan to help me become stable and to give hope to others struggling with this disorder. Measures I took to maintain my stability are outlined in my plan here:
1. Called the doctor or crisis line in case of a crisis.
2. Took my medication on time and never went off my medication. Ate healthy foods and took vitamin supplements. Got plenty of rest. Informed the doctor of my symptoms and the side effects of my medicine and if he or she didn’t get the message, informed him again by email, letter, or verbal communication.
3. Spotted when I was going out of control and found out what trigged a crisis by writing it down. When I was panicky I talked to a trusted friend, my sister, husband, doctor or counselor about it.
4. Made a schedule of the days of the week and graded my activity for that day. I could then see how much I accomplished for that day.
5. Had a support group, members of NAMI and got a reality check.
6. Drew a diagram of the things I loved, liked and didn’t like and reviewed them every day.
7. Meditated, walked, painted, and listened to self-affirmation tapes.
I also regularly share of story of recovery with others and love doing so. I am a lecturer in a Portland-area hospital inpatient psychiatric ward-sharing hope and resources for when patients leave the hospital- and a trained “In Our Own Voice” speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I recently participated in a history project at the Oregon State Hospital Museum and they recorded an interview about my experiences there back in the 1970’s.

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SHERRY-5X7-2014I have lived with schizoaffective disorder for decades, an experience I drew upon strongly for my memoir, Sherry Goes Sane. I have spoken in psychiatric wards, hospitals, and universities for the National Alliance of Mental Illness, and also as a speaker for In Our Own Vice. My article “Bringing Peace and Happiness to the Psych Ward,” appeared in the 2013 Spring Edition of the NAMI Voice newsletter, published annually. I am passionate about helping those with special needs and have been a preschool teacher for children with ADHD, autism, and bipolar disorder. I have also worked as a certified nurse aide for twenty years helping patients with cancer, dementia and alzheimers. I have been interviewed for an article in the Clackamas Review by Ellen Spitaleri, and have a couple of youtubes: an interview with Ann Kasper, the Advocate for Wellness Channel and my Keynote Address to NAMI Lane County’s Holiday Dinner.

Sherry can be found on her website, Facebook and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Aron Bennett

The other week, I ‘perved’ on a teenage girl in a displacement camp. The sixteen or seventeen year-old from Nuba in South Sudan, now languishing uneasily in the nearby town of Kodok and being filmed by a team of BBC cameramen, was wearing a thread-bare, semi-transparent whisper white tobe (as is traditional in the region), and I had bought it upon myself to take a fleeting look directly at her breasts. The incident had, at once, caused me untold distress. Enough in fact to cause a whole night of discombobulated sleep. Though a week or so later and I had actually found myself doing the self same thing all over again, this time to a whole group of women alighting an old German freight train – Deutsche Reichsbahn “Güterwagen”- in Auschwitz. I had been watching a remake of the Eichmann Show with my parents, and, as the scene switched to real life footage of women climbing down from open-topped wagons fit only for livestock, I couldn’t resist the urge to take the briefest of glances at the odd dangling or extruding leg and thigh.
The wallop of pure unadulterated anxiety (not to mention guilt) which followed on that latter occasion had been almost enough to finish me off. Had I looked on purpose? Was I ‘ogling’ these poor, destitute women of unspeakable futurity? Were my motives sexual? Or was all this simply just OCD…
For me, purity in all matters moral (and, by extension, sexual) has been, over the years, not only important but essential. So too has the certainty that I am always a good person. It is a manifestation of OCD – sometimes referred to as ‘moral scrupulosity’- that means I am unable under any circumstances to fall short of this near-unreachable ethical golden standard. Looking inappropriately at women in the throes of suffering was clearly an example of doing something bad. I was a bad person. I didn’t deserve to be happy.
Of course, I am half-certain now – a few weeks later – that I probably had not done anything untoward whilst watching the various incidents of female suffering splattered across the 42″ monitor of my newest SONY TV. My looking is never so much a purposeful execution, more a result of my brain shouting rather piercingly: ‘DO NOT LOOK. FOR GOODNESS, DO NOT LOOK’ which, a bit like asking someone not to think of a pink elephant, immediately consummates the urge regardless of one’s higher motives. Though I can never be one hundred per cent sure of this analysis/justification and am therefore often unwilling to let myself ‘off the hook’.
It hasn’t of course helped over the years that my memory is pretty darn unreliable, specious even. Often once I have convinced myself at an emotional level of my having done something ‘bad’, I find it much harder to make the charges stick rationally. The finer details – often salient facts – are invariably misremembered or even missing from the picture entirely. From the young Sudanese girl trekking the mountains of South Kordofan to the women in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka departing steam trains destined for what can only be described as ‘hell on earth'; I have no idea how I looked, why I looked or, even, quite crucially, if I looked at all.


As you can probably deduct from the implicit complexity and intensity inherent in my revelations, my interminable doubt and colossal guilt are not a new thing for me. In fact they have been a feature of my life now since my university years just over a decade ago. The symptoms had no doubt been ‘triggered’ by my departure – the stark change in environment creating a glut of anxiety just crying out for assuagement in the form of an errant control mechanism- and have remained present on and off ever since (although I am better now than I ever was – much more skilled in ‘managing’ my symptoms).
Much harder has been ascertaining the causes of OCD which, together with the specific manifestations, are perhaps a lot more difficult to dissect. Why some people wash whilst others check or ruminate, has not been answered by brain science. And yet, despite our lack of knowledge, despite not understanding fully the role of SSRI’s, the function of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex or the effects of Eastern-derived treatments such as Mindfulness, it is certainly not all doom and gloom. Effective and empirically proven treatments such as Exposure & Response Prevention (the version of CBT utilised in treating OCD) are helping millions of people every single day. More importantly, is the enlivening prospect that more and more psychologists and psychotherapists actually serious about the treatment of OCD are beginning to understand the condition very well indeed.
And that’s because, despite what you might think about OCD, it is actually VERY easy to get your head around.
Perhaps one of the best bits of news I can proffer regarding the experience of OCD is that, despite the various alternative manifestations – cleaning, checking, getting check-ups for STI’s or simply just neutralising blasphemous thoughts – OCD is nearly always the same. It follows the same patterns. And just like a Sudoku puzzle, once you become practiced enough at doing them, there is no level of difficulty, no level of involvedness that can stump, baffle or confuse you.
However, for this enlightened message to truly come across, it is vital that stories that are less ‘common’ are always thrown into the Canon of our understanding. That atypical symptoms subscribing to similar patterns get the same level of attention. One of the best articles I have ever read on OCD is an article called ‘Here’s Looking at You, Kid: People with OCD who notice things too much’ by Fred Penzel, Ph.D. In it, Penzel contends, by highlighting the example of a female patient who cannot stop looking at the genitalia of her friends and colleagues, that OCD occurs “in a great variety of forms” and that this can lead to a an even greater number of sufferers not receiving “proper diagnosis of treatments”. This Penzel blames squarely on the symptoms “not fitting the usual stereotypes associated with OCD” and the lack of information available on such symptoms.
Often over years I have found it hard, almost impossible at times, to shake the feeling that my looking was not because I was a raging pervert; a bon vivant, a libertine, a lecher. Although my own understanding of OCD has always been fairly robust, in the absence of adequate information and professional advice (not to mention frequent and powerful twangs of self-reproach that crashed against me like waves against the seashore) I had found it difficult to convince myself of the rather more rational premise that my looking problems really were just symptoms of OCD.
In times of doubt, it is important to remember that OCD, despite having many different faces, is nearly always the same. You’ve all heard the phrase; “If it feels like OCD, then it probably is”. As I have said before, the technical manifestations of OCD may differ but the fundamentals are, as it were, immutable. It is a lesson that I try not to forget.
It is a lesson that I hope you too dear reader will not forget either.

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10561657_10152711069026625_5632687883115757291_nBorn in 1986, Aron Bennett from Essex has lived with OCD for a number of years. Following a second spell during his university years in 2004, Aron decided to write a full-blown memoire about his rather heteroclite experiences in a bid both to make sense as well as to end some of the ‘generational shame’ that still encircles this disorder. A graduate Law student from Lancaster University, Aron currently lives in Norwich where, outside of office hours, he works as a regional volunteer for the UK-based charity, OCD Action.

Aron can be found on Amazon, Facebook and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Renae Williams

Talking about mental health is how we progress mindsets. “The Devil’s Pulling Strings” is a reflection of both personal, and professional experiences with Schizophrenia. A distrust in reality is heartbreaking to see, and difficult to mend. Daily function becomes hampered by your own demons and contradicting truths. Through living in New York, I am submerged in diversity. Eccentricity is valued, yet when a hint of “insanity” hangs on your coat tails, doors become closed and backs become turned. The correlation between homelessness and mental health on the streets of New York is devastating to see. I have watched Schizophrenia destroy a friendship because I was not strong enough to detach myself from my own insecurities to support another. I will never be a bystander again. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok for society to turn its back on those who live with a skewed perception of reality or those who are suffocated by their own mind.
The Devil’s Pulling Strings
Is that beat a second hand, time eating off my years?
Or is the tick a pounding heart, sounding chimes of fears?
The devils pulling strings, composing purgatories rings
Notes devote their melodies to the hellish tings
Drumming beats, bark defeats, to a ruminating mind
Hellish tunes hark repeats on this vinyl scratched with time
Tick Tock! The clock is ticking, sanity at 1
Onto to two, we take pills due, stability my drum
Tick tock to three, could it be, Satan’s keeping time?
Yet, Increments of pills prevent lucidities decline
But, on the hour, this clock tower’s sounding not so sound
Tick tock! Is this clock slowing, from its merry round?
Circles so elliptical, with a clock tower that’s in use
Yet, objects once cylindrical, begin to sing obtuse
These cylinders, so whimsical in their kaleidoscopic daze
Clozapine and Lithium only alter the mental craze
Riddle rattle, as I battle, meds puppeteer my act
Surely side effects are worse, than the symptoms I’d contract
Hmmmm, let it be, just wait and see, what I feel as pure?
Paranoia I can take, but fuck, drugs I can’t endure
The last pill is spiraling, down the kitchen sink
Testing waters, sane the game, is insanity in that drink?
Tick tock! The clock is ticking, sanity at 1
Onto to two, we missed pills due, stability undone
Tick tock to three, could it be, Satan’s keeping time?
Increments of strokes predict lucidities decline
On the hour this clock tower’s sounding not so sound
Tick tock! This clock is halting, from its merry round
The judging eyes wander, as expressions scream revulsion
In that moment, I can’t fight the urge, to act on my compulsion
“Ohhh, don’t you mind, it’s not your mind, that see’s what isn’t there
Woopsy daisy! Sorry lady, you’ve got something in your hair
Don’t be wary, it’s just a fairy, I’ll place my pet back in its pouch”
Oh contrary, there’s something scary, sitting on the couch
“Pardon Sir, please refer, to what’s brooding over there
Do you spy a guy adorned, in chiseled horned red hair?
A man, a monster, poised, as if checking time in hell?”
Tick tock! I halt in shock, as the devil rings his bell
“O but sir, do you conquer, as my sight might not be right
I must implore, tell me more, is the devil on a plight?”
“Sorry miss… a… arrrrr red cushion is all I see”
Minds the fine for medications non-compliance fee
Casually the couch bound being, makes a rasping blare
My fairy safely in its pouch, but me I’m standing bare
“Come hither or I take your fairy and slice its rasping throat
“Come hither for tonight you’ll write a suicidal note”
Tick tock! The clock is ticking, insanity at 1
Onto to two, we need pills due, lunacy has won
Tick tock to three, could it be, I am out of time
Increment of strokes confirm lucidities not mine
With every hour, time devours, I’m sounding not so sound
Tick tock, fuck of clock, from your merry round
The devils rasping words remembered “fairy or a vein”
The pills missed at two confirm a mind that is insane.
My pouch takes a stare…
By 11 a letter’s written. Midnights alarm. Bereavements blare

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image (4)I am a Pediatric Occupational therapist from Australia who moved to New York to work as an Aupair for a family with a child with Autism. Motivated by a need to understand Autism from the perspective of a parent, I took a pay cut for an invaluable personal journey.
Understanding human behavior and then providing an art form for personal growth has been my recent love. I write poetry, blogs and societal critiques which seem to have a recurring them of injustice.

Renae can be found on her blog, Facebook and Twitter

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When Depression Hits

When Depression Hits
by Allie Burke

He gives me this look like he thinks I’m crazy. I know this look all too well. I see it on one face or another every day. Is it me? Do I imagine the youareanutjob face? I am a nutjob, according to what that doctor wrote on the paper that one time. So does it really matter if I’m imagining it or not?

I feel mortified. At the smallest thing. That is the epitome of schizophrenia. Some guy says something stupid on Facebook and my mind manifests it into irrational revolving doors of paranoia for days, weeks, for life. I can’t even with these people.

I pick up my phone to distract myself and catch my reflection in the screen. I hate what I see. I hate the perfectly proportioned eyes and the flushed skin and the ginger hair that peeks out of my gray hoodie. I hate the word ginger, too. It’s so offensive.

I don’t know why I keep trying to be social. To be normal. I’m not. I never could be. I told Will yesterday when he was making fun of me for always hanging out in the same city that I’d never leave my house if my friends didn’t make me. Such is true. I would never go anywhere. Why bother? Real life is too fucking stressful. Just let me stay at home and work from behind my computer screen. That’s what I do best. Keeping my head down where no one can see me. I hate being the center of attention. I hate being anywhere where I can be seen. No one needs to see me. They just need to see my work, and they do. Every day.

People give me shit for not making eye contact with them on a daily. Why the fuck would I want to do that? I don’t want to look at you. I don’t like you. Throughout the duration of my life, people have been, day by excruciating day, complaining about their lives whilst lecturing me about my own. As if they have a duty to tell the schizophrenic what’s right and wrong. Motherfucker, you can’t even handle your own shit.

Your shit is your shit; my shit is my shit.

People are negative, and all I’ve ever wanted is to be left alone to do my own thing. To give myself a chance to be happy. So why bother?

To make other people happy. It’s the only reason why people with a mental illness do any of the things they don’t want to do. But what about us? Don’t we matter too?

Allie Burke is the Vice President of the non-profit organization Stigma Fighters. She writes for Psychology Today. An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.

From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.
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Stigma Fighters : Chloe Keegan

When I was a teen, like a lot of teens, I found the world to be very heavy on my 15 year old shoulders. My parents had separated, I thought I was “in love” with a guy nearly 8 years older than me who happened to be dating a relative of mine which resulted in lack of sleeping and eating (yay for lovesickness), and I had to keep up the appearance of being a great academic student with high grades and no complaints.

I wouldn’t say I was depressed but mentally, I wasn’t stable for a while. I turned to cutting to ease the problems and focus my mind on something else. I didn’t cut to seriously injure myself, but just used anything sharp that left a mark on the upper part of my thighs or arms as a reminder that I was feeling very low and alone. This went on longer than it should have when my mam saw the marks on my arms underneath my pyjamas.

And you know what happened? She didn’t hug me. She didn’t ask me what was wrong. She looked at me in fear. My mother was afraid of me. She hid all the knives, all razors and other sharp objects as if I was a ticking time bomb. Because of that reaction, I felt even more alone and less understood which led to me secretly doing this act on myself.

In school I would bump off people and feel the pain, or try and sit down making my thigh would hurt. It was the worst thing I could have done to myself. And it continued for at least a year until I met a guy who would actually talk to me and make me realise what I was doing wasn’t helping.

I feel now at the age of 23 and years of putting cutting behind me, that if my mother had used that opportunity to talk to me about what was wrong, maybe things wouldn’t have gone on so long. I probably wouldn’t have felt so different and so confused. She could have shed some light on things, on how our home life was going to be completely different, but she could have reassured me and told me it was okay.

Any mental illness, or unstable mental moments can always be helped. But I’m a full believer in not staying silent. I know it sounds easier said than done, but you’d surprise yourself if you give yourself that chance of help. Any person you open up to, you are giving yourself a chance to change, but also a chance to feel happier again. The first step for me was talking and I’ll be honest, it was the hardest step of all, but the most worthwhile of the entire journey.

The key was realising there’s nothing wrong with me and there’s nothing wrong with others who suffer too. Never look to people in fear just because they are dealing with something you don’t understand. Use the opportunity to reach out, pull them up and let them know you’re there for them, always.

Help is always at hand if you reach out and grab it. So is happiness. Go for it! You all deserve it and so much more.

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Idownload‘m a new found blogger who believes sharing my own ordinary experiences with usually quirky outcomes will show others how to tackle similar situations. These experiences come in the form of love and dating advice, opinionated views on controversial topics and posts proving everyone deserves to live a happy life regardless of what others say/believe.

“Learn from your own mistakes, or better yet, mine!” – Ordinarily Quirky

Ordinarily Quirky can be found on her blog, Facebook and Twitter

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SLOW MOTION by Hastywords

Infects her thoughts
Holding her hostage
Screening and erasing
Her cries for help
Riddles her with angst
Constantly chastising
Rendering her helpless
To its mindless chatter
Hijacks her emotions
Running high speed
Full throttled attack
Beating her senseless
Sends in its battalion
Of whispering ants
Surrender this day
Throw it all away
Drops crazy into place
Absorbed by her mind
And she finds her space
As darkness descends
Drapes its fog over her
And the voices stop
And the world slows
And the devil hits mute
Descends in a misty veil
Angels dressed to the nines
Blurry and out of focus
Standing just beyond
No, its upside down
Its 8mm conspiracy
Appears; a commercial break
A smooth talking salesman
Speaking like a breeze
His voice vanishing time
Opens her mouth to speak
As the salesman’s eyes
Find her like a dream
Asking to speak her mind
Reaches out with a Shhhhh
As he kisses her lips
Stealing all her cares
Before they can escape
Fades from the light
With a forked tongue
As black and white rise
From the colors of her life
Carried her for awhile
Halfway into the nevermore
Away from the light
And away from all the dark
Echoes from its tomb
Buried alive it fights
Inside her head
How is it I’m not dead?

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befunky_10005117_1432464820332486_1670976424_nHastywords is an anxiety driven over-analyzer. With a mind full of rainbows and devils, she began giving her thoughts a way out of her head by starting her own blog. Writing poetry helps her gain perspective and purge her soul by putting her tears and laughter into words!

Hastywords can be found on their blog, Facebook and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Matthew Perkins

Etymology and Shoes.

Sabotage: deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.

The word sabotage derives from the French for wooden shoe. Its original derivative is from the word sabotor, which means to work carelessly. In the 15th century Dutch workers were so afraid that machines would replace humans in the textile mills that they would throw their wooden shoes into the looms. We eventually used to it to describe a methodology, a deliberate way to break things for our own advantage. I was a perpetual saboteur of self and relationships, the Jason Bourne of human interaction.

In every conversation, interaction, look that you may give me a “Top 5 List” of the worst possible scenarios comes into my head. They’re completely irrational but serve as a safeguard against possible attacks. If I could think of the worst thing you could throw my way then I can always hit it and won’t be caught off-guard. I think it comes from a lifetime of playing and watching baseball. Always be expecting the curve ball in an 0-2 count, and it’s always an 0-2 count.

Let me give you a shining example of this disturbing scenario:

Two days ago I was out at a birthday party for my niece, cute kid. On the way home my ex-wife in her attempt to understand me a bit says “hey, I read an article on mental illness and creative people.” Seems innocent enough, right? I ask that she share with me so I can read. She says, “no I’ll share it with you when you get home and we can talk about it. There are some disturbing things in there about suicide rates.” Makes sense to most people, no sense upsetting someone if you don’t have to.

Now for how someone like me reads that:

Ex Wife: Hey myself and some other people were discussing how much of a burden your mental illness is. One of them shared this article about how mental illness suicide rates are high among creative people. This reassured me that at some point I won’t have to deal with you any more. I’m going to wait until you get home to read it because you have the kids in the car and I don’t want them dead, just you. (There are 4 other scenarios, but this one is the one that I’m using)

Perfectly fucking logical adaptation, no?

So what’s a boy to do? Well he could stand there completely vulnerable to another human being, any human being, and wait for the verbal stabbing to occur. Or, he could pull out his gun and shoot anyone standing too close. I was so good at the latter. Like Jason Bourne, I had the innate ability to see all the exits, pick out the killers in the crowd, and have an escape route planned the moment I entered a room. Out of fear of what others were thinking, planning, feeling about me I would throw my shoe into their loom and wait for it to break. Then I could say to them “ha, see, I knew you would break.” I could be validated by their decision to walk away and believe it was their fault for hurting me.

The problem lies in the 19th century adaptation of this word sabotor. I got careless. I didn’t pick out the people who were so easily broken. Those weak enough to simply prove me right on the first, second, thirty-fifth, or ten thousandth try. This carelessness lead to one of my greatest self discoveries of all time. This isn’t necessary. The reality is, that there are simply these people who give no fucks who I think I am, they see me. Those unfortunate bastards are also tasked with loving me unconditionally as well. They’re not impervious to hurting. I mean something to them so of course they hurt deeply when I attempt a shoe-throwing-full-frontal assault on their psyche. The problem is they care so deep that they say seven words that completely fuck with my head.

I love you. I’m not going anywhere.

There I stood, with my gun to their head on the ship, (See Bourne Identity) but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I dropped the gun. I dropped the shoe. I dropped to my knees and said to humanity as a whole, “enough.” At first it was an, I lose, you all win, scenario in my mind. But I had more to lose when I had the shoe in my hand than they did. In my desire to inflict pain so that I didn’t have to feel any I ended up inflicting far more to myself. In the years of wandering through life looking for weakness and vulnerabilities in others that I could attack, I had lost friends, lovers, important people in my life that only wanted to do one thing: love me.

It was after an AA meeting that I had this epiphany. I was driving home in the quiet after sharing this little tidbit of information with the group. But the banality of this existence, the loneliness and emptiness that I once filled with a liquid lover had to end. The finality of this decision was met with, as expected, a few open arms. No one attacked immediately, no stabbings to my newly armorless body.

Now like many other aspects of my brain, I have to “Beautiful Mind” it. I know it’s there. I know the sentiments and Top 5’s are lurking, popping up, and generally attempting to steal the joy from me. But for the first time in perhaps my life I can see them for what they are, figments of my imagination. It’s a choice however, I can chose to listen now or not. That’s real power. The old way felt powerful at the time. I thought I was in charge of how the relationship went, but I was wrong. I was stripping myself of all the power over true emotion and that made me powerless to my own mind.

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eyes-upMatthew is a 33 year old father of three. He’s dances daily bipolar disorder and its impacts on 10 years of alcoholism that he’s recently kicked. When he’s not writing in his blog about the daily joys and struggles of both he’s painting, photographing, writing music.

Matthew can be found on his blog and Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Trish

When I was asked if I wanted to write for Stigma Fighters, I couldn’t imagine what it was that I would say to the world about my experience. I have been through so many different experiences both personally and with other people. I fight a battle everyday because of one of these experiences.

6 months ago I was diagnosed with borderline post traumatic stress disorder. With the diagnosis comes anxiety and some depression. People often ask me if I’ve been to war, because they are the only ones who can suffer from PTSD right? Wrong. 3 years ago I was in a relationship that I thought was “the one”. The one I was going to spend my life with. Unbeknown to me, he suffered from a mental illness called borderline personality disorder. I was never told about his illness nor did I ever notice anything was wrong.

About a month into us moving in together things started to change. His moods were uncontrollable and there was lots of anger directed at me. It was then I found out not only was he suffering from a mental illness, he had also decided to completely stop all medication without direction from his doctor. I was absolutely helpless. There was nothing I could physically do to get him help without his consent.

Day in and day out I was met with verbal abuse that little by little broke me down to a shell of who I was. As I broke I also watched every phase of him break until he hit rock bottom. I stared at a person I once knew and barely recognized him. He was skin and bones. He often hit himself and then cried himself to sleep at night. I urged him to speak with his doctor. He had gotten so far off track that he made himself believe he was okay, and he would get better by himself.

After 3 solid months of this I began to fear for my own life. I started having anxiety and panic attacks every night before he got home from work because I didn’t know what kind of mood he would be in. After talking with a professional the only option I had was to leave. There was nothing I could do to help him until he decided to get help.

I moved out and felt free. Free from the verbal abuse. Free from the threat of being harmed. Free until I realized I was not okay. A year after I left the pain started all over again. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was gaining weight. My stomach was always upset. I kept hearing his voice telling me that I was worthless and I would never escape him. I had to do something to make it go away.

Today I am working through my past by speaking to a therapist. I have a supportive boyfriend who helps me stay on track and reminds me that I am doing what I need to do. I am starting to feel more like myself and less like a prisoner of my own thoughts. I write a lifestyle blog and I like to focus on wellness. People often to forget to include mental health in their wellness plans.

It is my dream to help get mental health more awareness. So many people struggle and have no options for help. The costs are high and the waiting periods can be long. I hope in the future this will not be a topic people shy away from, but something we can embrace and help get people feeling better.

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Trish is a lifestyle blogger taking life one day at at time. It is her dream to bring awareness to mental health and often blogs about the importance of mental wellness as part of any wellness plan. You can find her on Twitter and on her Blog

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