Friday, December 6, 2013

Stigma


I keep this list on me all the time. I actually keep it in three places so that if I can't find one I have a backup. The picture is just a part of the list. It also contains all the medications that I take with dosage and timing, all the doctors that I see, my pharmacy, information about my defibrillator and a contact list. But there is one word that I particularly hate. For a very long time I didn't include it on the list, not until I went on medication to treat it and it was obvious that I had it. I really dislike having such a long list and that in itself is almost an embarrassment when I have to show it to someone new. But that one diagnosis makes me cringe in shame. I know that depression is an illness, really no different than saying I had breast cancer or that I have hyperaldosteronism. But depression probably more than any other diagnosis on that list still holds a stigma that makes it difficult to admit to. The minute I admit to being depressed in any medical situation is the minute that my caregivers quit listening to me and assume that my real problem is "all in my head". I can be hacking up a lung, but if I'm depressed then I'm exaggerating how bad I feel. It happens every time. I expect that if someone is educated in medicine they should know that depression is an illness and not a character flaw. They should also know that even though I'm depressed that I am capable of being honest with the way that I feel physically. The stigma needs to be purged from depression. It causes the depressed patient to not be able to get needed care. The problem is how do you change the stigma? The message that depression is an illness has been out. It just hasn't changed anyone's perception of what it is.

5 comments:

  1. We need to keep getting the word out. Loud and clear. For some reason people are expected to 'tough out' mental illness and pull themselves together. Not something we would dream of saying to someone with, for example, a broken leg.
    I don't think the word has fully sunk in.

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  2. Tough if you have mental illness, cheerful if you have cancer, disciplined if you have diabetes...the list goes on and on. Sadly it is usually medical care givers that promote this garbage. I would think that they should be the ones leading the charge. But mostly it's drug companies and patients that are there piping up. It's not like we don't have an iron in that fire.

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  3. You have breast cancer and other physical ailments with associated mood disorders. Don't let them use the word depression. Depression is an uncomfortable umbrella used to minimize and stereotype the pain, causing disregard for the adjoining serious matters.

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  4. Depression is a heavy label to be hung around your neck.
    And there are other ones attached to it, which make it all heavier. It's very frustrating to have someone look at your diagnosis and allow that to define you before they even get to know you or find out what you need.
    And all the stuff you've been through... well, it would be weird if you weren't depressed, really.

    It bothers me to have people look at my history and ask if the SSRI medication was for depression or anxiety and that I am quick to assure them it was anxiety.

    Why does it make such a difference to me? I don't know... except the stigma attached, of course.

    My parents just about shit their pants when they found out I had been on prozac.

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  5. Thank you for your kind words, but depression was the first diagnosis. I was formally diagnosed with it when I was 13. Even at the time it would have been weird not to be depressed. My brother was killed in South Vietnam. I knew it was true, but denied it and tried to hide it for decades. Finally I realized that nobody was fooled. A counselor had me go back over my history to see that it is an illness that is likely genetic in my case. Like dyslexia, it is something I have to work at to compensate for. Still the stigma hurts. It even makes me disrespect people who judge me because of it. The stigma has caused me a lot of harm.

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