Stigma: But What if I Don’t Want to Be Like Everyone Else?

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Recently I asked myself: what is the most damaging thing about one’s psychiatric diagnosis? I asked this question because I have dealt with psychiatry myself, and it isn’t the diagnosis that causes me the most damage – it is the judgement of the society on anything that is labelled as ‘mental illness’. It’s stigma attached to something outside of the normality that causes distress to many, including myself. If you are different one way or another, you are then most probably a victim of stigma, where those who correspond to the slogan of ‘normality’ feel superior over those who are different. ‘Bipolar’ or suffering from ‘schizophrenia’, or ‘Borderline personality disorder’, if you have such a label, then you are stigmatized.

Just look around: it’s everywhere, the scarlet letter in regards to what is considered as deviation of an individual from the norm. The normality is sold to us as the only way to survive in our society, where we are supposed to behave and think like everyone else. There isn’t anything wrong with a life of conformity, but among the promotion on us of what is considered as normal, those few who struggle with their health, for one reason or another, deal with overpowering stigma, where the ‘patient’ has no other choice but to keep silent.

In the news we often hear that it’s the ‘mentally ill’ who are the worst perpetrators of crimes (while in reality, statistically speaking, the ‘mentally ill’ are much more often are the victims of the crime). In the movies we see the monsters who are in ‘psychosis’ and online we are greeted with hate, for the most part.

Ekaterina Netchitailova

Stigma does bother me personally, because I feel like I need to prove my right to exist more than the rest of ‘normal’ population because of several ‘psychoses’ behind me. It is considered as severe ‘mental illness’ if you managed to get more than one ‘psychosis’. It doesn’t really matter if your ‘psychoses’ aren’t what is presented to us – something shameful and feared – in my case I enjoyed most of my ‘psychoses’ because I regard them as deeply spiritual experiences that just showed me that there is more to this world than the objective reality is supposed to be rooted in. I reach for God, I feel loved by the universe, and I feel like I attain enlightenment when I am in that state. I don’t really bother anyone with it, I am placid and kind.

But each time I re-emerge from my ‘psychosis’ it isn’t the psychiatrists I blame for stigma but the judging public. ‘Look at her! Ekaterina is again tweeting that she is Jesus (so what if I undergo a deeply profound religious experience?) ‘Look at her! She is insane!’, based on my Facebook status that I remember most of my past lives (so what if I am mistaken)? How come we can’t tweet or put on Facebook something that challenges our society of reason? Yes, it’s the judging public that looks down on you, because with a psychiatric diagnosis you aren’t supposed to recover that quickly and carry on with your life.

I fight for the right to exist more than the average person. I work extra hard at my job, I do my best to be a good mother, I can manage most of the time without help from anyone else. I consider myself as a survivor. And yet, on a daily basis I can feel the gaze upon me: is she doing all right? Is her tweet a sign of a mental illness? I feel like I not only need to show that I conform, I need to out-perform!

Recently someone responded to my tweet about my psychiatric experience, saying that ‘mental illness is the inability to cope with life’. It really upset me because I cope in life often better than the ones who have never dealt with a psychiatry or diagnoses. I lived in 4 countries, I have a PhD, I work, I raise a son. It takes an enormous effort on my part, but that isn’t what matters: what matters is that yes, I cope, and I have to cope harder because with ‘psychoses’ behind me, I am doing more than fine. And this is what is the most disturbing: the general expectation of our society is to rejoice in the failure of another human being because he or she doesn’t conform to the definition of what is regarded as ‘normal’. This explains, in my view, the fact that the majority of people diagnosed with ‘mental illness’ don’t talk about it at all. They keep it secret.

Some days ago I asked Philippa Perry, a renowned psychotherapist and author, the following question on Twitter: “How to deal with stigma around severe mental illness? Shut up about diagnosis and keep it quiet or speak up, because you can be an example to other people if you are doing well in life with several psychoses behind?’’

I got the following reply: “There probably always be stigma unfortunately because humans feel like to imagine they are superior if they feel like they are better than someone else. And they’ll pick on anyone.’’

Stigma, according to famous sociologist Ervin Goffman, is the feeling of shame around something that is deviant from the rest of society. He argued that most people try to hide that they are different out of fear of being scorn by other ‘normal’ people. It’s very few who admit having a psychiatric diagnosis because they don’t want to be judged by others as some sort of failure in our society.

In my own psychiatric journey, it is the judgement of those who deem themselves as ‘normal’ that caused me most trouble. It isn’t the psychiatrists (if I am honest, I met extremely nice psychiatrists who really helped me), it isn’t the ‘patients’ who either disagree with you if you admit you take some medication and shame you for that fact, or disagree with you when you claim it isn’t ‘mental illness’ but mental distress, trauma, anything but illness. No, it’s those who stay out of the realm of psychiatric domain and shame you for being different that causes the most upset and stigma.

Do I suffer, as a result? Yes, I do, but I keep on going because I love to live. And while I criticized normality, it is in ‘normality’ that I rejoice when I am doing well. It is sharing a homemade meal with friends, having a job that I love, spending time with my son, cuddling my cat, cooking and enjoying a nice glass of wine. It is the simple pleasures in life that bring happiness.

And yet, in my ‘normality’ I also strive for something different. I moved 4 different countries, I tried different career paths, I learned several languages, I have been living an extraordinary life. I like the normality, but I also like the extraordinary, and it’s the mind of people who are different that attracts me the most. I prefer friends who are unusual, because of being unusual myself.

Those who are different, such as me, suffer from the ideology of ‘sanism’ that is projected on us recently, since the proliferation of ‘medical capitalism’. Take your pills and you will be all right! Sort yourself out and become like us!

But what if I don’t want to be like everyone else?

What if I rejoice in my ‘difference’? If I were to conform to the society’s expectations of what is considered as ‘normal’, I would have probably never dared to take a plane at the age of 19 to do my bachelor studies in Brussels. I would have probably never learned Dutch, because I wouldn’t have dared to move from Brussels to Amsterdam to do my master’s degree. I would have probably never have so many unusual, interesting friends that I have in various countries. I would have never applied for a PhD bursary in England. There are lots of things, I believe, I did, thanks (and I say ‘thanks’) to my diagnosis (if you are curious, it is ‘bipolar disorder’).

But I am not supposed to rejoice in my unusual experience of having a ‘bipolar disorder’, I am expected to either suffer from it, or strive for the road to recovery. But a recovery from what? Total medicalization of our western society means that the main emphasis should be on taking the pills, and conform to the expectations of the doctors to have an ‘insight’ into one’s illness. But what if it isn’t an illness? What if, behind severe psychiatric diagnoses lies trauma, distress, cry for help, unhappiness, and sometimes overwhelming joy from life like I have? I have to admit that I DO take some medication, and it has been a nightmare for years to find anything that would suit me, but on the third generation of anti-psychotics, I am doing more than fine. I don’t think that we shouldn’t trust also the science. There are pills that work.

I also do have an amazing insight into my ‘illness’ because I catch it at the core, I stop the danger of a ‘psychosis’ the minute I feel it coming. And it isn’t an ‘illness’. I read everything possible about psychoses, I studied, I have a ‘lived experience’. And I concluded that I am undergoing a profound shamanic experience, that simply has no place in the current western society. I have to adjust to the conditions of medical capitalism, and I have to adjust because I have a responsibility to raise my son. I have no other choice but to act ‘normal’. Yes, I have an amazing insight into my ‘illness’.

And so I go on and I continue sharing my story, because there should be some voices that are outside of the boring, toxic ‘normality’. A normality I also enjoy, but only in the knowledge that I am different, and that I should also be able to belong and play a role in our society even if I deviate from the norm.

And so, I do have a question for you: should I keep silent and enjoy my ‘normality’ when I am well, or continue talking about it, knowing that someone will always say something unpleasant and that I will probably deal with stigma for the rest of my life?

What do you think?

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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72 COMMENTS

  1. Enjoy it. Brooding and fretting will likely lead to more probable dysperceptions and feelings you’ve got to discuss them with chumps likely to lose their marbles if they find out you’re an alleged mental case, thereby getting you more tense and dysperceptive, to boot.

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  2. I applaud you for your honesty and the depth at which you live your life, Ekaterina! You sound very well balanced to me, considering how the mental health profession has labelled you.

    I has a very dysfunctional, disconnected childhood: my dad had mental health problems, later my younger brother started using cannabis at 11, and there was the fall-out 3 years later. Both were diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in their late 40s/early 50s. My father had ECT which helped him, my brother was on anti-psychotics for the rest of his life.

    I had two years of Open Dialogue therapy when I too, was disintegrating. Like you, I saw my visions and prophetic dreams as helpful and comforting. They all came true and all hinged back to my dysfunctional childhood. I’m a Highly Sensitive Empath as well, and had addiction issues – alcohol – for some decades. Now clean and present for 8 years: proud of myself, and I help others to quit drinking, a profound service to the world.

    My experiences are numinous and liminal, not mental illness. I get a nudge to talk to someone and it’s often someone experiencing deep distress. I can listen, comfort, suggest books, share a coffee. I’m an utterly human being, having a human experience.

    I’m so glad we lived in Ethiopia in the early 1960s, where local people taught me to live with faith and welcomed me unconditionally. Being competitive was never my thing, I didn’t feel the need to compete. I also won international awards for some of my communications work and was able to turn around relationships with ‘difficult’ stakeholders because I was curious about them and their objectives, so I asked questions and we shared lunches and evening drinks and we became good friends. (Those relationships reverted a year or so after I’d left one particular company where I encountered sex discrimination.)

    I didn’t and don’t see the need to fit in, nor conform. Is it our inner freedom the conformists fear? Perhaps …… I’ll keep being me, and I hope you will continue being you! Peace to your heart today.

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  3. —Stigma, but what if I do not want to be like everyone else.

    If you are acceding to those taught and teaching that prejudice you are indeed being like them. If you are rejecting their judgmental attitude, you are not.

    I grant you the pressure they exert to join them is considerable, one is still free not to.

    Harold A Maio, retired mental health editor

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  4. “And so, I do have a question for you: should I keep silent and enjoy my ‘normality’ when I am well, or continue talking about it, knowing that someone will always say something unpleasant and that I will probably deal with stigma for the rest of my life?”

    I vote for that you keep on sharing your story/telling your story. I just went to a “transformation story telling” workshop and loved it. Your story will heal others, and transform you. The teacher said to share your scars, not your wounds……metaphorically of course. And I’m still processing some of what I heard and learned. Stories change too, as we do, and effect positive change in others. I don’t know that someone will always say something unpleasant. I sure hope not. You can always choose with who and where to share your story. I sure hope you don’t feel or have to deal with stigma for the rest of your life.

    I say keep sharing. Tell your story as it continues to evolve.

    I enjoy your contributions here.

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  5. Typically, individuals lacking sufficient cognitive insight to perceive reality are commonly regarded as “normals.” It is worth noting that their behaviors bear significant resemblance to the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia.

    When confronted with stimuli that elicit discomfort, such as witnessing people engaging in soliloquies with imaginary entities regarding past lives or observing an individual engaging in autoerotic behavior while under their gaze, they perceive nonexistent occurrences. Despite the presence of individuals engaged in verbal discourse and physical gestures, an internalized message deems their observations as symptomatic of illness and hazardous conduct. Notwithstanding, the environment in front of them lacks, and indeed cannot possess, any visual or auditory manifestations of ‘harm’ or ‘illness.’

    Regrettably, their emotional experiences remain intertwined with the objective world, leading them to ascribe their emotions to external agents in an attempt to elicit harm from others. This form of highly delusional cognition poses a significant threat, as it involves the planning of violence and the issuance of threats, all while employing euphemistic terminology that distances these actions from their actual nature. It is noteworthy, however, that these individuals are not subjected to confinement, administered antipsychotic medications, or subjected to constant surveillance.

    Our current society does not embrace rationality as its cornerstone; rather, it is populated by individuals fixated on nonexistent entities. The ability to perceive and comprehend reality is devalued, for doing so necessitates relinquishing linguistic tools that wield influence over others, including characterizing them unfavorably or imposing notions of necessity and morality.

    In many ways, our linguistic practices bear resemblance to the aggressive nature observed in wildlife documentaries, characterized by threats and assaults. Rational thought invariably assumes a subordinate position in this context, as mere survival (albeit in a less directly relatable form of comfort) supersedes the pursuit of truth.

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    • I want to point out that with nature, there’s the cycle of life. When they reintroduced the wolves into Yellowstone, it HELPED the ecosystem. So no, I don’t agree with this statement by janne although the rest of the comment is amazing. In fact all of nature is designed for this kind of balance. It’s man that puts things out of balance. It’s quite strange that because we can harbor abstract thoughts in our minds, we can be told blah-blah-blah-blah, thus told this is how things worked, or we can add up how to supposedly gain a profit from doing blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and our “rational” minds see this as a winning situation, although with the way society is going, most of the time we’re actually doing the complete opposite. It’s one thing to harbor an abstract thought it one’s mind, but it’s another to actually open your mind far enough to see whether that nctually resonates with the rest of life, with harmony itself. Bringing oneself out of harmony with one’s environment, for a short term “win” isn’t a win, and when a majority of people are behaving such, that doesn’t make it a win, it makes it more of a loss. Man at this time is destroying so much of nature, and mostly for such “wins” which in the end are a complete loss for all of humanity. It’s not about truth, it’s about common belief, statistical based norms, brain-washing, consensual reality deportment. “Mental illness” then actually disconnects the brain enough from such brain-washing that there’s enough potential dislodged out of the box, the cage it’s supposed to be imprisoned in, that when simply seen as a natural reaction, it starts pointing out what we’re not supposed to see…..

      On all sort of levels, even the simple habits it might be pointing out aren’t working for one because of how it affects one, that’s ignored because it interferes with the brainwashing of addictions or the rest of what “society” is hiding regarding it’s beliefs and cause and effect. Can’t see that’s going on, can’t notice that such and such has that much of an effect…. All the natural insight that actually in it’s unintrusive way brings harmony….. that all becomes too abnormal, too crazy, too disruptive, and too weird, and not enough of a thrill…..

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  6. “in my case I enjoyed most of my ‘psychoses’ because I regard them as deeply spiritual experiences that just showed me that there is more to this world than the objective reality is supposed to be rooted in. I reach for God, I feel loved by the universe, and I feel like I attain enlightenment when I am in that state.”

    As opposed to “objective reality,” I think “the medical model of mental health” is better described as a “scientifically invalid,” material world only belief system

    https://psychrights.org/2013/130429NIMHTransformingDiagnosis.htm

    … in essence a material world only believing “religion.” And I put “religion,” in quotes, since others have described psychiatry as a “religion,” and most of the DSM “bible” billers call the psychiatric DSM a “bible.” And I did subsequently do my research into both the “mental health” industries and the mainstream religions.

    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1258/jrsm.2008.080044

    But other than that, Ekaterina, I largely agree, and had a similar, albeit not the same, spiritual experience. And I know the problem steams from “the dirty little secret of the two [paternalistic] original educated professions,” as a former ethical pastor did confess to me was the case, in my case.

    https://stateofthenation2012.com/?p=59031

    My concerns, that originally resulted in me going to a psych-“professional,” were based upon initially unknown prior iatrogenesis, pastoral bullying, and distress caused by 9/11/2001 (as a former NYer, living in the Chicago suburbs);” but my experiences were “numinous and liminal, not mental illness,” also.

    https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-Astonishing-ebook/dp/B0036S4EGE

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome

    And I’ve already medically pointed out to the former head of family medicine at one of the most well respected hospital systems in the U.S. That the neuroleptics can also cause the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroleptic-induced_deficit_syndrome

    Thankfully, that well respected doctor was kind and wise enough to teach his students that “sometimes the patients know more than the doctors,” especially “now that we all live in the internet age.”

    But I do have a weird Spiritual theory, for why so many people have Jesus complexes, aside from the systemic, child abuse and easily recognized malpractice covering up pastor’s and doctor’s inappropriately defaming innocent women to psychologists with such, as happened in my case.

    It’s a long story, that I don’t want to burden you with, unless you’re interested.

    But as to your question, “should I keep silent and enjoy my ‘normality’ when I am well, or continue talking about it, knowing that someone will always say something unpleasant and that I will probably deal with stigma for the rest of my life?”

    You should keep on talking and writing about the BS that is psychiatry and psychology. We need to keep on writing and talking. Especially since the entirety of the so called “mental health” industries have involved themselves into truly corrupt “partnerships,” and a “scientifically invalid” situation.

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      • Well, as I mentioned, it a long story. How to synopsize? My theory is based on two (2006 and 2009) three month long, drug withdrawal induced, “super sensitivity manic” awakenings to my dreams, and a more recent, non-manic (I have been on no psych drugs since 2009) awakening … not to mention how those awakenings relate to my conscience self and real life. But this means my theory is just a theory from my dreams, based upon faith in God, and how those relate to who I am in my waking hours.

        My theory is that the Triune God of the Christians is the same God of the Jews … not to mention, also the Muslims. And He has a tremendous amount of respect for the leaders and theories of all religions. My theory is the Triune God’s dreams are set up like the internet, and this Spiritual internet is essentially, but not exactly, like the psychologically theorized “collective unconscious,” and we are all connected.

        And my theory is that the Triune God knows that it would be hypocritical to not trust in others, and expect people to trust in Him, so He has zero privacy. I also theorize that His “Holy family” has zero privacy, since they, too, are non-hypocrites.

        And my theory is the Triune God may all show up some day, as three people – of the same family – the eldest of three different generations. This complete and total lack of privacy for God’s family means anyone can wake up with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and/or God, whenever they are so moved.

        To me, such a theory could explain why so many people are having “spiritual emergencies” misdiagnosed as “mental illnesses.” Albeit, this problem also relates to a too greedy medical / pharmaceutical / religious industrial complex as well, of course.

        That’s a brief synopsis of my theory, as to why so many who “awaken as Jesus,” are doing so. But it’s just a theory, from a Spirit moved artist, former mosaic designer, and planning commission member.

        But one who is also intelligent, according to my former boss, who did give me an IQ test prior to hiring me, and after I was neurotoxic poisoned. My former boss is a lawyer – and out of curiosity he took the IQ test at the same time he gave it to me – he missed five, I missed one. He hired me, and as Catholic, he gave me a CD about Siddhartha, after he hired me.

        Who knows? Maybe “Dreaming Up a Better World,” a piece I’m working on right now – which is largely based on “sacred geometry” – might be a good idea for all God believers to research into, and considering belief into? Maybe our subconscious selves are wiser, and much better capable, of dealing with the seeming insanity of our current world … than those “scientists” who’ve been bribed by big Pharma?

        My subconscious self is keeping track of the money, so God can do a fair judgement of all some day. Which He’s supposed to do. I come from a small Christian Nebraska banking family. Who knows?

        But Jesus was right, 2000+ years ago, to turn over the banksters’ tables. Let’s hope and pray all are judged fairly by God … including everyone, especially including the innocent Jews.

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        • Hello Someone Else,
          I think more or less in the same line as you.
          I do think there is one God, and I do think that many people struggle on a spiritual level, that then becomes diagnosed as ‘mental illness’.
          “‘To me, such a theory could explain why so many people are having “spiritual emergencies” misdiagnosed as “mental illnesses.” Albeit, this problem also relates to a too greedy medical / pharmaceutical / religious industrial complex as well, of course.”‘ – yes, well-said!

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  7. When meeting people, I usually wait a while to see if a friendship develops and what that friendship is like before I say anything real about my struggles through life. Several times this has led to learning about the struggles and, sometimes, hospitalizations of a friend or their family member. Yes, even then, it can lead to being looked down upon because I had “psychoses” and they only had “depressions.” Or because I stopped taking “medicine” long ago and they took medicine—lots of it and all kinds— and were more “successful.” (Although one now has earlier memory and health problems probably related to all those pills and is being treated like an addict by doctors. Get out the irony board!)

    Thank you, Ekaterina, for sharing your experiences. It helps to realize this happens to others. I do feel my friendships with others who share my view of the psychiatric establishment have a different quality. I think informal support groups are vital. I wonder if I would be alive if I had not found my way to Project Release so many years ago.

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  8. “I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.” – Carl Jung.

    It seems to.me that more than one person has found her/himself locked in a psych ward at least in part because they claimed to be Jesus, and because those locking them up failed to realize and to be able to explain to them that we may indeed ALL be called to awaken, to become enlightened, or “conscious,” spiritually speaking, and realizing that we are all nowadays awakening to our true nature, or “self-realizing”…

    “There is no coming to Consciousness without pain.” – Carl Jung.

    ‘Don’t get attached to any one word. You can substitute “Christ” for presence, if that is more meaningful to you. Christ is your God-essence or the Self, as it is sometimes called in the East. The only difference between Christ and presence is that Christ refers to your indwelling divinity regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not, whereas presence means your awakened divinity or God-essence.’ – Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now.”

    And,

    “The man on the cross is an archetypal image. He is every man and every woman.” – Eckhart Tolle.

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/11577581-suffering-has-a-noble-purpose-the-evolution-of-consciousness-and

    Thank you, Ekaterina and MIA, for yet another very splendid essay.

    Tom.

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  9. I read your article/post and I have to say that I find it ironic that you rightly criticize/protest the stigma against mental illness and how those without mental illnesses constantly judge & act superior to those with mental illnesses — all while at the EXACT same time, you yourself judge and act superior towards those who, whether because of their mental illnesses or life circumstances (including those caused and/or contributed to by their mental illnesses or other conditions) have NOT been able to do all of the things you have — or even ANY of the things that you have.

    Do we deserve to be stigmatized just because we have not been able to achieve as much as you?

    You repeatedly mention that you have lived in 4 countries, that you speak several languages, that you have a PhD, that you work, you’re raising a son and so on & so forth……………….but what about those of us with mental illnesses and/or other conditions — and the severity and/or ramifications of which, have prevented us from being able to do any of that stuff?

    I just turned 45 and I have autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, severe depression, anxiety disorder/social anxiety, and aspects of borderline personality disorder among other issues, and due to these conditions, or rather, the effects/obstacles & life circumstances they have caused, I’ve been unable to get or keep a job and I’m on permanent disability and have been since 2007. in part, because of that, I’m stuck still living with my parents in my 40s. I am unable to drive, and unfortunately, since I live in an area with practically nonexistent public transportation, even if I could get a job, my parents are aging and cannot drive me around to work or elsewhere (and in the case of my mom, she’s literally not able to drive anymore after she had a stroke several years ago) I am pretty much homebound, never leaving my home/yard (or at the most residential subdivision) for days, weeks or the past 2-3 years (during COVID-19) for months at a time.

    Being predominantly homebound for years (actually pretty much most of my adulthood!) obviously, I have little to no opportunities to meet people — and thus I have no real friends. The couple friends I had as a teenager & young adult have drifted away, busy with their own lives, careers & kids — and if the autism, anxiety disorder, social anxiety, & other issues, didn’t make it difficult for me as it is to get a job and/or make new friends, being stuck at home, unable to drive and go anywhere or do anything because of the lack of transportation, makes it utterly impossible.

    Of course, if I had known 25–30 years ago what I know now, I would’ve left as soon as I turned 18 (in 1996) and I would have moved somewhere (in all likelihood, probably abroad like Europe or Japan where UNLIKE in the US, everything [Infrastructure, healthcare coverage, etc.] does NOT totally suck!) with great public transit systems where being able to drive would not have been a necessity in order to have any kind of life.

    Unfortunately, back then I did not know that moving abroad was an option — and by the time I realized that it was, or that it could’ve been, and even tried to do so, going to Paris (I was planning to live there for at least a year, but due to finances & other issues, had to return after 10 weeks) for a number of reasons, including becoming my mothers primary caregiver after her stroke, it was no longer really feasible.

    I also do not speak four languages (I do speak English fluently, as well as took three years of Spanish in high school [though I’ve probably gotten rusty now!] and can both understand, and if I tried, probably speak, my mother tongue, Konkani) or have a PhD or career, social life/friends, any children or even any pets!

    But does that mean I deserve to be stigmatized more than you do?

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    • Oh my god, Ami,
      I am so sorry if I came across as judging others, or boasting how great I do. My deepest apologies if it’s perceived like that! Please, forgive me.

      I just try to create inspirational stories, I think it helps me, to navigate a very difficult journey when someone is struck by unusual experiences, proclaimed as mad, and deals with it for the rest of her life.
      Well, ha, I look like I do well, don’t I?
      In reality, the picture is much more complicated. I think I need to write a post about it.
      Because of my ‘diagnosis’, I wasn’t invited for a job interview in my beloved England, and had to move a country, yet again.
      Because of my ‘diagnosis’, I constantly feel that I am being judged, that I don’t deserve lots of things. I missed on lots of relationships.
      For a whole year, when I was put on injections, I thought I would die and never be able to work. I had to beg my psychiatrist to diminish the dose, and eventually we found third generation anti-psychotic that doesn’t give me side effects. I am unable to operate outside of psychiatric domain (I don’t want to go into details about that at this moment).
      Because of my diagnosis, I slept walked for years on seroquel while raising my son when he was little. I missed on so many beautiful moments and appreciation of them.
      I was sectioned more than twice. I spent once two months in a psychiatric hospital, and as a result, missed on the job I really loved.
      And many other things that make my life extremely difficult.
      Again, sorry, Ami, that I came across like that. I am very sad to hear your story:(

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    • I read your response with interest, but from my perspective I did not see any judgement in the article. And I saw nothing that indicated the author thought herself superior. I saw her achievements, e.g., Ph.D and learning 4 languages, as examples of what one woman with her own unique abilities was able to strive toward and attain with great personal cost. We all have limitations, we all have challenges. I have been hospitalized in psychiatric facilities 19 times, been subjected to many ECT sessions which stripped my memory to the point I was left unable to work after my 30’s, have been on 27 different psychoactive medications (most of them very harsh), and as an adult my parents had to take on my care for 12 yrs after they had already retired. I lost my husband of 13 yrs, my home, my independence, my sense of humor (which has now retured!), my health and many other losses because of mental illness. But I celebrate every success of every other person on earth — especially if they are working against the odds and working against cultural “norms” that try to prevent them from doing so.

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      • Dear Donna,

        thank you so much for your comment. Yes, in no way was trying to boast. It’s like a self-affirmation to tell about some of my achievements, as in reality I feel like shit.
        I had numerous hospitalizations, the most important relationship broke up, I vape the whole day, and feel like I constantly need to prove something.
        I am sad to hear what you went through:(

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        • Ekaterina,
          Your achievements are noteworthy, but you are so much more than your achievements: you are a thoughtful person with a good mind and open heart who cares about her child, which is all that should matter to anyone who truly cares about you. And anyone who needs you to prove something isn’t worth a second thought.

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  10. Well, to put things into perspective, about half the population of the US is heavily involved in a personality cult headed by a psychopath who is a life-long criminal, compulsive liar and extreme narcissist.
    So, I would ask then “What is a mental illness and which people are mentally ill???”

    When I was struggling as a result of being repeatedly raped by my thesis advisor and no way to get out of the situation, I was given one psychiatric diagnosis after another, depending on the personal research interests of the diagnosing psychiatrist. I caught on to that pretty quickly. Personally, I thought it was my thesis advisor who was mentally ill, but in our Western patriarchal culture, the male is always right.

    So as a person with 2 doctorates, what have I learned by age 70? Psychiatric diagnoses are mostly based on purely subjective criteria and therefore are meaningless except as a way psychiatrists can get reimbursed by insurance companies. No one needs to put themselves in those boxes. “Mental illness” is a cultural designation, not a medical diagnosis. I choose to not identify with any of the labels psychiatrists have bestowed on me. I choose to not talk about myself as a person with a certain diagnosis, not because I’m ashamed, but because it has no meaning in my life or in my identity.

    I am stigmatized more as a single independent woman with a profession than anything else. I don’t worry about it because someone will always find some reason to hate you, no matter who you are or what you do. You just have to own your Self and ignore the noise.

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  11. Dear Ekaterina, I read your story with great care and affection. Thank you for your transparency and for sharing it with us.
    I fully identified, both with the diagnosis and the way you have decided to face it: to see psychosis as an opportunity to draw on curiosity, to deepen our faith, to know that there is something more and to seek to have a full experience also in the more rational and normal moments that we may suddenly have, with a job we love, projects in which we collaborate with our intellect and sensitivity and to feel gratified by that and not necessarily a victim, as the stigma forces us to be. The stigma also weighs on us, should I feel bad about how I live my diagnosis?
    It is true that antipsychotics help especially in difficult times, I also take them but I have been faced with the impossibility of stopping them for a while, immediately the withdrawal symptoms appear and the rebound effect comes back with new psychotic episodes.
    I am very happy to find testimonies like yours and I would like to be able to go deeper into the subject with you, especially on the subject of pregnancy and parenting, a project that I am trying for the second time (the first time I didn’t succeed) and from which I am collecting the best practices to achieve it. Would it be possible to consult you directly on this subject via email? I hope you are well. Greetings from Mexico.

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  12. I often wonder what diagnosis will be next for me. So far, schizophrenia, bipolar, schizoaffective, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, dissociative identity disorder, borderline personality disorder, and conversion disorder. Quite a collection! Especially the last, which is the mother of all stigmatizing diagnoses. That is when the doctor runs out of other diagnostic labels and decides it is, after all, “all in your head.” In other words, you imagine that something is terribly wrong and trick your body into going along with your imagination. You know what I say? Life is hard. These are all manifestations of a difficult life, not my brain and its chemicals producing experience. Doctors and others (especially pharmaceutical companies) love to psychologize and medicalize life experience and tell you something is wrong. People say the most awful things to me about how I am “not normal” and even that I must have low intelligence even though I graduated from University with honors. This is because they do not get to know me. I am no different. I am another human being having experiences. I do try to conform to societal expectations in many ways, but I also embrace my differences. If I did not do so, I would be stigmatizing myself. Thank you for your article.

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    • Hi, Donna!

      It sounds like you’ve been through hell and are still kinda there!

      With all due respect, it appears to me you’ve figured out these “doctors” don’t know the first thing about what they’re doing and their “diagnoses” are fantasies. Are you still looking to them for help? Or are you simply trapped in “the system” and having a hard time getting out of there? What do you see as your path forward?

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  13. Ekaterina, please do not take to heart the naysayers and those who prefer to see the human struggle as societal oppression. It has become the habit of many today to prefer entitlement claims rather than actually doing the hard work themselves. Certainly there is enough stigma worldwide to oppress even the most diligent pursuit of education and professional advancement — stima for many, many various reasons. And psychological struggles are, all too often, singled out as the “worst” among them. If we would learn to put our compassion forward as easily as our judgment, wouldn’t the world be a different place?

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    • Donna,

      my diagnosis also changed. It was schizophrenia first, to be changed to bipolar, and now it’s schizo-affective disorder with bipolar traits, lol. I can’t help but laugh. They really don’t know their own criteria:) Anyway, it’s the vulnerability to psychosis, nothing else.
      I believe (from my experiences) that mental health distress is usually a trauma acquired in one’s childhood, or a very turbulent event in one’s youth. The whole system needs another care. Care and be kind to people experiencing it, rather than shaming, putting a label and medicating with horrendous stuff.

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      • It’s sad that this society isn’t really interested in understanding trauma, and it makes the whole “society” quite uncivil. “Society” is SO based on using fear as a means of controlling behavior that the whole society bankrupts itself with trauma, coercion, paranoia and violence, wars, and now what’s happening to nature itself with all of the damage to our environment. Simply understanding what a child is, that a child doesn’t need to be “formed” by “society” exploiting trauma by means of fear to “mold” them.

        All of the diagnosis might more accurately point out someone is moving away from such damaging “control,” and anyone truly knowledgeable or having had experience of such pretty much knows this is very much what’s going on.

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  14. Donna,
    There’s nothing entitled about people communicating the avoidable struggles psychiatry has wrongfully caused them, especially in a webzine dedicated to questioning the efficacy and ethics of mainstream psychiatry.

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  15. Ekatarina. Thank you for sharing your story and exhibiting that you have achieved success well aligned with normalcy in our current societal climate.

    This is in no way discounting your experience and perspective and I hope to be as respectful in my dialogue, while still providing a valid viewpoint.

    Based on my own experience and my truth, your perspective is one of the most insidious ones on many levels. Hopefully myself and other commenters can help guide you in a more productive direction.

    1. Stigma might be the least of someone who has been diagnosed worries’. Most certainly not the paramount issue.
    A. The biggest issues are that these diagnoses are not synonymous with other healthcare diagnoses, and not based on any real science.
    B.

    2. You are currently voluntarily poisoning yourself. Your perspective on psychiatry coming from this place is inherently flawed. The successes you mention in terms of your education career and family life could be used by a proponent of this poison to poison others. In your case it’s a testament to your strength in that being in a poisoned state you still have the capacity for this- imagine how strong you would be if you weren’t giving yourself a chemical lobotomy each day?
    A. Please DO NOT taper without assistance. It’s proven that the drugs change your brain and inhibitions. The taper can illicit responses and behaviors that are out of the realm of safety and not something that would take place had the drugs not been administered at all.

    3. IMO I disagree that people should accept abnormal behavior. Although you have a right to act how you want, society also has a right to judge you, prevent their family from being close to you etc… would you want to entrust for instance a teacher with your precious children who is presenting abnormally online?

    What society doesn’t have a right to do is to lock you up against your will with no violation of law or fair trial and obstruct your agency over your own body based on your deviant behavior. This ties back into my first point.

    Once again thank you for being brave enough to share and open up the dialogue on this issue. You should be proud of your accomplishments, and I hope in time you start to be open to understanding the real humans rights violations taking place within mental health care.

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  16. Ekaterina,

    The desire for acceptance from others can be overpowering at times, especially if given a psych diagnosis, which paradoxically can make the desire even greater. But cultivating an identity not based on diagnosis is by far your best ally. And it’s usually best to keep certain things under wraps until you know someone well enough to trust them with your personal information.

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