Stigma: The Ongoing Battle
Mental and physical anxiety are no doubt intertwined, but sometimes, doctors, family, friends and others can label your physical symptoms as simple anxiety, when in fact there is something going on internally that needs to be addressed. Right now, I am coming off my second admittance to the hospital for stomach related issues in the past year. This time I lost 12 lbs. in three days due to a severe stomach bug coupled with my IBS. Unfortunately, when I was rushed to the emergency room for a high heart rate that was later determined to be due to excess dehydration, I was seen as the boy who cried wolf yet again.
I must admit, I have been there many times in the past due to my anxiety and I understand that my history makes it easy to label certain problems as simple anxiety acting up, however, what I wish doctors/nurses/family and friends knew, was that sometimes it is not just my anxiety, there are real physical symptoms at play here, and they need to be addressed as if I was a person who had never walked through those doors before.
Unfortunately, this is the stigma we as people who suffer from mental health conditions encounter on a daily basis. We not only feel sick, and are sometimes ashamed of how we feel, but when we seek treatment for something we feel to be so real to us, we are shrugged off. I have been fortunate to meet a few doctors that seem to understand and care, but it doesn’t end with just them. Family members and friends can make you feel worse about your symptoms. In my case, some just simply don’t want to hear it that I’m sick anymore, it has been too long for them. I understand this mindset, but it does not make it any easier to feel like you have let people down. It is also tough during the holidays when you feel pressured by family to attend certain events, and you don’t feel physically up to it, so yet again you are deemed as making your symptoms up.
The reason I write this story is that I want to give hope to others out there and let you know, you are not alone! As someone who suffers from both physical and mental health conditions, we must fight twice as hard to be understood by those around us. Finding the right support system is key in this battle. Even though 90 percent of people don’t understand what we are going through, 10 percent will at least try to be of support. The only person in the world you need to prove anything to is yourself. If you think you are doing the right things for you, and other people tend to judge you, well that is a reflection of themselves, and the best thing to do is to focus on you!
The stigma we face unfortunately will never go away, but hopefully with stories such as this, we can help each other get through it. Never give up on advocating for yourself, because in a lot of cases, no one else will do it for you!
In the words of the great Dr. Seuss: Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind!
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