STIGMA

Summertime, and the living is easy? Vanessa Benson

All the moms at school: “Aren’t you so excited for summer break?”
Me: “ Honestly…… I don’t know” I shamefully whisper.

Am I the only mom whose blood pressure rises slightly when I think of the length of summer? It seems like every other mom is eagerly anticipating summer and having their kids home all the time. I love my kids so so much, but the idea of camp mom 24/7 is a little daunting to me. Maybe my mood is being heavily influenced by a combination of hormones, having 3.5 kids, ages 9, 7, 4, homeschooling two days a week and being up 5 times a night to pee because I’m 5 months pregnant.

I sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for this job. I know, its a little late now that I’m pregnant with number 4. But, my boys’ constant fighting and bickering and what I can only assume is them asserting their need for male dominance is so incredibly draining. It feels as if every time I think I have solved the most recent battle or conflict and gotten my boys to sign the latest peace treaty, I foolishly surmise I can finish the laundry when another volcanic kid erupts…..

”My brothers aren’t letting me play with them, (big tears and screams)” -the whining child

“He’s cheating, he’s such a liar! I wish I didn’t have a brother! I will NEVER play with him again.” -the prideful child

“I can’t help it if they don’t know how to play by the rules, I was just telling them what was fair”- the know-it-all child

So am I just not cut out for this? I think my general threshold of chaos times three is naturally low. It’s hard for me to roll with the constant screams and bloody injuries that need tending to. So I try and plan playdates and schedule activities. It seems like this is the only respite to solve or mildly alleviate sibling rivalry. That and TV.

As I sit here in the peaceful, quiet cool of the morning having my coffee (yes I drink a double shot latte every morning while pregnant) while the kids are all still asleep, I pray and ask God for the patience to not even make it through the day. I’m not asking for miracles, but just to not lose my mind or patience before 9 am. But then I remember that moms have gone before me and weathered the storms and even turned out decent human beings. I remember that there are great moments, swimming, playing cards with kids, hanging out with friends, watching them play unfiltered, unstructured, and the slower pace of summer. But am I “excited” that it’s summer? I’ll tell you after 9:00 AM!

Vanessa Benson
Author of: Out Came The Sun, My hopeful Journey Beyond Postpartum Depression
vanessasbenson.com

When False Information On A Meme Makes You Angry… by Stephanie Paige

The other day on Facebook I came across a meme… actually calling it a meme is too nice. I came across a shitty ad that basically told me and others that are Mentally Ill and medicated that we are now drug addicts. While addiction is a Mental Illness, I have not been diagnosed with it. I am a long time Depressive and Anxiety-ridden Mom that will fully disclose any part of my history because people need to know what it is really like to be Mentally Ill.

When I saw this, I was outraged, furious, and this was at 10 am on a weekday morning in my cubicle at work:

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What made this worse, was this was the pinned post in this group ‘The Free Thought Project’. My blood was boiling. I wanted to break something. Instead, I decided to use this as an opportunity to educate.

I have seen many versions of this ad before (see below) consciously telling people that medication is evil and while I find them offensive, it didn’t hit me as hard as saying I now have a “lifelong addiction”:

 

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Is medication shit? Well, I will flat-out admit I wish I didn’t have to take it, but comparing it to the stuff that would be on my daughter’s diaper years and years ago is a bit much.

Nature as an antidepressant… I agree wholeheartedly that nature is very rewarding.  I am an avid walker and hiker (and snowshoe-er in the cold winter months).  I love being outside.  After a hike, I usually find myself rejuvenated, feeling alive and most importantly happy.  A hike or a walk outside at lunch can ‘turn my frown upside down’.  There are just a couple of things wrong with this statement:  Nature does not have the same effect on everyone and when you are severely depressed. It ain’t going to work. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Being an Alpha personality, a control freak, a perfectionist, I will fully admit that I hated being on meds.  I couldn’t fathom the idea that a little pill (or four) controlled me.  I was only ‘normal’ because of them.  I thought I could get better without them.  I was wrong… very, very wrong.

The first time I was prescribed medication was shortly after my 18th birthday.  It came in the form of a half-white and half-aqua capsule known as Prozac.  I was quickly told not to tell anyone I was taking it.  This was after I held a case cutter I stole from work to my wrist debating whether I should live or die.  This event, I was also told, to not speak of.  Ah, you got to love the stigma associated with being Mentally Ill.  Because of this, I thought medication was wrong, bad, sinful.  How stupid of me.

It wasn’t until my recent episode of Major Depressive Disorder and Severe Anxiety almost three years ago, that while getting better I finally said: “Screw it!”  I didn’t care who knew.  If I had a megaphone, I would probably be screaming it.  There is nothing wrong with being medicated.  I really should create (or order if it exists) a shirt that reads: “Medicated & Proud Of It”.

These people who create these offensive and naïve memes have no idea what it is really like to live with these conditions.  Because it is invisible it doesn’t actually exist.  Because there is no official blood test or genetic test, we all must be making it up.  It is all in our heads… why yes, it is.  Because of a lack of Serotonin, something produced in my brain (i.e. my head) I live daily with two severe illnesses.  I am not making it up.  Who would make up paying monthly for medications, weekly psychiatrist & therapy appointments, being hospitalized, becoming severely delusional, considering hurting or killing yourself?!  Yes, I totally want all of this!

But we live in a society that believes Mental Illness is not on the same level as a Physical Illness.  It is okay if you take lifelong medications for illnesses such as Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and Cancer and that is not seen as an addiction.  Why is it okay for them but not for people like me?  Why am I considered ‘an addict’?  Why am I ‘faking it’?  I wonder if there was a real test that proved a Mental Illness diagnosis if these views would change.

I have weaned off medications a handful of times.  It can happen.  I lived 4 years med free before I entered into my 6th Major Depressive Episode.  Once on medication again, I took a hard look at my husband, my daughter, and my parents and told myself I didn’t want to see them suffer anymore.  I didn’t want to suffer anymore.  I decided then and there to never ever go off my antidepressant.  Lexapro and I will remain the best of friends.  I am not ashamed of my med.  Without it, I would be in a very dark place or not here at all.

To ‘The Free Thought Project’: research more on what is truth and what is fiction.  I don’t care if you lean liberal or conservative.  The Mentally Ill are a large population and by posting this, you are making us want to hide more.  Because of this, many people will stay silent.  Because of this, many people will not get the help they need.  Because of this thinking, more deaths by suicide will occur.  Remember that old adage “Stop and think before you speak”?  It would have come in handy here.

To all my fellow people with Mental Illness, please do not hide.  Do not believe a word of this absurdity.  There is help.  A walk in the woods can help, but it is not a cure.  It will not help as much as therapy and medication.  Remember:

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About Stephanie Paige: I am a mid 30-something  wife, Architectural Project Manager and most importantly, mom to a beautiful yet hormonal 10-year-old girl. My passion is the outdoors (whether hiking, snowshoeing or gardening), reading, writing, and advocating for Mental Illness & Maternal Mental Health.

My history starts at the tender age of 14 and over the last 20+ years, I have been through 6 episodes of Major Depressive Disorder, 2 episodes of Extreme Generalized Anxiety Disorder, 2 hospitalizations and a multitude of medications and therapies.

I am a repeat contributor to both Stigma Fighters and The Mighty.  I have also been a guest blogger on Postpartumprogress.com. In 2016 I was published in Stigma Fighter’s Anthology II, interviewed for an article in Esperanza Spring 2016 magazine and a contributing author for a book about Perinatal Mood Disorders, A Dark Secret.

Read more about Stephanie Paige at her site,  S. Paige Writes: Rising From The Ashes: My 20+ Years With Mental Illness

@SPaigeWrites

I swear.

In the middle of the political flurry of the week, an interesting story flew under the radar. Breaking News: A woman said fuck.

F-bomb dropping Gillibrand: ‘I try very hard not to swear at home’

One of the things that I know I can do with this site is to let women express themselves honestly and openly. This includes swearing. I swear I do not understand why it is a stretch of our professional pantyhose to imagine a woman who can swear and sort out her life with grace and glory (and even a Ph.D.). But profanity is associated with anger, and angry women have never been looked upon favorably by Western civilization. Stigma serves men in this way. Swearing women are less than, lack purity. These impure, possibly less-educated women never got the memo on how to behave appropriately. The words that come out of their mouths are representative of their moral character.

But we are encouraged to wear next to nothing and talk dirty to the whatever in our lives in order to secure company.

I swear we are not hysterical. We are alive. Using language to express ourselves is a part of the full spectrum of the human condition and not a warning sign that we are dangerous, derelict, or in need of education. What is dangerous, however, is society’s tacit yet relentlessly smug group-on-construct that women are not allowed to be angry, or swear, without social repercussions in the form of the time-out that is a stereotype. Stereotypes that not only hurt our spirit but actually have the power to hinder our ability to care for our children. The stereotypes of angry women as bad mothers is real.  Know it. And lurking around in that construct are the rules on words: swearing is not allowed.

Bad mothers don’t swear. Proper women don’t swear. Professional

(enter your job title here) don’t swear. Go to your room, young

lady. Whatever you do….don’t get angry or no one will hire you and

you will never meet a man.

Hmmm…

Now, the highest paying jobs for men is arguably professional athletics.

Professional athletes don’t swear or anything. Right? Please.

And, hang on a second, I could be wrong, but I swear what has been told to me by Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper, Bill O’Reilly, Shawn Hannity, Chris Matthews, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams, and Chris Todd is that the beheading, raping, serial killing, school shooting, hatchet attacking, shoe bombing, underwear bombing, cop killing, unarmed teenager killing, land stealing, human trafficking, sex slaving, child molesting, bank swindling, environment destroying is being done by men.

Not that men have anger issues or anything. Frackers.

Sometimes some of us swear. But none of us swoon on the fainting couches fancied by Freud. Although they would love it if we did. We are all too busy keeping our children alive while the other half of the sky slaughters the world and gets better press. Fuck that.

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Walker is a single mom of two teenagers. She has been known to wear jeans at work.

I can’t afford mental health awareness, anonymous

People talk a lot about increasing awareness of mental health. The last thing I want is anyone to be aware of my mental health. I know they would immediately judge me as a mother. They would judge if I were late picking up my daughter at daycare, late to parent-teacher conferences, late to soccer practice.

Can you imagine if I got tipsy with moms who knew about my mental illness at girl’s night out? Can you imagine if I got divorced or fought with my kid in public? No way. I don’t want anyone to be aware of anything.  There is too much to lose. I need my job; I need health insurance. I need people to NOT be aware of my mental illness.

Awareness is for people who aren’t moms; or moms who don’t have to work.

anonymous