Happy Day, my Bellas!!!! It’s Friday! I hope you are taking a load off… putting on some comfy jeans and spending some time with me! You might not be aware of it but Saturday is “World Mental Health Day”! (click HERE for more info) This year’s theme is “DIGNITY”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of the word “dignity” is “the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed“. Now why would the World Health Organization (WHO) choose the word “dignity” as the theme of “World Mental Health Day”? Dignity as a part of mental illness is so important. You might ask why. Well, Bellas, dignity is one of the first things people with mental health issues lose. Whether it is a perceived loss or actual loss is up to the person experiencing it. So, my Bellas, let’s talk about dignity today.
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR DIGNITY?
Since dignity is defined as the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed. Why would people with mental health issues feel as though they no longer have dignity? Brainblogger.com writes that, “Half of the severely mentally ill do not deny the reality of their illness, but because of the stigma and discrimination involved will not seek treatment for some of these stigma-related reasons:
- Fearing loss of self-esteem;
- Not wanting anyone to find out they are on psychiatric medication;
- Thinking they will spontaneously get better if they just hide the illness from others;
- Believing that doctors might look down on them;
- Fearing rejections and exclusions in the community;
- Fearing losing the love or respect of their family or other loved ones;
- If employed, being afraid of their employer finding out;
- Fear that they might be declared incompetent;
- Fearing losing custody of their children; or
- Fearing that someone they know could see them at the psychiatrist’s office.”
All of the reasons listed can affect a person with mental illness and their dignity or lack thereof. This scenario has played out for me more than once. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist. I spend most of the morning finding reasons NOT to go to the appointment. These reasons are usually something like: “Ugh… another doctor to prescribe more pills… I don’t need that” or “Oh my gosh, the doctor’s office is right next to my old job. What if someone sees me?” or “There’s nothing wrong with me… I can handle it.” which is the irrational excuse I have mad so many times. The excuses can be different for everyone, but when it comes down to it… we are all mourning the loss of our own dignity in our own eyes and the eyes of others. For some reason, society has attached such a terrible stigma to mental illness. People’s reaction to mental illness can range from radical acceptance to “oh my gosh, this person is crazy…run NOW! The true reaction to mental illness should not be one of pity, fear, or condescending conversation but one of true dignity. People with mental illness are STILL people. They eat, drink, and sleep just like anyone else. It is our job, Bellas, to educate people and practice ensuring that each and every person with mental illness is treated with dignity and like a human being.
There have so many times when I have been afraid for people to find out that I have a mental health diagnosis. The fear is that when people find out I’m bipolar, that they will immediately judge me based upon the last movie they watched about a sanitarium/psych hospital full of moaning and chained psychopaths and not on my individual character. I’ve been in relationships with people I thought I could have possibly have a future with but sadly, the “bipolar pill” was too much for them to swallow. Those conversations along with living in a society that judges the mentally ill so harshly chipped away at my dignity time after time after time. There were times that I felt alone in a crowded room of people because my fragile secret proved to much to keep. I felt like falling into a million pieces. Sometimes, I felt like I wanted to die. But at just the right moment, God would place the perfect someone or perfect situation before me as a life jacket. He would place a professor with an understanding ear, a stranger with a kind word, or even a sermon with an amazing light before me and my dignity would be restored. I was grateful.
WHOSE JOB IS IT TO RESTORE OUR DIGNITY?
Well, Bellas, the answer to that question is not an easy one. We all know that the power to restore is in God’s hands. We also know that we positively affect our reality by changing our thoughts and actions into positive ones. When it comes to dignity we must be our own advocate. We must stand up and demand the respect that we deserve. Besides, we are not our depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, etc. We are still people. We are still individuals. We are still created beautifully and wondrously. The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of dignity in the case of the mentally ill should read, “The quality or state of ensuring that people with mental illness know that we are worthy, honored, and highly esteemed despite our circumstances.” That’s what those with mental illness can do… but, Bellas, what if we don’t have a mental illness? If we don’t have a mental illness, 9 times out of 10 we know someone who is struggling with it, either publicly or privately. Our job is to speak about mental illness with respect and treat those with mental illness WITH DIGNITY. For instance, how many times have you seen a woman on a tabloid talk show like Maury or the good old Jerry Springer Show be referred to by an angry boyfriend as “bipolar” after having a brick thrown at his windshield??? Countless times right?! But does that make it true? I’ve never thrown ANYTHING through anyone’s windshield. So the answer to that question is a resounding NO. But it doesn’t stop society from using moments like that to throw our dignity right out of the window when mental illness is revealed. It does, however, make it our responsibility to stand up and correct that incorrect notion.
Dignity is integral to the recovery of the mentally ill. I fight for my dignity everyday. I not only fight for it in the eyes of others but in my own eyes. We can be our own greatest critic. I have to remind myself every day that my God gives me dignity right along with grace, mercy, and love. It’s not up for grabs.
So Bellas, remember that we are all BEAUTIFUL EVEN WHEN WE ARE BLUE! Remind yourself and someone else of that today! Enjoy your weekend and thank you for stopping by! Celebrate “World Mental Health Day” by giving someone the gift of DIGNITY!
Love ya, Bellas! xoxo