"Internalised stigma?" | Holding on to my voice.

This is a term I heard for the first time last year, and at the time I didn't really know what to make of it. It's only in recent weeks that I've truly come to understand what it is, and how the impact of it can quickly become devastating.

Take my breakdown in London, for example. People were called to come and help me, and when I saw them / spoke to them, I cried, apologising profusely, saying they shouldn't have been called for something so silly. I was talking down my own crisis which eventually led to a self harm relapse.

More recently however, I've had a more “intense” experience of internalised stigma.

Since day one of this website, I've been fearful that someone would mistake my efforts for attention seeking. It's something I'd been accused of in the past, and it doesn't get less hurtful with time. Last week, it happened. Someone accused me of using the blog and my personal social media as a mechanism with which to seek attention for myself.

I'd been planning to write this post for last week, to publish on Monday 13th. I put it on hold because I became convinced that this person's accusations held some sort of merit. For a while, I felt like I couldn't speak out any more. I thought it might be best if I just go back to hiding in a corner, not sharing, because what if I was attention seeking? What other reason is there for unveiling some of the darkest corners of my mind and showing them to the rest of the world?

Here's the thing. Yes, the blog is a form of attention seeking. However, the attention I'm seeking isn't for me specifically, it's for everyone who is living with mental illness. And whilst this one person misunderstood my motives, when it comes to others who are living with the same illnesses as mine, I've received nothing but thanks.

It can be hard to explain your mind to someone. So when someone stands up and says “hey, this is my story, you aren't alone”, it's a relief. During the panel I sat on in London this month, I pointed out that when I was diagnosed, I didn't look for the figures. I looked for the people. People, for me, offer more comfort than numbers.

Now it's my turn to be that comfort for someone else. It took a week, but I've shut down my internal narrative that told me to be quiet. I don't doubt it'll come up again; it's hard not to panic when someone gives a voice to one of your biggest fears. But the main thing is, this is something I plan to fight. I am as worthy of a voice as anyone else.

Others may either feel uncomfortable using their voices or simply choose not to use their voices because it's more convenient to stay silent. However, it took years for me to find my voice, and I have no intention of giving it up for anybody.