Why Not Accept Yourself Just the Way You Are?

Inner_DestigmatizationIt was only after I had come out of the closet with my mental problems that I realized how much the stigma of mental illness is an inner and not an outer problem. In my opinion the real problem is the prejudice I have of me not the prejudice others have of me as a mental health consumer. This opinion definitely proved right, when I told a group of total strangers at a marketing seminar that I have schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type. The result was that a manager of a software company promised to provide a computer engineer to design this page for free. And he really did that! See a blog about this marketing seminar.

Telling my friends and family about my mental illness was not really “coming” out of the closet. We are close as a family and naturally my parents and my brother were there for me and thus knew everything. I had no boyfriend, when I first fell ill. I don’t remember how my close friends found out that I was ill. Maybe I phoned one of them or the news simply spread somehow. All I remember and I will never forget is that they all came to visit and we stayed friends till today. Thus in my case coming out of the closet in my private life was not problematic. I am well aware of the fact that many people are not that lucky.

I had some dates with guys after my first mental illness episode in 1996. I must have scared them away either with my diagnosis or with my behavior. I had almost given up hope, but then I met my future husband while running a marathon in 1999. He asked me on our first date: “Why are you seeing Dr. Janez Rugelj?” I am not good at lying, so I told him the truth: “Because I am nuts.” He smiled and said: “You are not nuts.” I replied: “I am. I hallucinated. I heard something that was not there.” He smiled again and said: “Oh, yeah! I know that. Once I read about a guy that thought he was hallucinating, but in reality a filling in a tooth was receiving a radio signal he could hear.” ― “O. K.,” I thought to myself, “that went well.” You can imagine the relief. And it worked. We are married now.

The second coming out of the closet took place at work. I did it after about 5 years of working there and I did it gradually ― person by person. I started with those I could trust. The reactions of my colleagues at work were for example:
– “Well, we are all a bit nuts, aren’t we?”
– “Sorry, but you are by far the least paranoid person I have talked to today.”
– “Oh, dear, do you realize how many people are worse cases than you?”

Some people liked me even more than before. Gradually I got to the point, where I could tell practically anyone. And finally I wrote a book about it.

Now… I might be the luckiest person on earth. OR …there might be something wrong with the amount of fear around stigma of mental illness. As you have probably heard before FEAR can stand for F = false, E = evidence, A = appearing, R = real.

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