04 October 2016

#ImNotAshamed

It’s a big day for this hashtag on Twitter.

You can find the movement at https://twitter.com/teamnotashamed

It’s designed to help young people speak out about mental illness and hopefully break down the stigma which leads to self-harm and suicide.

If you look at their face page you’ll see a panorama of smiling, young people staring back at you. I wish them the best. Maybe their generation will be the one to finally put stigma out of business. One can hope at any rate.

Many of them are from the UK (Team Not Ashamed is in NYC) where services, yes, even the NHS, are as shitty as ours but the big difference is there are FAR more non-corporate grass roots advocacy groups there than here. Here in US it seems, no one wants to do it unless they can get a corner office and an expense account (I’m looking at you NAMI).

In any case, I had a twitter exchange with a young lady from the UK this morning that basically had an ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude toward those who refuse to acknowledge her personhood.

Of course, she is young and can bounce back and find a great deal of grassroots support, as I have said, where she is. Not so simple in the US, as I have found. Copping that kind of attitude, as righteous at it may be, means usually a quick trip to the unemployment line, poverty, incarceration, even worse.

You know I’ve been there and I needn't repeat the story.

Am I ashamed?

Honestly, yes, I am. At least outwardly, I have to be. I live in a society where mental illness is still largely regarded as a personal moral failing and psychiatry has much the same prestige as quackery. While there are some parts of the US where the attitude is different, in most places, it’s still best to keep it to yourself and if you can’t do that, at least apologize for it if it offends anyone or gets in the way of making money.

In all honesty I would MUCH rather have the police called on me in the UK if I were having a mental emergency (or Germany, or France, or Denmark, or Norway, or. . . ) than in the US. Do I need to say why?

If I knew at 18 what I know I know, I would be in another country. Not because I hate America but because I would need to be in a society where people with my issues are more accepted – not necessarily more helped – but more accepted, especially in the workplace.

In the ongoing crisis with my Federal workplace, my union representative even cautioned me not to fall back on my condition for any reason even though the VA has programs for accommodating the hiring of people with various disabilities including mental illness.

“All they’ll hear is that you can’t do the job anymore and they’ll get rid of you for that,” she said.
But I can and HAVE been doing the job, and, I have been WORKING steadily since I turned 16. I’ve had a grand total of seven months of unemployment in 37 years.

Why now?

I ran into a group of people I should NOT have let my guard down with or been honest with in any way. I have this naiveté that people, especially in places like where I work, are decent and caring and helpful. I really have no one to blame but myself for walking into this and giving nasty people a sword to run me through.

If I am ashamed of anything, it’s that. I wish I could keep my guard up like other people. I don’t understand it, since I am usually a pretty paranoid person – just one who can’t keep from oversharing.

And I see a presidential candidate that can be counted upon to look at mental illness in the usual American way. You slackers won’t get any sympathy from Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton may be making false promises, but she’s at least being respectful.


So, for me, it’s not so much shame that’s the issue, its despair. And I think that’s a lot more dangerous.