Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Speaking Out!

Yesterday I wrote about the stigma and derogatory labels attached to people with mental illness. As a speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, I attempt to dispel that stigma. The extensive list of labels, put-downs, and untruths I included in yesterday's post comes straight out of the mouths of my audiences. We ask for those labels as part of a stigma-busting exercise. The junior-high kids, especially, love yelling them out. But audience members of all ages recognize, use and understand them. Similarly, each audience shifts uncomfortably when asked to vocalize derogatory terms for people with other illnesses like liver disease, cancer, or diabetes. Someone in the younger crowd usually yells something like, "You can't call those people names. That's not nice." I love it.
I decided to "come out" as a person with mental illness shortly after being fired (see "It all started when..."). During the long process of attempting to reclaim my job, suing, arbitration, and settlement, I developed an awareness of unfairness. I realized if this could happen to me, an educated healthcare professional working at a hospital, it was likely happening to many others in every walk of life! I was lucky. I had my education and was 5 years into my second career when my illness struck. Many of us with this brain disease are struck in our developmental prime, late high school or early college years. If I could be fired from a professional healthcare position, what was happening to my compatriots who were still working their way up? And, even more scary, what could they do about it? Did they know they could do anything about it? Or did the loss of their educational and/or financial foundation just pile on to the loss of their emotional foundation, effectively pushing them yet further down. Throw into the mix the family's confusion and perhaps shame...on and on and on. I had to "come out".
I was lucky. I was an educated mental health professional. I knew a bit about the law. I knew there were resources to find any information I didn't know. I was motivated by unfairness. And though my spouse jumped ship, I had a big mouth and was able to find community support. I had paid into a disability plan while working, and initially those benefits paid my bills. I could focus on getting treatment, getting well, and fighting the discrimination. I was fortunate.
Don't get me wrong. It absolutely SUCKED! I would prefer never to have gone through it. And while I won my suit, the amount was not great. It didn't take long for that amount to disappear. Healthcare costs are astronomical when you don't have health insurance! But, I won. They were wrong. I didn't roll over and go away. Instead, I was motivated to share my experience, educate, support and fight for others. And I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And I am indescribably GRATEFUL for what you've done! Finding your blog might just be my lifesaver!