No matter who we are, no matter the color of our skin, the religion we practice, the socioeconomic status we live in or our sexual preference, we are all living in a stigma. From the day each and every one of us are born we are signed up for a stigma that we never asked to be put on a list for. A stigma that none of us wanted and one in which we had no say in at all.
The truth is we are all stigmatized and judged perpetually throughout our entire lives. Some of us move through life blissfully unawares to the label they have been assigned, to others it is a dominant force in their lives. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are a person living on this planet you have been labeled classified and categorized.
No one is safe from a stigma, even people who think they are perfect. Ironically it’s those “perfect people” who are probably getting stigmatized for thinking they are perfect (I know its ironic). It is also likely that it is these “perfect people” who are one of the many groups of individuals in this world who suppress almost everything, every feeling, every emotion, to appear perfect, to just get by.
They in fact are very often the ones who are the most sad and the most depressed because they repress everything trying to pretend that their stigma isn’t there following them like a shadow. But they are living a lie. No one is perfect and no one can escape their stigma.
Perfection doesn’t exist. If it looks to you like someone is living the “perfect life,” free of judgment you just haven’t dug deep enough yet. You haven’t looked closely enough into their lives; that’s the point though, they don’t want you to.
I am not entirely sure what hurts the most, deteriorating from being exposed by your stigma or the sheer exhaustion of living a life where everything you really feel is pushed so far down in your mind that rocks have piled on your body and sediment has set in on your soul. You don’t even feel it anymore. You don’t feel the hurt anymore. You don’t feel anything anymore. You are numb.
People either express their feelings of being stigmatized outwardly for the world to see and unfortunately are judged for it or they internalize it deep inside allowing it to eat them alive. I know this because at different points in my life I have done both. I’ve been there and both of them are excruciatingly painful. They are both life altering.
That’s the thing. Some people are being stigmatized and they don’t even realize because they have built a protective wall around their lives, a bubble to hide from reality in. It is so bulletproof not even the harshest of bias cannot cut through them and if they do they hide it beautifully.
We all look in the mirror every morning and pick out something we don’t like about ourselves, but why? What is wrong with how you look? How you act? How you choose to live your life? Why do we torture ourselves in this way? I am sure you have an answer to that question; actually I am positive I have an answer. I am not interested in the answer to that “why”. I am actually searching for a “when”.
What I am looking for is when did these ideas, that have metastasized like a rampant disease, implant themselves into our minds and society. The other “why” I want to know is why after all this time are we still buying into the bullshit.
We are intelligent and when I say we I am speaking to everyone. We all can picture a world where no biases and stigmas exist, where there is no expectations based on your weight, skin color, race or culture, how you feel, what you decide to do with your life. THE PATH YOU CHOOSE.
The thing is that if we can picture it then why has it been so hard to make it an reality. It has taken years and years to tackle one civil rights movement after another, one at time. Still the bias is never fully eradicated and still today there our countless “groups” of people being denied their most basic of civil rights.
I am going to put in my two cents on here for free…at the rate we are going our race will be extinct before racism, stigmas, taboos and biases are eliminated from this world. It is the very thing that is going to kill our species.
The truth is, even if you are living in a safe place, in your own protective bubble, most people in the world are not. They are your neighbors who lie in their bed every night, down the street, next to their abusive partner with one eye always partly awake, always on guard. These are the people who live on the streets, not because they are crazy but because they are sick and deprived of the help they need. They are the people who live in fear because of their skin color, race and religion. They are the people who are mortally wounded by their stigmas, the people who feel that ending their lives is their only option for peace.
We are not one town, one city, one state, one province, one country…we are one world. The ONLY world that we have proof of existing in this entire the universe. Most things in the universe are dead or just not living to being with. First of all 99% of all space that exists is empty. The gases, rocks and elements that create planets all come into existence, live and die, but not in the same way we do.
They never existed with a conscience or awareness of who they are, where they came from and who they are going to be. We, living creatures on this planet, are unique. We are unique because we do. We think, we feel, we are aware and sometimes it is so gruesomely painful you wish it never happened. Other times it is so beautiful you are so thankful for the privilege and opportunity to experience it.
That’s what we all need to do, experience, surprise, love, lust, laugh and not only with yourself. Share it with others. This is how we begin to melt away the stigmas that have hardened over our existence. Laughter is my favorite kind and not the giggling type but the belly aching diaphragm spasm laughing fits, it is then I feel most alive. It is in those moments I am thankful for coming to existence. It is in those moments I am free from my own stigma of depression.
Lets snap into reality because the truth is not enough of us live this way. We live life fueled by hate, judgments and stigmas that have been passed down from generation to generation with no purpose except for poisoning young minds, poisoning our future and the only hopes of a peaceful world.
It is our purpose to end the stigmas and not only the stigmas of mental illness but all stigmas that drape themselves across every person on this earth. Maybe, just maybe then we can stop surviving and all start living gallantly with LOVE and RESPECT for EVERY other person on this planet. Because the truth is when you strip us all down we are all human and we are all the same.
Without even realizing it when we were born we were signed up for a category, for a stigma, that we are being forced to battle every day along with all the other stigmas and other biases that have been created in this world; created by us. What we need to realize is that just because we are signed up doesn’t mean that we can’t all one day take our names off the list, make a stand and say no to the stigma we’ve been forcefully signed up for.
So this is my dare to you. Just try and scratch your name off the list of what you feel is your own personal stigma. I am not saying it will be easy but at least give it a try. You might just surprise yourself at how strong you really are. I can tell you that I lived in the stigma of depression for years, running from it, hiding from it, living helplessly at its mercy; but no more. No, I have scratched my name off that list permanently.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have depression. It doesn’t mean that it’s not something I deal with on a daily basis and something I may or may not have to work through my entire life but it is not WHO I AM; depression does not DEFINE ME, it does not LABEL me. I am not a label. I am just Olivia and that is enough for me.
So this is me trying my hardest to stand up against my stigma. When you will you stand up against yours?
Liv Raimonde is a mental health blogger and healthy living advocate. She is devoted to ending the silence and stigma associated with mental illness through writing and by sharing stories of her own personal battle with depression and anxiety. You can learn more about who she is and what she stands for at silencethestigma.org