#iamstigmafree

Recently, the psychology classes at school have been making posters on various mental disorders. Some disappeared today, so I’m wondering if the recognition is coming to an end, but I have a couple of stories to tell.

I’ve always considered myself bipolar to some extent. I don’t fully recognize the manic and depressive stages, but I often feel like a pregnant woman, always craving one activity or another to the exclusion of all else. It wasn’t until I learned the true definition a short while ago that I began classifying myself in different ways, though I still don’t have an answer. Generally, I don’t find problems in my obsessions because they are productive in their natures, but recently the frequency with which they have been interrupted has increased. These interruptions–often cast forcefully by an arbitrary decision of societal forces–are one of the few things that create vehement conflict, which is why I’ve chosen to pursue liberating jobs since the end of last school year.

Last year, my junior year of high school, migraines were thrown into the mix of swings I’d learned to accept. I’d had headaches like any other teen, but by a few weeks into the school year they began assaulting me nearly non-stop. My cross country season came to an early, abrupt halt for the third year in a row and I began missing tons of school either to stay at home or visit an ever-growing list of doctors and specialists. No one could find anything physically wrong. I was given a few different medications to try treating the headaches, but none worked. People began to point to stress. My mom hopped on the boat and sailed past the horizon. I didn’t care. Nothing I said changed anyone’s mind, but I was getting out of the stifling environments of the school classrooms under teachers that denied the presence of any subject but their own. By missing class, I was escaping the reach of dictators appointed for their experience, but acting as though their knowledge and wisdom were their true, unrivaled qualities. I was also able to share my ideas and learn more about why so many of society’s vices are in place, despite widespread opposition.

Eventually, I ended up in two offices at least once a week. One of the school counselors began working with me after I opened up to my favorite teacher. The first time she called me in after the dam broke, she told me quite simply that, though I might be “fine” when I was out in the halls, while talking to her, it was evident that there was something deeper, so I needed to share it. She also informed me that she would not call me out of class, but that I could come to her at any point and expect an ear. I visited her multiple times because she had offered exactly what I needed: someone to talk to on my time and on my terms. She did, however, always do a wonderful job of bringing her own angles into discussion, keeping me rooted in reality. The other office was one my mother found. We went in to a psychologist every week, at whatever time worked best for my mom and the psychologist. Every session ended with an invitation back that everyone new was nothing but a verbal contract that was binding even without my express agreement. There were certainly times that I got in a good vent, but I always had a timer ticking away to the non-negotiable time limit. Other times I came in on perfect days and was told that only the bad days counted there, so I had to recall them and pry their secrets out, into the light that they quickly consumed. Everything quickly became “the problem with me” and “the reason I couldn’t take care of myself.” I couldn’t take care of myself–at least not if I couldn’t be trusted with the free will I was naturally given. Figures removed in time, age, location, and understanding dictated what I needed to have done for what every child is told is their first job: school. I stopped visiting the psychologist after my mom was exposed to a relatively normal conversation between myself and the “doctor.”

In a final effort to stop the headaches I already noticed improving, my mom connected with a psychiatrist and had me visit her. By the time I made it in, I was tired of being pulled around. As I’ve grown fond of saying lately, “my life is a social experiment that I both oversee and take a part in.” I don’t always control all the variables, but I’ve become pretty reliable when it comes to analyzing what I observe. I chose to take an active role in the experiment when I went in to see the psychiatrist for the first, and only, time. I had started to grow my hair out and it was a mess, so I crafted my visual composure to reflect what people perceive as moodiness and gloom. I entered the room and began conveying my backstory with my mom. The psychiatrist had my mom leave so she could talk to me on more intimate level. She asked me to rate my conditions on a scale of 1-10. In her words, 10 was to mean that I felt I was handsome, smart, happy, successful, etc. while 1 meant I was ugly, dumb, worthless, wanted to kill myself, etc. Conveying the confident, intelligent internal personality I had held the entire meeting, I told her that the scale rated both my self-worth and my emotional standards without distinction, so I proposed a new set of standards and gave myself high values of self-worth, but average values of emotional stability. She rejected my response and said I couldn’t be higher than a 2 on her scale. The discussion ended, my mother was summoned, and I was prescribed heavy dosages of anti-depressants. As I said, we never returned. We never got the medicine either.

Everywhere we look, we’re told it’s a big deal to go to a “shrink” for help. What we have to remind ourselves is that any doctors are just as much a person as the rest of us. However, this acts as a double-bladed sword: a “patient” is really just finding someone that is willing to listen, while the “doctor” is just as susceptible to the stigma as the rest of us. In my search, I only found one psychological professional that I could talk to without being judged by the very person trying to “help.” The friends that I have found, however, tend to listen much better, as long as I’m willing to open up. Therefore, I will close with a question and a challenge. Why do we seek a commercialized solution to what everyone refers to as a “personal problem?” Telling someone already facing a struggle that they are not welcome in our natural space forces emotions to bottle up until they burst, then opens the door so reflection can scatter the remains as soon as they have been recollected. I invite everyone to join me in offering kind ears and loving arms whenever and wherever they are needed. Bring mental health back out to the masses and away from hidden offices.

~Snots

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