Monday, 25 September 2017

We Are Not Your Stereotype

We Are Not Your Stereotype mental health illness OCD depression anxiety PTSD

I've heard time and time again from so many people that it's not always the mental illness that is the hardest part to deal with, but, the stigma that surrounds it. Whichever mental illness you think of there will be some stereotypes attached to it. These stereotypes are damaging, they curate stigma which makes it hard for sufferers to seek support.

I suffer from a range of mental health problems. Every mental illness has some kind of negative label or stereotype attached to it which makes talking about the problem a lot harder. I know all too well what the stereotypes are around depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, as I experience them almost on a weekly basis.

However, for this blog post, I thought I would spice things up a bit. Instead of reading me waffling on about OCD, I thought I would get some other people in who struggle with their mental health and different illnesses to talk to me about the stigma they face. When I sent out the tweet I got a fantastic response, thank you, everyone, who replied. Sorry I couldn't get back to everyone. I hope this blog post aims to educate you on the stereotypes attached to a wide range of mental health problems, not just the illnesses I suffer from. Sit back, grab a cuppa...it's going to be a long one.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

If you've read any of my posts about OCD you will know what I'm going to say, it's pretty obvious really. OCD is not an adjective. Someone with OCD is often stereotyped as being obsessed with hygiene, cleaning and washing their hands. OCD is often used to describe people who like things neat, tidy or just in the right order. When in fact all you are describing is perfectionism. OCD is a real illness which has a devastating impact on sufferers life's and funny enough doesn't have to have anything to do with cleaning. 

Here are what other people said, who have experienced a wide range of different mental health problems. 

Bipolar

"When people learn that I am bipolar, their immediate assumption is usually that I must be erratic and unpredictable, with my mood changing every five minutes. Although some people with bipolar do experience rapid mood changes, I personally don’t experience these and instead have episodes which last several months or even years. There are many types of bipolar disorder with different symptoms, and frustratingly people conflate terms and diagnoses and suggest that my experience is wildly different to what it is." (Ellen Jones)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

"Since being diagnosed with PTSD, I've received a lot of comments where people have clearly had a pre-established idea of what the disorder is. When I first went to university, I'd told a friend I had post traumatic stress expecting to understand, but instead, they almost tried to correct me. They said "I thought only men could get PTSD" because he only thought infantry soldiers could experience it. I've also been asked if, I get really sweaty due to night time flashbacks, and if I hear gunshots (what even?) but anyone who's experienced trauma of any kind can go through PTS and PTSD. People need to start understanding that." (Beth Ashley)

We Are Not Your Stereotype OCD anxiety depression PTSD bipolar help support

Depression/ anxiety 


"If I have had a good day or a happy day...people assume I'm cured. They don't seem to understand depression & anxiety is somewhat permanent, it will always be beneath the surface and just because I've had a good day/week/month, doesn't change that. Vice/Versa as well, if I have a bad day I get criticised and accused of reverting back to an old way, which isn't true. I wish people understood the permanence of mental illness, it's not something you just 'get over' it's almost as if you have to adjust your life accordingly to accommodate it." (Travel Bear)

"Some people think it's a phase, that it's just something everybody goes through while growing up. For me, I figured it was a part of puberty and that at some point all teenagers experience this overwhelming sadness and panic. The typical friendship problems, changing classes, exams and body changes all affect us in different ways, and I thought I just struggled with these things. But after confiding in a teacher and later my parents, I understood that it wasn't 'normal' to feel this way."  

"I do experience and read comments like 'just stop being miserable,' 'think about what other people are going through,' 'it's not all about you,' 'please just be happy,' 'you are taking your medication right?'. These are some of the most unhelpful things to say to someone who is experiencing depression and/or anxiety. We have an illness. You wouldn't tell someone with a physical illness to 'just get over it' or to 'stop being pathetic'." (Abbie)

Anxiety 

"So many, actually far too many people believe that people with anxiety are weak, lazy and quiet or even snobby. In fact, the majority of us are quite the opposite. The assumed snobbiness and quietness I believe stems from the fact that people may see us in situations that we are anxious and unable to talk. This doesn’t mean that some of us don’t want to talk or socialize, we’re just not in the best headspace. People with anxiety are also stereotyped as being weak because people think it’s weak if people cannot face their fears or aren’t up to doing what everyone else is doing. Just because we’re not comfortable doing things at a particular moment in our lives doesn’t mean that we won’t be ready a few months down the road" (Kate)

"The stereotype I face most frequently because of my anxiety condition is that I must get worried by everything all of the time. This assumption can cause people to treat me very differently. They try to take the pressure off me by excluding me from potentially stressful jobs, events or conversations. It comes from a good place, but it isolates me and prevents me from reaching my full potential." (Rob)

I really hope you enjoyed this post and the spin I took on it. I think it's kind of interesting to get other people involved and hear different perspectives. I'm always for learning more about mental health and various mental illnesses, as we all should be.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this post! Make sure you follow them all on Twitter. 

Have you ever experienced or heard of these stereotypes before? Have we missed anything? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading, as always X

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