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Stigma and the Scandal of Illness with Sharon Gibson, Pt. 1

November 1, 2023

This article serves as a transcription for a podcast episode featuring Margaret Beaver. The original episode is available here.


Sharon Gibson: Hello, loves; welcome to BEING SHARON GIBSON's podcast. This is season four, episode fifteen, featuring Margaret Beaver, an author and someone who really has mental health at heart. As intended, I'm going to transform your mind into a strong, positive mind. Before I dive into today's topic, know that my TikTok community is absolutely different from my podcast community, so check out the videos on my TikTok platform.

Sharon Gibson: Welcome, Margaret!

Margaret Beaver: Thank you so much for having me, Sharon! How are you?

SG: I'm fine, I'm fine. How are you doing?

MB: I'm doing very well, thank you.

SG: It's really an honor to have you here; thank you so much.

MB: Thank you so much for asking me! I, I wasn't expecting this; I'm very honored. Thank you.

SG: Thank you! Can you tell us more about yourself, please?

MB: Absolutely, yeah. I'm an award-winning poet and a forthcoming novelist—

SG: Amazing.

MB: Thank you. Accompanying my upbringing, I'm very much a mental health and equality activist, because I struggle with mental health—a lot of people struggle with mental health—so it was kind of ingrained in me before I even realized what mental health was. Um, and on top of all of that, I am a part-time college student, so besides my work and everything I do, regrettably, I do have schoolwork. I’m a little busy!

SG: That’s great, that’s great. Education is really, really great.

MB: I very much enjoy it.

SG: I’m not a big fan of going to school, but I love school.

MB: I love learning.

SG: Yes, that’s the thing: I love learning, meeting people, you know, but I’m not really a routine person and then school really gets me into a routine environment. I really do love school; I love learning; I love education a lot; and I do hope to, like, feather, feather, feather until I’m tired. Until I can’t do it any more. But that’s really great that you’re doing that.

MB: Thank you.

SG: So, we’re going to dive into today’s topic. Today’s topic is “How to define yourself by the core of you and not a mental disorder.” Um, before we go deep or before I ask you the first question, do you know anything about mental disorders?

MB: I do, yes. I have somewhat of a clinical perspective, but I have, most importantly, a personal testimony to that. When I was fifteen— I’m sorry, when I was twelve—I was twelve; I was not fifteen— Um, when I was twelve, I started developing mental health disorders. I was bullied a lot at the time, so that, that very much triggered it. I mean, I’m already genetically predisposed, but definitely being bullied furthered that as well. And, so when I was twelve, I started really experiencing very, very severe generalized anxiety and it was so bad that I had to drop out of public school, which totally threw my state of mind.

SG: So you were homeschooled?

MB: I actually wasn’t homeschooled; I went to a virtual online school, so I had teachers, I had a platform, so my parents didn’t have to teach me, which was good, so they could continue, you know, their work, their jobs.

SG: Yeah, that’s true.

MB: I was doing that right up until I graduated high school just this past June and now I’m a college student. Again, I’m schooling online. So, um, I very much have experience in this area. As the years went on, I initially had anxiety but I left things untreated because, for one, I didn’t recognize what my symptoms were; I didn’t recognize what disorders were; I had no idea what any of this was. I just knew that I wasn’t feeling very well and that I needed to be away from people—that’s really all I knew. I knew I had a social problem, but I didn’t know I had a mental problem.

MB: So, as the years went by and I didn’t medicate, I didn’t do treatment, my disorders, they got worse and they progressed, and now I’m struggling with my generalized anxiety and a major depressive disorder—which is just a fancy word for depression. They give all these fancy names; it’s just depression!

MB: And, um, a few years ago, when I was fifteen or sixteen, I was very unexpectedly diagnosed with PTSD, and that diagnosis threw me very much. I, I totally expected the diagnoses of anxiety and depression—I knew that right off the bat—but the PTSD diagnosis, that, that, really threw me. Usually I find my diagnoses very validating, but that one made me really upset, and I wasn’t used to being upset because usually I was so accepting of it. You know, I come from a household where a lot of us struggle with mental health, on both sides of my family, so it’s a very open topic in my household; medication, treatment, you know, it’s very talked about in my household, so it isn’t something I’m inherently ashamed of—but for that, for that diagnosis, I was just so upset and even now I really couldn’t tell you why.

MB: So, I do have experience with the ups and downs of the diagnosis, the symptoms—

SG: You know, you’re really going to make me—sorry for cutting you off—but you’re really going to make me be very open about something right now, which I didn’t want to be open about.

MB: Yeah! No worries; that’s perfect.

SG: So, I, I feel where you’re coming from, to be honest; I do, because there’s no way I can choose this topic and understand what you’re saying and discuss what we are discussing right now if I hadn’t been through it.

MB: Right.

SG: It’s— Mine is crazy. Someone wanted to interview me on it, but I said that I wanted to live with it for a decade and then I’ll be able to talk more about it. I’m just going to, um, save the skeleton of the things, some of the things I’ve been through—you know, stay surface level.

SG: So, in 2018, something, like, drastically happened to me, and then I was triggered, and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I went online to check how schizophrenic people act, what they’re experiencing, and I wasn’t experiencing that—and I was mad. I mean, I was taking these drugs, I was becoming dull—and I’m a very active, vibrant— you know, positive, loud, sociable person, but all of a sudden, because I was taking this drug, I started, like, you know, curving in and being so lazy I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do all the things that I used to. I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore.

MB: I have definitely experienced this; I’ve been on a ton of different drugs, trying to find the perfect one, and I definitely understand what you’re dealing with. I’ve been through the trials of being on medication that just totally dulled you, where your personality was inverted completely, and you didn’t have any energy to do anything. It’s something that I’m still dealing with right now actually, so I very much understand what you’re talking about.

SG: Yeah, what happened was that I stopped taking the drugs and—you definitely know this term—I relapsed. And when I relapsed, at least I did know that the first diagnosis was wrong—I literally didn’t have that—but I have what I have now, the disorder that I have now. I mean, that’s what’s going to lead me to my first question, so that maybe I’ll be more confident talking about it. Why do you think there’s so much stigma around mental disorders and illnesses?

MB: I really appreciate this question, because it’s actually something that I think about so much.

SG: And I’m so happy your household really talks about it! Like, I feel more if my household spoke much—I love my mom; I love everybody—but, like, the way you talk about it, and even the medication and everything, I feel like if my family did speak about it that way and encourage it, I don’t think I would be shy to speak about it even though I’ve been living with it for, um, five years now. So I don’t think I would’ve been shy to speak about it.

MB: Yeah, with my atmosphere, I was very much integrated into that conversation even before I realized I had anything. So since I was already familiarized with that topic, it was nothing to me to speak on it.

MB: But when you don’t have that experience, when you’re not surrounded in an atmosphere that is so relevant to that conversation, of course, there’s so much hesitation; there’s so much apprehension; you have no idea what you’re doing; you’re not familiarized with that conversation, so you’re totally a fish out of water and I understand what you’re talking about completely.

MB: So, back to your question, when it comes to the status of our modern world, I, I find a lot of clarity regarding, like, difficult and potentially harmful subjects when I study their origins. So, I’m a writer; I’m an author; I’m very much into linguistics and word roots and the origins of our words and languages—so the contemporary term “stigma” was first originated from Greek society, and it was essentially a symbol that was branded onto slaves with a branding iron to identify each person and distinguish them from others. So, from the very beginning, stigma was always associated with this concept of being a completely misplaced— like, this social disgrace, right, and this implication of being inherently perceived as lesser than. Right from the get-go, that was always the connotation of the word, so that initial meaning has survived all of these centuries and is still an enemy of any minority group or any individual that fails to be understood, you know, and is immediately feared or hated.

MB: Consequently, this is exactly the case for all populations differing from, you know, this hypothetical archetype of neurotypical, of cosmetic perfection. You know, you look differently, you’re rejected; you think differently, you’re rejected; you feel differently, you’re rejected—immediately, right. So any variance or diversification that can’t be easily pigeonholed is totally dismissed. And because of that, these public demonstrations of discrimination and dehumanization are becoming increasingly internalized, so much so that we are susceptible to adopting the exact behaviors we despised; we are susceptible to becoming discriminative against ourselves and the things that we ourselves deal with.

SG: And the things we do not understand.

MB: Exactly. I speak very, very broadly regarding the so-called “minority populations” because, this, this isn’t just about the neurodivergent people with mental disorders; this isn’t just about, you know, the racially discarded or the disabled or the LGBT community. It’s about all of us, at the same time, together.

SG: I don’t know if you experienced this—and I’m sure you did—how difficult it was having my first episode, what I went through and coming out and surviving and living now and having to publish a book and being in school and working and doing all this. Having, like, a normal life after what I went through. What we go through when that happens to us, or when we get a first episode or even you even relapse—it hurts me that it’s stigmatized. Like, you say, “I’m talking to a therapist,” and somebody’s like, “Why? Are you mad?” or “Do you have a mental illness?” or something. Like, you hear people pass these funny comments and it’s not funny because— you know what I told my therapist today, because I had a therapy session today? I was talking to my therapist and people that are termed “normal”—quote-unquote “normal” people who are not clinically diagnosed with any disorders—we, the people that are clinically diagnosed with a disorder, and we are taking these medications, we have meds that we take, we act more normal than people who are termed quote-unquote “normal.” And that’s fact.

SG: I see so many people around me, and I tell them, “You need a therapist.” Like, the way you act is not rational.

MB: The people, the people, they always act off of their perceptions and what they perceive. The problem is that when those perceptions are built totally on illusion, you are acting off of things that aren’t real, you’re acting off of a basis and understanding that is totally distorted—and now you’re distorted. You know, your thinking is everything, and so when people act like that, it’s amazing how people act like that, because then they’re automatically displaying these problems that they claim not to have.

SG: Exactly. There’s a word that we usually say back home in Ghana. One of my male friends, he was like, “Well, everybody’s mad.” Everybody is literally mad. You know, we regulate it, but the way people stigmatize mental disorder and people who are clinically diagnosed, they don’t know that they themselves, that the only thing that differentiates you from me, is the fact that I take meds on a daily basis, and you don’t take meds. But you also have a disorder, so if you stigmatize me, you also stigmatize yourself.

MB: Absolutely. You’re limiting yourself if you’re limiting others. Because there’s really no such thing as neurotypical, you know; everyone, at some degree, there’s some difference, there’s some tweak around what is considered normal and that’s just simply an illusion.

SG: You’re right. You’re so right. It’s so funny how, um, people treat things that they do not understand and they associate it, they demonize it, or, um, you know, they put you in some sort of box of you being this type of way or you have done this thing, or maybe your ancestors and your forefathers did this—that’s why this infliction has been brought upon you.

MB: It’s like I’m being punished for something a great grandmother did. I didn’t know the lady, but alright!

SG: I’m not going to call anybody out here, but somebody really close to me goes like, “Oh, Sharon, you’ve been healed from this disorder; you don’t have to take medicine.” Like, you’ve been healed because, you know, sometimes you have side effects of the medication. She’s like, “You don’t have to be taking this. This illness, you’ve been healed.” And I was like, “I really love your faith—I’ve been healed spiritually—but physically, I’m going to keep taking these drugs.”

MB: That’s a really big difference! This is such a massive sphere. There are so many different types of wellness: you could be healthy in one way, but totally unhealthy in another. Spiritually, physically, and mentally—totally different things. You could be totally at peace with spirituality, with religion, you know, your god or whatever it may be, that does not mean that you are or are not neurodivergent.

SG: I was like, “I’ve heard you; I love that healing; I love that faith. But physically, my body needs these drugs.”

MB: I appreciate you saying that you appreciate the faith!

SG: A number of times I’ve been told to stop taking my drugs, but you didn’t go through what I went through, so it’s not like I have fear of relapsing or anything, but I really love myself so much that I don’t want to put myself through this any more. So, spiritually, I believe that whatever had happened in the spiritual realm—if it was indeed spiritual—I’ve been healed. But physically, my body needs these drugs. And I don’t miss therapy; I don’t miss any appointment with my doctors; I don’t miss any appointment with my nurse; I don’t miss any of that. I don’t stress myself; I do everything I need to do to take care of my body, to take care of the physical me, and at the same time, working on my mind as well.

SG: So, next question I’m going to ask you is “How do you stick to the core of you and not associate every bad decision you make to your disorder?” The reason why I’m saying this is, from a manic place, depression can also come as bipolar II. So, anyone in the bipolar atmosphere—or, let me put it this way: the bipolar journey—has this tendency of making decisions that might be bad because we have something that we call— Like, when you’re in a manic episode, you have racing thoughts, right, and bipolar is something that doesn’t go away but lives with you. So, even when you don’t relapse or you’re not in a manic episode, sometimes you have those thoughts that come into your head at the same time, and you wanted to do a million and one things, and it doesn’t mean that you’ve relapsed; it’s just that you’ve been in your bipolar state.

SG: So, um, how do you stick to the core of you and not associate everything to your disorder—or know who you are so you don’t even get scared of yourself, because, at a point, you can really get so scared that, okay, I don’t even know who I am because it’s this bipolar thing or this disorder, mental disorder is sort of controlling me? So how do you even stick to the core of yourself and know who you are and just know that, okay, this, this disorder is something that I’m living with, but it’s not me, right?

MB: Okay, so, ultimately, I like to say that stigma, first, stigma originates from the exact same place, across all minorities, everyone who’s ever been oppressed: it all originates from fear, right. And when it evolves, it turns into mass hatred. And that’s what we observe now and have been observing for centuries. So, the first misconception is the notion that mental health disorders are inherently quote-unquote “bad” and tied to every bad decision. Mental disorders aren’t “bad”; they’re just hindering in in various degrees. You know, they’re not things to work past; they’re things to work with.

MB: So, as I said before, I’m very genetically predisposed to mental conditions considering both sides of my family have very extensive histories—so my symptoms were inevitable, completely. So, what happened was when I was twelve years old, you know, and I dropped out and I began at a virtual academy, when I was a child, that was when it all happened. When I was a child, I had to stop being a child. My lightheartedness was turned to depression; my sociability was isolation and solitude. I’ve never been fully able to recapture that happiness. I spent my formative years, I spent my years growing up, being entrenched in these disorders and, since I’m an adult now, I’ll never again be able to be a child. And I’m still mourning that. I feel, you know, because my symptoms came so early in life, I’m going to be totally honest with you, I don’t remember who I was before this.

MB: I don’t; I have no recollection. Untreated anxiety and depression can frequently lead to permanent memory loss, and a lot of people don’t know this.

SG: That’s true, that’s true. At the point of having memory loss, it was freaking me out. Like, when I say memory loss, I was forgetting things easily, I couldn’t remember things, and it was so hard.

MB: Yeah, it’s either clinical memory loss, like, actual memory loss, actual amnesia, actual things like that, or it’s the mind instating blockages to protect us from memories that we don’t want to remember. So, there are several years of my life that are completely discarded. From twelve to about fourteen, fifteen, I have no recollection. I don’t remember birthdays, holidays; my mother will bring up something that happened when I was thirteen, and there’s literally no remembrance. My mother remembers more of me than I do, and it’s mortifying.

MB: And, in short—this is my personal experience—there is no distinction between my personality and my disorders because I don’t remember my personality. I think if I did remember my personality, that would make me both happier and sadder. So I’m a little grateful to not remember.

SG: Everything works together for good. I mean, everything happening in our lives happens for us.

MB: It doesn’t happen to us; it happens for us.

SG: And you’re right, because I do sympathize with you and I can feel what you went through because, like, in my season, the two months that I went through what I went through, I didn’t remember what happened. It was like I was on a different planet, so I can’t imagine you going in and out of something like that for, you know, that period of time from twelve to fifteen. And you’re right; you’re not even exaggerating; it’s so true.

MB: It’s just total blankness. People really do not quite understand how absolutely terrifying that is to just have memories of your life, of years of your life just taken away. And even if it is in your best interest, it is still totally scary. That said, rather than, you know, thinking of my disorders as these separate entities that I’m constantly battling with or blaming all my bad choices on, I think of my conditions more like confused friends that are wholly integrated into my body. And when I get overwhelmed, I think, What do I need? What does my anxiety need? And I answer my needs—because my anxiety is me; my depression is me; we are working together; there is no difference. You’re all simultaneously the core of me.

SG: Working together—that’s beautiful.

MB: Yeah, so when I make a bad decision or when I make a good one, it doesn’t matter which part of me prompted that decision; I don’t even entertain the thought that I’m going to blame my depression on this, I’m going to blame my anxiety on this. It was me wholly, and I am responsible for its consequences, completely.

SG: I just closed my eyes and I’m just, like, taking in everything you said. I’m learning.

MB: Thank you. Rather than dividing everything and separating everything from the good and the bad, it’s just, I clump everything together and I label it all as me. It’s all me, whatever I did, whatever I was feeling, whatever decisions I make, it’s me, they’re all me. I may have this disorder, but I have the power to treat it, I have the power to answer to it, I have the power to ignore it, I have the power to make myself and these disorders better—and I do.

SG: You know, a real thing happened in one of my states. Like, I had told my brain not to say anything, so even when I got to that state, my brain didn’t say anything because, you know, in that state, you talk too much, and—I don’t know, I don’t know if you’ve ever, I’m not sure you’ve been in the manic state before.

MB: I don’t know, to be honest with you!

SG: Exactly; it’s crazy! So that’s when I saw that there’s an amount of control even with this and what you’re saying really resonates with me because this is why I don’t like to talk about it: I’m still learning, and I love to, like, meet people who are living with it, because we are survivors; we’re great people, to be honest; we’re really phenomenal people.

MB: Not to sound full of ourselves, but we’re pretty good!

SG: That’s why I’m so full of myself because if you know what I’ve been through, some of you could never live with it; you wouldn’t be able to smile the way I smile, or live the way I live, you know? And it’s not because I care about what you think but it’s because I am still learning about this thing that is hardly spoken about in the world.

MB: And even now that it has become more spoken about in the world, you still have to think about that it’s never been said by me, it’s never been said by you. People might be giving their personal testimonies—and as they should—but they’ve still never heard it from you. So you are still granted permission to talk about yourself, talk about your journey, share what you know. And, of course, we’re not going to know absolutely everything about our disorder: all we know is how we’ve dealt with it and our perspectives.

MB: So, if you want to know everything about this disorder, you need to talk to a doctor. I’m not a doctor; I just know me.

SG: Thank you! That’s a good one. I always say that if you’re depressed, please don’t talk to me; go talk to a psychiatrist or go talk to a psychologist. I say that a lot.

MB: I can’t tell you everything; I can just tell you me. I can only do so much.

SG: And one thing I’ve noticed is that everyone dealing with a disorder—let’s say, for example, someone dealing with bipolar I. There can be ten people dealing with bipolar I—they are not the same. They don’t have the same experience; they don’t take the same drugs; they are different. Same thing with somebody dealing with schizophrenia.

MB: Or anything.

SG: Anything! People with the same disorder are even not the same.

MB: Even with normal circumstances. How people would deal with, maybe, a divorce, a death, whatever, how people deal with something happy going on. Everybody takes that intake, everybody takes it different ways and they communicate it in different ways, and they absorb it in different ways, and they cope with it in different ways. We are all so different, simply by design. You cannot take one person’s testimony or one person’s experience and define it across this whole entire scientific, medical realm. You cannot do that.

SG: I know, I know. And that’s why it’s so funny that when someone goes like, “I have lived experience with bipolar disorder,” then automatically people have this idea that the person will be moody. They don’t even research about it, they don’t research about disorders, maybe borderline disorder, or they don’t even care because once it’s in their heads, it’s demonized sort of.

MB: They’re going to think about how things are portrayed in the media because that’s what they’re exposed to. They’re going to think about the movies that exaggerate it for shock factor; they’re going to think about the books that totally misrepresent it; they’re not going to read into the personal experiences of people because, once again, the people who represent their experiences are underrepresented in themselves. People aren’t going to find them as well. People are more interested in the things that are misrepresented.

SG: Like, for instance—just me, for instance—I’ve never had severe depression. I’ve never even had depression in my life—

MB: Good for you! Good for you!

SG: I only had a state of, um, a slight depression but it wasn’t even like a deep one. This slight depression I could still get up and go for therapy; I could still do stuff; I could still go and eat. Like, when I hear and research about depression, I’ve never really been depressed before, and my life is more on a manic face. Not like manic-manic, but more like a happy face.

MB: A mask. The masking.

SG: Exactly. So, like, I’m really different, and even with the disorder I live with, it’s very, very— Like, if you know me, you wouldn’t know I’m dealing with any of this. Like, I talk on the surface level, but, um, this leads me to my third point, because I feel like your answer for this third question— You’re going to open my mind up. I’m telling you, because I am very confident about myself; I really don’t care what people think, but at the same time, I need to be aware of how the world works, so that I can be able to live in the world.

MB: Absolutely.

SG: How do you accept what you’re going through regardless of what anyone thinks?

MB: Okay. Acceptance is a strange thing, and I say that because acceptance isn’t rooted in the contempt of others as much as it’s rooted in the love of yourself, right. It’s all an act of self-love. A lot of people, though, a lot of people choose acceptance as, sort of, a way to show off against other people that they’ve moved on. It’s kind of like a way of— Like, some people will blast on social media that they’re doing so much better and the whole time they could be still struggling but they want, they just want to prove that they’re better than that. But at the same time, the whole thing, once again, is just masking. Even still, in doing that, you’re seeking after the validation of the same people you pretend to not care about. So, it’s truly just internal love of yourself and that can be demonstrated in a number of ways: allowing yourself solitude in overwhelm, declining overstimulating events, being selective with who you spend your time with, only taking stock in the opinions of people you truly care about and know are acting in your best interests.

MB: So, for me, it’s not so much not caring what anyone thinks, but it’s being advised by the opinions that I know are the best for me. I’m— Naturally, at heart, I’ve always been a social person, so when my depression struck and I was totally in solitude and isolation, that was very much not like me. And now that I’ve begun to heal from that, I’m becoming more social again, which I appreciate, and it’s allowed me to better understand and better take stock in select opinions. So rather than just banishing the opinions of anyone, I very much trust the opinion and the perspective of my mother, of my close friends, of myself, and I take stock and I evaluate those opinions. But those are the only ones I do it to; you have to be very selective with who you pick and choose in your life and who you decide to let in, otherwise your energy is just going to be totally chaotic. You’re going to fill with the words of the people you don’t actually care about—and even though you don’t care about them, you’re still going to fill with their words because we’re human. We’re susceptible to things like that.

MB: A lot of people interpret acceptance as, you know, giving up; for me, I just see it as an act of self-love, relieving yourself of the stress of trying to mend a situation that will still remain unfulfilling or preventing a circumstance that’s simply inevitable. Everyone’s path is personalized and made just for them; you don’t need anyone else to understand. It’s not their path; they don’t have to. Realizing you don’t love yourself is one of the greatest insults to existence, I think, so once I tie mental relief to love, my actions and my choices seem a lot more justified even when I’m so uncertain. And, you know, it’s incredibly plausible to be uncertain; you’re incredibly valid in your uncertainty of acceptance, because acceptance is self-love, and loving yourself is a very rebellious act in a world that profits off of our self-doubt.

SG: Oh, that’s so true. It’s like, people go like, “How dare you love yourself. Who do you think you are?”

MB: Or they cross it with being full of yourself.

SG: Thank you.

MB: Or being selfish. There’s a massive difference between loving yourself and putting yourself first and understanding your needs… and being selfish.

SG: That’s so true.

MB: When you read into the definitions of selfishness, there’s actually something that taught me a lot of things and it was that selfishness is putting your wants above other people’s needs, and self-love and appreciating yourself, that’s putting your needs above other people’s needs (or wants). It’s a game of wants versus needs.

SG: That’s different!

MB: Yeah, that’s the difference.

SG: In economics, we say that people have numerous wants, so if you want to live your life satisfying people’s wants, that’s very dangerous because their wants are numerous and unlimited.

MB: And then eventually your needs are going to be relaxation from all the exhaustion you’ve put yourself through—and that exhaustion you may spend the absolute rest of your life trying to recover from.

SG: Wow, that’s amazing. So how did you move past your mental health diagnosis?

MB: Mmm, I really, really like this question, because it’s really rooted in stigma—and I say that kindly!

SG: It is.

MB: The short answer is simply that you don’t, okay. Mental health disorders, whether you like it or not, they will never truly go away—they won’t. They will lessen and heighten; they will fluctuate; they will never really leave, and a lot of people treat that as a death sentence—I know I did! And, as I’ve said before, disorders aren’t “bad”; they just… are. It’s like disabilities: they aren’t a good thing; they aren’t a bad thing; they just are. They just exist. Some people have them; some people don’t—and if you do, there’s tons of things to help yourself, and if you don’t, you help the people who do. You know, that’s how we work together as a society; we are all cogs in the exact same machine. So, the thing is is that you don’t move past a mental health diagnosis; there’s no reason to. It’s a part of you, just as all of your good and bad memories are, and you don’t move past your memories or your lessons; you learn from them, you grow from them. It’s the exact same thing.

MB: My mental health diagnoses, personally, they were very validating—except for the PTSD one, which I struggled with originally, but I’ve come to accept. But diagnoses in general for me, they were very relieving to understand that I had an identifiable condition and that it could be treated. For me, that was easier than just having a doctor look at me and say, “We don’t know what you have, we don’t know how to fix it, and until we do, you’re going to be living with this for the rest of your life.” You know, that’s not exactly settling.

SG: Not at all.

MB: So, to know that it was— To know that it had a label, to know that it was something that existed, and something that other people had…

SG: It was very relieving.

MB: Absolutely. But on the other hand, when people get diagnoses, some people are vehemently upset—and that, that is simply a result of this concept that stigma steals a notch of your hypothetical self-worth, right. You are upset about your diagnosis because you don’t want to have this, and you don’t want to have this because you’ve been taught that it’s a bad thing. You being upset about yourself, you being upset about mental illness or disorder or any sort of health problem, you are buying into the stigma that it’s something bad, that it’s something you should be ashamed of—and it’s not. It’s just something—that’s it. You go to therapy; you get your treatment; you raise awareness to the people who are still struggling with the understanding of it or the acceptance of themselves. Ultimately, what I like to say is don’t move past diagnosis; move past stigma. Because that is the problem. It’s not the diagnosis; it’s not even the disorder itself; it’s the stigma. That is the problem.

SG: That’s the problem.

MB: Yeah. And once you identify the problem—it’s not you; it’s not the disorder; it’s the stigma—then you understand who the true enemy is. And that’s when you can redirect your argument.

To be continued.


Podcast episode cover for BEING SHARON GIBSON (BSG).


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