Thursday, December 01, 2011

The pain of stigma

I had always thought that I had been fortunate - that I had not been touched too much by the effects of stigma. But in the last little while, I've been deeply hurt a number of times by stigma and gross understanding about what it is to live with bipolar disorder. And one of the worst things is that the hurtful remarks were made to me by friends who I had considered supporters.

If it weren't for the friendship of three people in the church - people who are compassionate and caring and offer strong support, even though they might not always understand totally - I might have be tempted to leave this church, though it has done so much to encourage me and Living Room. I had just yesterday lauded the wonderful work of the church in supporting people with mental illness and how that has led to many Living Room groups.

But the poison of the remarks has been so very painful - more painful than the effects of the disorder itself. They are affecting me deeply. Though maybe it's the disorder - the severe moods - that make me especially sensitive. Never-the-less, it sickens me to have my pain and the pain of others who live with mental illness so grossly misunderstood.

What led to this post - amongst other things - is something a friend said to me this morning in response to my current problems with rapid cycling. She said "Your husband deserves a medal. Most husbands would have been out of there long ago." This isn't the first time she said this to me. She has said almost the same thing a number of times before and does it ever hurt! It has hurt me deeply.

By saying that she suggests that all I've been to my husband is a drain. That I haven't given anything to him. That I don't give anything back. And that is so completely false.

The truth is that I give a lot to my family, my community - and even the world. But when she said this it was as though that didn't count for anything. As though the only thing worth looking at was my mental illness. As though mentally ill people never give anything back.

As much as I'm able I pour out all I have in love for others. I pour out until I have almost nothing left to give. Then I have to refresh myself at the never-ending fountain of Jesus' love. I rest; I recover; and then I am ready to start working again. And resting is what I'm trying to do now.


Liz said...

Dear Marja,

I was reading your post today and felt the need to reply. I've been reading a lot of your posts in the last years and so many times they have been helpful. I am sure they are for so many people.

I am from Spain and wrote some time ago too. My brother has a mental illness and we've been dealing with a lot of opinions.
Anyway I just wanted to share with you a story that encouraged me a few days ago.

I think the key to what you wrote is that you know the truth. Most of the times people say part of what they know or feel about others. Sometimes it hurts a lot but the fact is that it's not ALL the truth. God knows the truth about ourselves and that was something I felt encouraged by. He knows your real worth.

I hope that you find rest in God's true opinion about you and the reminder of those people who can say good and sincere things about you. Even Jesus asked His disciples who people thought He was and only accepted what God revealed to Peter: "You are the Son of God" and told Peter what He knew he was. (Matthew 16:13-20) Only God truly knows.

You will be in my prayers these days, Marja. Blessings,


By Janice said...

hey marja,
i want to tell you that I agree with what Liz said, what people say is often without thinking of the consequences that thier words would incur. Actually a member of my group went to speak to the pastor of the church she used to attend to tell him how low she was feeling and he told her that she just needed to pray more and confess any sins she could think of to get healing from God. This really made her feel even more terrible and she did a great thing. She went back to him another time and asked if he would stand by what he said if it was a matter of life and death for the person suffering. He then said that he couldn't do that.
I have told Wayne at times that I felt bad that he was stuck with me and that he didn't sign up for this when we got married. He always assures me that bpd is not me and that I bless him in ways that he thanks God for everyday.
So know Marja that you have blessed me so much in my life ( and your husbands too.

marja said...

Thank you, Liz and Janice,

And yes, Liz, I remember your previous visit (or was it visits?) to my blog quite well.

Thank you both for your thoughtful comments and your prayers. I want to pursue this topic just a bit further in my next post.