Stigma Fighters: TEEN LINE

Hello Stigma Fighters! TEEN LINE is a Los Angeles, California based teen-to-teen helpline affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Our trained teens answer calls, texts (US only), and emails from around the world 6p.m.-10p.m. Pacific Time. Adult volunteers from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services answer the helpline number all other hours, providing suicide prevention support.

Our TEEN LINE Listeners are the heart of what we do! We believe teens have the power to change the world. Teens who apply and are accepted complete an intensive 13-week training. Each session is devoted to a different topic such as suicide, depression, relationships, self-injury, bullying, sex, and more. Though these topics are important, we continuously practice empathy and active listening skills. It is important for our teens to offer a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment so teens can feel comfortable sharing what’s on their mind. No challenge is too big or small; the TEEN LINE Listeners are happy to help!

What else can someone expect when you call, text, or email TEEN LINE? We are confidential. Our Listeners are with you, as the name suggests, to actively listen. They do not offer advice and will not tell you what to do. Rather, teens are empowered to make decisions for themselves after they are informed about all of the options available. It is not our place to offer advice, as we cannot possibly account for someone else’s morals, values, or ethics. Each call, text, and email ends with appropriate resources.

Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to go at it alone:

Call 310-855-4673 or text “TEEN” to 839863 between 6p.m.-10p.m. Pacific Time

Not ready to reach out quite yet or curious to know more? Check out what some other teens have asked:

Remember – no problem is too big or too small! We’re here to help!


Stigma Fighters: Jessica Robinson

It begins as a slight dizziness, and when I recognize that I’m dizzy, it gets worse and is followed by a tingling sensation in my stomach—almost like butterflies, but much more pronounced. Breathing becomes difficult, black dots dance in front of my eyes. Adrenalin shoots through my body, my skin gets hot and prickly. I’m afraid—terrified—and I don’t know why.

My name is Jessica, and I have panic attacks and anxiety. I can usually overcome an attack by taking deep breaths or by focusing on music. If I have my iPod and headphones close by, I pop them in and let the tunes flow through my mind. If I don’t have them near me, I start singing to myself. Anything. The first song that comes to mind. I sing it under my breath so I have to focus on the words. This usually helps alleviate the symptoms and keeps me from going over the emotional cliff.

There is no telling when an attack is going to hit me. Anything can trigger it, and I’ve had attacks waiting in line to check out at the store, at work, in the car, on a plane, and various other places.

I recently figured out part of the reason why I have these particular panic attacks: fear of losing control. I’m a control freak. I like to know exactly what’s going to happen and when. For me, the ultimate loss of control is being unable to control my own body.

Of course, I can’t control everything. I know that. I’m getting better at being okay with that and going with the flow. I’ve stopped structuring every hour of my day so that there are no surprises. I had to. It’s a silly way to live, especially with kids. There’s no telling what’s going to crop up with them, and I have to be free and flexible to deal with it.

By nature, I’m a worrier. As a mom, I’m always scared to death something is going to happen to my kids or to me and my kids will be left all alone. I’m cynical. I’m convinced the worst is always going to happen. Again, it comes down to losing control. I can’t control what happens out in the world. That’s beyond my grasp. I can’t stop my kids from getting hurt or growing up. Eventually, I will die, and there is nothing I can do to stop that. All I can do is give my kids the skills they need to cope and be there for them when they need me. Logically, I know this. Emotionally, I’m still trying to deal with it.

Panic attacks and anxiety are chemical reactions in the brain, and I’m genetically disposed to getting them. I know for a fact that my grandmother suffers from them and so does my father. I can take pills to counteract the effects, and I have Xanax with me at all times, but I don’t like how they make me feel. I’m calm and relaxed, that’s for sure, but I can’t concentrate, I can’t function. I would much rather talk myself out of an attack or recognize the signs one is coming on and avoid it at all costs. Sometimes, I just have to ride them out.

It’s really frustrating to feel like my body has betrayed me. It’s awful to think that the one thing I should be able to control—me—rebels against itself. My mind is my worst enemy when it comes to panic attacks and anxiety. I’ve always had a vivid imagination; it’s part of the reason I’m a writer. However, when I’m anxious, my imagination runs away from me. My mind convinces itself the worst-case scenarios are going to happen, and that pushes me into an attack. That’s part of the reason music works so well to calm me. It takes my focus away from the bad things and centers it. I can also channel that energy into writing, which I’ve done before. Anything that takes my mind off the “could happens” turns me away from a full blown attack and lets me regain control.

Recognizing the fact that I have panic attacks has helped me cope with them. Even though it feels like the world is going to end when I’m having one, I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that I will make it through because I have before. I’ve had a lot less lately. I’m still anxious about a lot of things, and I’m sure I will always be, but I don’t let them control me anymore. I control me the best that I can.

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Jessica Robinson 2 BW

BIO: Jessica Robinson is an editor by day and a zombie-killer by night (at least in her books). Since the first time she watched Night of the Living Dead, she has been obsessed with zombies and often thinks of ways to survive the uprising. In addition to her nonfiction book, under the pen name Pembroke Sinclair, she has written YA novels about zombies and the tough teens who survive the apocalyptic world. She has also written nonfiction stories for Serial Killer Magazine and published a book about slasher films called Life Lessons from Slasher Films. You can learn more about Jessica by visiting her at her blog here

Stigma Fighters : Lauren S

On and off since the age of 10, I’ve been somewhere in the mental healthcare system. That’s almost 18 years of treatment (mostly medication) and a whole host of diagnoses: major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD. Sometimes, it feels as though my life is made up of a series of waves of paralyzing anxiety and crushing depression.

As a child, I was almost always anxious about something. As a teenager, the depression took over as classmates told me to “go kill myself.” Both of my struggles followed me to college and grad school. One would lie dormant while the other would rear its ugly head. A diagnosis of endometriosis led to a major depressive episode. The pressure of my career were beyond anything I had ever imagined. This leads me to where I am today: fresh out of the hospital and re-evaluating my life plan.

I spent a lot of time in and out of therapy, but never really invested in my treatment. Over the course of a few weeks, I began to rapidly de-compensate, not eating or caring for myself. It was at that point when I realized that I needed to focus on getting well in the appropriate environment. With the support of my family, I admitted myself for a short inpatient stay to get what I really needed. Until then, my needs were almost always addressed with medication. This environment was completely different.

In addition to seeing a social worker and a doctor, I was able to participate in group therapy, which was a foreign concept to me at the time. These group sessions allowed each of us to open up as we chose, sharing our troubles and experiences. In addition to learning how to best cope with my anxiety and depression from counselors, I learned the most important lesson of all: I’m not alone in this fight. We, as a group, were one big support network for one another and I had never experienced that before. Because of this, I am more invested than ever in my treatment, and I want to pay it forward.

If you are on the fence about seeking treatment or possibly a hospitalization, remember: you need to invest in yourself to be your best self.

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Lauren is a 27-year-old lover of neuroscience and science communication. She is currently on the path to seeking happiness and fulfillment. In her spare time, Lauren volunteers for a local pit bull rescue.

Lauren can be found on Twitter

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Stigma Fighters : Anonymous


There’s a subject that’s been mulling around in my head for some time now. It’s not an easy one to write about by any means. It’s a touchy subject, a private subject, and it’s important.

My marriage.

I haven’t written it because I never know how to get the words out. Call it respect, call it privacy, call it whatever the hell you want to call it; the words get stuck in my head and won’t come out no matter how hard I try to rattle them out.

Loving someone with a mental illness when you have a mental illness is all kinds of hard. Their mood and actions effect your mood, and vice versa. It is a struggle of momentum volumes, and sometimes…it damn right feels impossible to carry on with them, but the thought of not being with them is even worse. It’s almost…suffocating.

How do you help someone who won’t see or admit that they need help? How do you help them when they turn the tables on you every time you try to talk to them? You have a mental illness too, you need help too. You don’t handle stressful situations well either. It’s the pot calling the kettle black, over and over again seven ways through yesterday.

On the other hand…you have someone who gets it. They fucking get it without you trying to break it down for them. Explaining your thoughts and emotions is easier because they just get fucking get it. Unless they’re having a rough go, then…well, you’re both left stewing about how hard it is until someone decides to do something about it to rectify the situation.

Each and every relationship comes with struggles and bad days…days when your communication is shit and your attitude is worse. Days when you’re left wondering why in the fuck you’re struggling so hard…do other people struggle this hard? It doesn’t seem like it, because it never does…but they do. Everyone struggles and relationships are fucking hard. Relationships when you introduce mental illness and a bunch of other health problems are even harder to balance out.

Sometimes, there’s just so much goddamn stress that I don’t know what to do. I feel alone because we’re at odds with one another, or he’s telling me not to stress about it because “he’ll handle it”, but he doesn’t because he doesn’t know how to handle it and his mental illnesses make handling emotions incredibly difficult…especially my emotions.

Literature and society as a whole has me so confused. Like, every great relationship has struggles but not like ours. Things don’t feel so fucking heavy when they’re not going good. Those people can rationally talk it out.

We fight. We rip into each others hearts and souls and claw with sharp nails to draw blood. We’ve been trained to fight dirty, or maybe it’s the depression, the anxiety, or the rage disorder…or maybe it’s the fact that we’re also fucking Geminis.

I keep trying to look at this situation with unbiased eyes. I try to see where he’s coming from, and I won’t lie…it’s fucking hard and I struggle with that. I know what I know, I feel what I feel. I can empathize what he feels, but it doesn’t take away my reaction to it.

I am doing all that I can to try and fix things…to try and elevate stress. I feel broken…twisted and ugly. A voice in my head tells me things shouldn’t be this hard…life shouldn’t be this hard. We should struggle to the degree that we’ve been struggling. They say money can’t buy happiness, but it buys security and that’s close.

This post makes everything seem so dark and horrible, and that’s really not it. The amount of love I have for this man is unexplainable. The passion I feel for him keeps me pushing through all this fucking sludge that life throws our way.

But it’s hard, and some days are harder than ever and sometimes my heart is bruised and sometimes I just want things to be easy and calm.

But neither one of us is easy or calm, and that’s what makes it so hard. We are both reactive and damaged.

We are both living — and loving — with mental illness.

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Stigma Fighters : Nicole Sparkman

Growing up in a small town that sits in a small county (7000 souls total…or I assume souls-some of the people are iffy) I kept quiet for a long time about my struggle with depression. I didn’t want to be judged or stigmatized because I have something no one can see. Now, at 37, I have decided I don’t really care if someone judges me based on my disease. After Robin Williams so tragically passed on and I saw the comments people made on social media about it I realized how clueless the general public is to mental illness. In an age of instant access to knowledge this is inexcusable. I’ve taken it on myself to post on my Facebook more about my struggles (though it terrifies my poor parents…sorry!) and to start a blog to speak out about the stigma of mental illness. My dream at the moment is to do this on a much grander scale in the future…God made me to advocate. It’s what I do.
Some of my favorite things I hear from people when they find out I have depression are listed below…I know that others have heard the same things spoken to them.

“But you’re always so happy…”
No, I let you think that I’m always happy. After years of dealing with depression you learn to hide it very well. When I was in high school I can remember calling a friend and telling her that I wanted to kill myself; I just didn’t want to live anymore. Through my tears I could hear that she was having a party and she must have told them what I said because one of the people there yelled, “then do it already!” After numerous incidents of insensitive advice, (just get over it! Quit being a drama queen!), you no longer trust that someone will understand your secrets. You don’t open up to people anymore for fear that they will either lock you up, not believe you, or that they will ridicule you.
Am I am a happy person? I like to think so. I love life, I love seeing the world and having its beauty shatter me. I love my kids, my family, and my friends. I enjoy doing so many things in life…until the demons come out to play and start whispering in my ear that I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough, that life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and that I’m not worth anything. The pain that the demons cause make you hurt so bad from the inside out and it’s hard to focus on anything. Your house becomes a bigger mess, you start avoiding everyone, your performance slips at work because the only thing in your head is to focus on the next day, the next step, the next breath. You aren’t sure you’re going to be able to make it through that next breath because your chest is so tight but you do it. It’s exhausting. It’s debilitating. It consumes you. If you try to talk to someone about it they want to know the whys of it. Why do you feel this way? Why are you so sad? Hell if I know. If I knew I would make it stop.
“You’re so funny and full of life though…”
Yep. I’m a funny person. I make myself giggle a lot. Just because I’m funny does not mean that I don’t have some very serious moments that go on in my head. I am full of life because I feel everything deeply. If I find something amusing it’s extremely amusing. If I dislike something or someone it is with the hate I reserve for the fiery pits of hell, the mall, and rush hour traffic. Since I feel all the good stuff so deeply I guess it makes sense that I feel all the bad stuff acutely as well.
“You’re such a strong person…”
I used to laugh at this and say no I’m not strong. I take that back. Damn right I’m strong. I fight battles no one sees or hears. There are times that I am raging in my head so hard that my hands are in fists and it’s taking everything in me not to unleash all that I’m feeling on something or someone. Depression takes many shapes. Sometimes it’s complete and total apathy and to a person who is used to feeling everything this is horrible. It’s a void. A pit that you are trying to scramble out of and you can’t get a hold of anything to pull you up. Another form is the absolutism of rage: anger so sharp that you feel brittle with it and as if you are going to splinter into glass and cut everyone around you. I am a strong person…because I have had to be.
“Can’t you take a pill…”
Oh, how I wish I could! I’ve tried over ten different antidepressants. I either end up with horrible side effects, apathy, or anger so bad it scares me. I can’t take medications for this. I get by because of the Almighty, my family, and friends. Maybe someday they’ll create a pill that will fix my brain but as of now they have not.
“You’re crazy…”
Yea, and you’re boring. Boring and judgmental are the two greatest sins in my book.

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20150304_210336Nicole Sparkman lives in a small town in Missouri where she raises her 3 children and dog while working a full time job and attending online classes. She will graduate in 2016 with a degree in Human Services. Nicole has fought against depression since she was a preteen and though at times she grows weary of the battle, the fighter still remains.

Nicole can be found on her Blog, and Facebook

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Stigma Fighters: A Conversation on Self Harm – With Courtney & Marisa

Recently, the hashtag #cut4zayn went rampant on Twitter. There were graphic images of teens actively involved in self harm. The imagery was alarming and triggering to many of us mental health activists. Marisa, the content manager for Stigma Fighters Canada and writer at Mad Girl’s Lament  reached out to me with an idea. As someone who struggled with self harm for years, she wanted to have an open discussion about the nature of the behavior and how the #cut4zayn hashtag impacted her. Immediately I thought of Courtney, the content manager for Stigma Fighters Teen  and write at Courtney’s Voice. Courtney is a 17-year-old mental health activist, and a survivor of sexual abuse. She lives with PTSD and has spoken openly about self harm.

Courtney and Marisa got together and had a candid discussion about self harm and how the #cut4zayn hashtag impacted both of them on a personal level. Watch their talk here:

Stigma Fighters : Theresa Larsen

Living with Mental Illness is like Playing Tennis with a Flat Ball
By: Theresa Larsen, author of “Cutting the Soul”

Imagine going onto a tennis court on a sunny day to play a game of tennis. You grab your racquet, stretch your arms, and pick up a ball. As you throw the ball in the air to serve, the thrill of competitive excitement fills a space inside of you. The ball falls to just the right height, you swing through, hitting it over the net, and into the service box. You pause momentarily sensing that something is not quite right. The ball felt heavy and did not sail as far as you expected. You put this thought out of your mind and focus on the return. Your opponent is able to return your serve with ease. As you strike the ball it falls flat of the net, rolling slowly toward you. You pick it up and look at it carefully. It looks like any other tennis ball, it feels like any other tennis ball, but it doesn’t perform like any other tennis ball. You look around at other courts and see players hitting without difficulty. Everyone around you is playing tennis with a ball that bounces high, is light in weight, and soars when hit. Everyone except you. Your tennis ball feels weighted down, heavy, and uncooperative. You have to hit harder, move faster, and think quicker than everyone else or you get left behind. Your resolve to do this dissipates with each swing of the racquet.

Imagine playing tennis day after day with a flat ball. This is what it is like to live with mental illness. You quickly become exhausted. Your muscles ache with the added effort. You want to do what everyone else is doing, but you can’t because your brain does not let you. Often, the more effort you exert the further behind you get, until you want to give up altogether.

I watched my son spiral out of control down a path I could not navigate. He was depressed, angry, and ashamed. The only coping skill he found for himself was cutting. It was a dangerous and destructive coping skill. I watched, helpless and afraid that one day I would enter his room to find that he had completed suicide. I was unable to lift him out of his chasm of depression and despair. As a parent there is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness when you are incapable of helping your child.

No parents look at their child and imagine what could go wrong in their life. Instead, we see hope and opportunity for their future. We don’t ever imagine that our child will be tormented by his or her own mind. No parents are prepared to learn that their child may have something seriously wrong with him or her that could change their inner core, their ability to love, their ability to empathize with others. These were things I faced with my son. He had changed-was changing-into someone I didn’t know. I wanted to help him, but I had no idea how. I knew keeping him alive, even if it meant he hated me, was my only option. I was willing to do whatever it took.

“Whatever it took…” turned out to be a realization that I did not have the training to give my son all of the positive skills he needed to survive. This left me questioning what I had done wrong. I knew the only way he would make it in this world is if he had 24 hour supervision, something I was unable to give him. The decision to send him to a full-time psychiatric facility caused me physical pain. Why couldn’t I give my son what he needed? How could I send him away?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a list of statements for people that care for loved ones with a mental illness. One of the statements on the list that resonated with me was “If you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care for another.” I recognized that I could not care for my son all of the time. I had to allow others to help him seek out independence and positive coping skills and guide him on a road to healing.

My heart broke when my son went away. I was overwhelmed with guilt and embarrassment, but I knew life could not continue in the direction it had been moving. It took a great deal of time for me to forgive myself for not being the mother I believed I was supposed to be.

Many months went by before my son was able to make any progress. With the help of trained counselors and physicians he navigated his way toward a healthier life. The shift was a slow process spanning several years and encompassing many “bumps” along the way, but it did happen. I watched as my son progressed from a depressed, self-loathing, and suicidal youth to a confident, caring young man. My son’s life opened up in front of him to a place where he could swing his metaphoric racquet and the tennis ball was not always flat.

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Terri88881Florida native Theresa Larsen graduated from Florida State University with a degree in elementary education and a minor in psychology. She taught school in England and Wales while living in the United Kingdom for twelve years. Her writing credits include a Welsh children’s book with English translation, an educational article published in the Cardiff Advisory Service for Education, and her memoir “Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother.” She has a daughter and a son and resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband and German shepherd.

Theresa can be found on her Website, Facebook and Twitter 

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Stigma Fighters: Scott Schneider

I developed harming obsessions when I was 10 years old. The year was 1984 and virtually nothing was publicly known or discussed about the phenomena that today we know to be obsessive compulsive disorder. I was a grubby farm kid walking barefoot through pastures dotted with piles of cow manure and playing with the new batches of spring kittens in the hay barn. It would bother me a little bit during the day, but I could shake it off. It was just an annoyance, something that just happened. At night is when it started effecting me more, as I would feverishly toss and turn while the fears would loom larger in my brain. A lot changed in the late 1980s regarding OCD. Largely regarded as untreatable and notInline image 1affecting a sizable enough portion of the population to pay it any real attention in the first half of that decade, a significant set of transformations occurred by the end of it. The first of these was the development of the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation in November 1986. Originally named The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, this world renowned organization started as simple nonprofit launched by Dr Wayne Goodman. Goodman, a junior psychiatrist at Yale who developed an OCD research program during his residency there; got together with several people he’d met at the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven, Connecticut. They first thought of forming a support group and then realized the demand for research and advancement, of awareness, and declared it a non-profit. The group sent a letter to the ABC’s 20/20, asking the news show do a segment on it. As a result, in May 1987, 20/20 aired the first national television news report on obsessive compulsive disorder. The newly-christened foundation was flooded with inquiries and research requests, which set up ample clinical sites all over the US to study the disorder. The next development was the release of Prozac by the FDA in December 1987.Anafranil up to this point had been the only drug shown to be effective against OCD.Fluoxetine would soon take over, as the effectiveness of the psychiatric wonder drug established it as the go-to medication for treating the disorder. A little over a year later, the third and biggest of these Zeitgeists, was the release of a book by Dr Judith LRapoport called The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing. Dr Rapoport had been the Chief of Child Psychiatry at the National Institutes of Mental Health since the late 1970s; and had, had ample time to study people with obsessive compulsive disorder. She had participated in clinically conducted trials regarding Anafranil’s effectiveness for OCDand collaborated with other colleagues regarding its treatment. Published in 1989, The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing was a compendium of stories, narrated by DrRapoport herself, that told of the real experiences of these patients. Her book sold over one million copies world-wide, in 22 different languages, and made the major media talk show rounds. OCD had come out of the shadows.

Taking the Wayback machine to May 1987, I wish I had been paying attention to that 20/20 segment, but I was a kid, hobknobbing in the late spring sun, dealing with the social angst of being an early teen, and bicycling to school with my friends. I wish I’d been alerted to the emergence of Prozac and the release of Dr Rapoport’s book but Oprah and Donahue were never really my thing. We didn’t have cable so Larry King Live wouldn’t appear on the console television. If I’d read about or watched any snippet of television-related news regarding any of these big-three developments, the lightbulbwould have gone off. On the outside I looked like a perfectly normal kid. All the while, a monster was raging inside my brain. It’s hard to believe that over 25 years have passed Dr Rapoport released her book. The IOCDF has existed for nearly 30 years and harming obsessions have become one of the better known types of OCD; along with religious, pedophile, sexual orientation, responsibility. Unlike it was in 1984, it is regarded as treatable in 70% of the cases. I overcame my harming obsessions with a combination of Prozac, psychoeducational counseling, and mindfulness.

It took 20 years of my life to realize that I would not carry out the violent images that constantly intruded into my consciousness and that they were not expression of my character, temperament, or inner desires. OCD is a disorder that is on its foundationegodystonic, that is, it intrudes and bombards the sufferer’s awareness with thoughts that generally go against everything they believe as a person. Imagine having schizophrenia but realizing the voices inside your head aren’t real all while they are taking place. In a sense this is what it is like – walking the line between understanding is real – and the contradiction in your mind’s eye. It’s a surreal, almost dream-like state of feeling like you are being pulled down into The Rabbit’s Hole while you fight tooth and nail to grab whatever dirt you can trap under your fingers to stop yourself. And there you hang. I still have obsessions, weak and fleeting, their power reduced from the previous chokehold they had over me. The other day when I was a bit tired from staying up too late – I kept having this recurring obsession of someone pounding a nail into both of my big toes. I don’t know where it came from or why it happened to develop in that particular manner. Normally my obsessions would involve me pounding a nail into someone else’s big toe – a horror that I would compulsively review again and again in my head to make sure I would never do something so unspeakably wretched. But there it was – a feeling – not any pain – but just a blunted feeling and sound – a sensation of someone taking hammer and the nail splitting – and the blood coming out. It just happened in cycles. Ten years ago I would have been filled with panic, guilt, and shame due to the manifestation of something so nightmarish. I was acutely aware of it the other day. I observed it and let it pass. It is gone now.

Psychiatrists and OCD specialists realize and understand the nature of violent obsessions. They know they exist and how they can be successfully treated. Unfortunately the rest of the mainstream media hasn’t caught up. The common portrayal of the person with OCD continues to be the Juddith Rapoport version – the washing, checking, and contamination. This is not entirely Dr Rapoport’s fault. She began the revolution by presenting what had been researched and known about OCD up to that time – that it was primarily a washing, checking, contamination disorder. This is a side of OCD that continues to plaque many sufferers up to this day. However, the media seized on this presentation and so in spite of the large number of case studies regarding people being treated for “Pure-obsessional” OCD, books that have been written about it by other psychiatrists, and even the slew of online news articles that have described it – the 20/20s and Dr Phils of the world are still largely bringing forth cases of contamination OCD.  Memes passed around the Internet make jokes about people with OCD having problems with minor symmetry and organization issues. This is not helping human culture grasp a full understanding of what OCD really is and what the experience of this disorder really is like. This is not to take away from the urgency of those cases and their need for treatment. What it is instead is an indictment of how much is still lacking in the presentation of what OCD truly is, the scope and breadth of its types, sub-types, and symptoms. It continues to be trivially misunderstood as a disorder in which someone spends hours cleaning their bathroom or feels compelled to arrange their clothes in a rainbow of colors in their closet. Until this changes, the stigma and shame that surround disclosing the horror of violent obsessions, the fear that someone with pedophile OCD will be accused of being a child molester, or the paranoia that someone with homosexual OCD will be made to feel they are anti-gay, will openly prevent those people from seeking out the help and resources they need to overcome these obsessions. The Monks and the Laura Dunham’s of television have started the positive conversation but now it needs to be finished by exposing the other side of obsessive compulsive disorder and removing the stigma that surrounds it.

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Scott Schneider
 Scott Schneider is an aspiring writer and blogger from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. A 30-year sufferer of OCD, he is now in recovery and runs a Facebook OCD support group as well as a Facebook OCD informational page. When not blogging mental illness advocacy features for Out of the Darkness, he enjoys cooking, playing with his 3 cats, football, baseball, and a fascination with the weather.
Scott can be found on his Blog, Facebook and Twitter
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Stigma Fighters: From The Stigma Fighters Executive Boardroom

Yesterday was a particularly intense day for Stigma Fighters and mental activists throughout the world. #Cut4Zayn trended on Twitter after Zayn Malik left the band One Direction. Teens posts graphic images of self harm in response to Malik’s absence from the band.

The images were explicit and painful. Stigma Fighters responded to the global event immediately by speaking up about self harm and sending positivity to our world.

Yet, the conversation was not over.

Stigma Fighters : Blue Light Blue

My dad was slowly changing before my eyes. He turned inward, he became quieter, more detached. he stopped asking me questions and stopped listening when I told him about my day. Instead of playing with me on the weekends he would take naps. He stopped smiling and the light went out of his eyes. I was 13 years old and didn’t know what was happening to him. He and my mom were always talking behind closed doors or taking walks without us in the evenings. At the time I thought it was weird, and now I know I was scared.

I asked my mom about it and she told me that my dad didn’t feel good because of some stress at work. He was a lawyer in Washington D.C. and had a lot of pressure to perform. Ok, I thought, makes sense. But as the weeks and months went by and he seemed to drift farther and farther away, I felt on a gut level that something more was going on. I asked my mom again and got the same answer. I didn’t buy it anymore.

So one Saturday, I walked right up to him, looked him straight in the eye and said, “dad, what’s wrong?” He looked startled and was at a loss for words. After a long pause he said, “I don’t feel good.” I asked him, “When are you going to feel better?” I will never forget how his beautiful blue eyes filled with tears. I had never seen my dad cry and it scared me. Something serious must be wrong. I waited for a minute but he didn’t say anything else. I ran to my room and slammed the door, waiting for him to come in and talk about it. But he never did. Silence.

Four days later he was dead. He hung himself in our basement and while the rest of my family was still sleeping, I walked in and found him. Shortly after his suicide my mom told my sister and I that he had “depression” and was taking “antidepressants” — things I had never heard of. Why hadn’t I known this before? What did depression mean? Did the medicine make him die? Why hadn’t we all talked about this? So much silence about such an important subject.

Now at age 32 I have major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I wish I could say that the silence about mental illness ended with my father but it didn’t. For most of my adult life I have hidden it away, even from close friends and most definitely from coworkers. I wanted to keep my depression in a little box that I stored deep inside of myself where nobody could see it. Too many times I have said “oh, I’m fine” or “I’m just tired” when asked if something was wrong. Things my dad probably said. The silence continued.

What was I so afraid of? What was my dad so afraid of? What are we all so afraid of? The stigma of mental illness? Would saying it out loud make it too real? Would other people dislike us or feel uncomfortable or think we were crazy? Would we be unfit for work, or for love, or for life if we had depression, or bipolar or anxiety?

These fears make the anguish of mental illness so much more intense, or in my dad’s case, unbearable. At a time when we deserve the support of other people, we hide away our sickness because we are afraid of rejection. At a time when we deserve to lighten our load, we pile it on even heavier by adding the weight of guilt and shame.

It is time to talk. It is time to share. It’s time to end the silence. Why? Because nothing is wrong with you as a person. Because you deserve support and treatment for your medical condition. But most of all, because your well-being and your health are more important than anyone’s reaction. A lifetime of openness and self-acceptance are worth infinitely more than a few moments of potential discomfort. Say it out loud because keeping it in makes it worse. Say it out loud for my dad who couldn’t. Say it out loud for me. Say it out loud for you.

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walking3Blue Light Blue can be found on her Website and Twitter

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