I just read this article about the woman in Edina who was feeling so ashamed for having to use food stamps at the supermarket and how her teenage daughter, who was bagging the groceries, witnessed the reaction of the rude woman behind them in line when their food stamps card was being used.
Yes. I admit it. I feel this way too a lot of days. I do feel shame. I receive disability benefits through my former company and I HATE it. I spend $600 of that a month to keep my COBRA (health insurance) so I can continue my healthcare coverage, and I HATE that too. I used to have only about $50 a month deducted from my paycheck for health and dental insurance. I hate that I am not back in corporate america yet when my last fall only lasted a few months. I hate having to pass up on things because I can’t afford them because I’m still paying my divorce attorney (which takes up almost my entire month’s income) because I chose to waive my right to back support and decided it would cost more to fight for attorneys fees than it would be to pay them myself, even though he’s employed and I’m not.
I hate that I am going to be 33 in less than a month and I am back living with my parents, back to the same position I was in when I first moved back after my college graduation, only then, I was 10 years younger with more hope and promise.
I have been denied benefits through Social Security twice already and know that my work benefits run out quite soon. Do I like relying on others the help me and support me right now?? NO!!! But, its unfortunately what has to be done. Sometimes, it has to be done. Do I wish I could rewind the clock and do things differently?? ALWAYS! But, doing that does not get me anywhere but feeling even crappier than I had already felt.
Sometimes, we can do all we can to manage our illness, but we fall down. Life throws us too much at once. We think we are prepared and can handle it, but we can’t. And THAT’S OK!!!! No human is resilient to everything. We just need to pick up and keep moving forward, not backwards.
When you encounter people like this woman in the grocery store, it can be hard to just brush it off. Sometimes, that can be the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and breaks you into the million pieces you were holding together with Elmer’s glue instead of Gorilla Glue. There is only so much you can brush off and continue to hold your head high before you just completely break.
This may not happen every day. I don’t feel ashamed every day. On days that I have helped someone, I feel happy and glad that I do what I do right now with my website and blog. However, when I’m in a social situation and I start getting asked questions about my job and what I do for a living, I feel more shame than anything. I obtained 2 bachelor’s degrees, graduated with honors, completed one year of law school, and yet, here I am, unemployed and my going to back to work date is completely undetermined. There’s definite shame there.
But, I, just like others, have an illness. It may not be physical like cancer, but a mental illness is still an illness. If someone took time off work because their body was destroyed and physically beat up from recovering from a surgery or from chemo, that seems to be ok. Well, my body and mind got beat up and worn down from all of the events life threw me and trying to maintain and keep the chemicals in my brain stabilized. Unfortunately, the brain took over and wiped me out. So why should I feel so ashamed and those with physical illnesses may not?
A lot of reasons really. You can’t always visibly see a mental illness. You get the “pick yourself up by the bootstraps,” or “just go do something that makes you happy and you will be better,” or “everyone gets depressed, just keep faking it til you make it,” expressions from others that really are more maddening than anything. Mental illness is more than just a little bit of depression. Its more than just being sad. The chemicals in your brain are not at the right levels and you can fake it all you want, pick up those boot straps, but the chemicals will not change. It takes more that just trying to be happy. And when you are down, its not just sad, it can be such a deep depression that you can’t even move. Yes, everyone gets sad and depressed at times. But, with bipolar disorder, the depression is much more extreme and it truly does affect your life and ability to live it the way you were.
Ashamed? Yes. I wish I could go back to living the way I was and wasn’t at this point in my life where I feel like one huge loser, but, I can only do so much. My actions can only help to a certain extent. A lot has to do with environmental factors and my brain chemistry. So, until I can get those right, I can only do so much and there is only so much in my power to help me out of this black hole and back to life as it was. I don’t need the peanut gallery smirking or mocking me, I don’t need those that are uneducated and refuse to educate themselves making comments to me about being dramatic, over exaggerating, etc. I don’t need the whole world judging me for something they may not understand.
At the end of the day, we are all people. We all have hearts, need oxygen to survive, and we all bleed red. Some of us have harder times than others, but before making comments or jokes, take a minute to think about the fact that maybe that person is already feeling ashamed. Not everyone needs a constant reminder by others because their life is a constant reminder.
Yes, I have bipolar disorder and I am not afraid to tell people that I have it. I am not afraid for the world to know. But, there are moments when I am ashamed that I am not recovering fast enough or good enough. I feel like I have so much more to do in this world and being knocked down like this is just holding me back. When meeting new people, yes, I’m ashamed that I don’t have a job right now because meeting relatives you have never met before at someone’s family party and coming right out and saying that you “aren’t working because you have bipolar disorder and are in the middle of a breakdown,” is not exactly what you would like to say to create a first impression. So, just because I am ashamed at times, does not mean that I do not fight against stigma for mental illness because the stigma that is attached is what is contributing to my shame.
Remember, “WE ALL BLEED RED, WE ALL TASTE RAIN, ALL FALL DOWN, LOSE OUR WAY, WE ALL SAY WORDS, WE REGRET, WE ALL CRY TEARS, WE ALL BLEED RED” ~Ronnie Dunn~