All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


Day 14: Have you ever experienced stigma?

Day fourteen of the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge asks:
Have you ever experienced stigma?

Time to Change image

“Mental illness is a figment of your imagination. It doesn’t exist.
You’re just being lazy, selfish and not working hard enough,”

~ My abuser, 2007 ~

This quote has reverberated around my mind since it was first spoken to me during a phone conversation six and a half years ago. Her words caused me to bottle up my emotions and hide my experiences for fear of other people judging me in the same light.

This is what stigma does; it forces someone into hiding, it forces them to question who they are and, ultimately, isolates them from a society that could (and should) help them.

Being someone with mental health problems…

Several months after I began writing this blog, in mid-2008, I began noticing that people were finding my blog by typing variations of my name into search engines. At the time I found it odd that people were doing this, especially as they were typing in my middle name (or middle initial), which very few people know. It didn’t take long for me to work out (with the added benefit of being able to see the ISP location of the people searching) that these searches were being conducted by people I had recently interviewed for a job with. Needless to say, I never heard from these people again.

Granted, I have no firm evidence for the above, but the coincidences involved are too great for me to ignore. Just as my friends fleeing as fast as they could shortly after my breakdown, never to be heard from again, is too coincidental for me to chalk up to chance.

However much I dislike being the recipient of this sort of stigma, when it comes to mental health, the one aspect I cannot abide is when mental health services discriminate against someone with mental health problems. To be told that I should have understood the complexities of my sister’s mental health problems (when I was twelve) and that it was my fault that I allowed it affect me the way I did; to be told that there was nothing wrong with me; to be told that I was fabricating everything that ever happened to me; to be told I was play-acting mental illness in order to escape homelessness; to be told that I didn’t deserve to have children; all of which made me feel far more alone and isolated than my abuser’s comment ever did.

Being someone who was homeless…

During my time on the streets I was refused service from several shops and food outlets who informed me they didn’t serve “people like me”, I was continually judged as being an alcoholic, a drug user and a criminal, simply because I didn’t have anywhere to live and people would spit on me, pour coffee over me or attack me whenever they felt, as if me being homeless gave them the license to treat a human being in such a despicable manner.

And, much like with the mental health services outlined above, there were even homeless services – organisations whose sole aim was to help those less fortunate – who discriminated against me; refusing me assistance because I didn’t share the same religious values that they did or because I wouldn’t admit to my (non-existant) drug problem.

Being someone who was a victim of abuse…

As a male victim of abuse, the level of victim blame mentality I’ve received over the years is epic; friends who informed me I deserved to be treated the way my abuser treated me, housemates who told me I deserved to be beaten for being the victim of an abusive relationship and more individuals than I can count (both personal and professional) who will not believe I was sexually assaulted, simply because I am a male victim of multiple forms of abuse.

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Mi Recovery: Introduction

mi recovery

Following Acting Up, another group I have begun this year is called “Mi Recovery”. Of all the groups I have begun this term, this is the one I am most looking forward to undertaking.

Mi Recovery is a peer education program for people living with mental illness, offering a peer based approach to the complex issues faced by people with mental illness by combining challenges faced through the lived experience with up to date best practice research. The program adopts a holistic approach where a person can acknowledge their whole self rather than living ‘as their illness(es).’

As with some of my other groups, I have decided to share my experiences of the group on this blog, not merely to chronicle my progress but to share any information or strategies I learn in the hope that others may find them useful in their own journeys.

Given confidentiality is paramount, these posts will focus only on my personal experiences and journey, as discussing the health and wellbeing of others without their permission can have a devastating effect on recovery, trust and health.

Over the following ten weeks I am hoping that Mi Recovery will assist in the creation of new coping strategies, further refine existing coping skills and help remind me who I am and my place in the world.

Only time will tell whether I’m successful in these goals but, as always, I will be giving it my best! :)

“Recovery does not mean that one is ‘cured’ nor does it mean that one is simply stabilized or maintained in the community. Recovery often involves a transformation of the self, wherein one both accepts one’s limitations and discovers a new world of possibility.”
~ Patricia Deegan~

Week 01: Theory on mental illness and factors that enable recovery.
Week 02: Reframing my Whole Self and Understanding Stigma.
Week 03: Treating myself.
Week 04: Planning for Recovery.
Week 05: Working with Relapse.
Week 06: Communication Skills and Strategies.
Week 07: Stigma, Discrimination, Rights and Advocacy.
Week 08: Making the most of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Week 09: Motivating purposeful activity.
Week 10: Review of recovery aspirations and program conclusion.