Stomp Out Stigma (stompoutstigmablog.com) is my brainchild and with lots of work it’s become a tangible reality. I am a vivacious yet distressed 26-year-old woman fighting bipolar disorder with all my strength in Vancouver, British Columbia. My blog chronicles my real life perils using brutal honesty, wit and strength.
Stomp Out Stigma took on a life of its own when I was acutely sick in a psych ward for suicidal ideation this year. My army of fellow patients clad in green pajamas urged me, “You can write, you understand social media and you have a computer. Do something about the stigma.” So I did.
Even under the spell of lithium toxicity and shaking hands I was unstoppable. It was hard to type but I willed myself forward. I wanted to let people into my world; to show them that fables like Girl Interrupted, Prozac Nation and media framing has fogged our vision and created a stigma that obliterates lives.
Sadly, there’s irony: I never reveal my name or show my face. Despite the mental health advocacy I see online, I am all too aware of the ominous cloud of stigma that tirelessly looms above us. I’m forced to hide behind my Stomp Out Stigma title to avoid missing out on jobs and relationships. A Google search can make or break you, and stigma simply compacts this problem.
I think people want to hear about my greatest struggles because it untangles the censor tape that binds mental illnesses. In fact, when I write at my worst everything is raw and real and relentless; during these times I see the statistics on my blog blow up.
While celebrating and counting my monthly anniversaries from the hospital I’ve enjoyed narrating my problems associated with dating and my thirst to avoid a relapse. I’ve discussed the struggle of finding a job while hiding my illness. I’ve revealed letters from loved ones I received in the psych ward and described hypomania and depression while pondering my doctor’s advice.
But sometimes the material gets dark. I honestly and matter-of-factly describe my suicide attempt and what it feels like to do so. I create dialogue about dating a man who threatened my wellbeing.
It’s funny to me, in retrospect, that all of my articles end but my struggle continues in reality. This truly is a blog based on real life. I chase eight multicolored, acidic pills on a daily basis with lukewarm water and shudder. I taste their bitter powder that spreads throughout my mouth and it’s enough to make me gag.
Stomp Out Stigma delivers the stark reality that anyone is susceptible to getting a mental illness. Taking a look at my background you’ll see I’m a great example of such.
It’s true that I’ve always been a little quirky, but I’ve never been suspect for a mental illness. Genetically I acquired a great big smile, bright hazel eyes and have done things that require confidence and stamina. I’ve modeled, I’ve lifeguarded and had the drive to finish two diplomas and finally a degree. People tell me all the time that “I should be happy” based on the things I’ve been blessed with. My dad tells me, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” He doesn’t realize it was stolen by depression and I can never get it back.
Imagine my confusion after one week locked in my dorm room, pages taped crooked to the wall, walking out afterwards to see the world hadn’t paused but instead kept going. I thought I was going to publish a book in New York… despite not having a publisher… or a book. It was the only manic phase I’ve experienced to this day. I was sharp enough to see there was something wrong. But I was too stubborn to seek help. Denial is a dangerous tool.
I suffered in solitary silence for the majority of my life. I’m from a small town where there aren’t resources for people like me. If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be alive. He noticed my withdrawn behavior and excessive sleeping, begging a psychiatrist to take me in when I started my first news job two provinces away. One month later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suddenly I felt like I was “that girl,” one who could never be loved. But I was wrong.
My writing, although written for others, is therapeutic for me. It’s taught me that I am a powerful communicator who has the ability to elicit positive responses from people far and wide. It has been a wonder to receive messages thanking me for my work, creating a semblance of hope that I have changed the world in just the smallest of ways.
On the bad days I grit my teeth when I remind myself I don’t have a byline on my blog I’ve worked so hard to create. I hope to work in a mental health environment someday. In turn I will take this dark veil off my face and show the world my smile instead. I will relish over the privilege of sharing both my first and last names; that to me would be a dream come true. Perhaps my blog is enough right now but I see it as a launching pad that will lead to bigger and better things.
One last thing: Stomp Out Stigma is not a campaign. Instead, it is a movement. To do this it offers real writing from a woman who lives to be real, too.