The paradox of self-stigma

It’s been a long while since I posted anything on this blog and I think it’s been because the past few years I’ve been in a lot of denial about my own mental health. In 2014 I started university, and in hopes of being a ‘normal’ student I pushed my mental illness aside and tried to ‘get on with it’. It didn’t work. The past few years have been marked with intermittent breakdowns and long stretching periods of depression for which I would get no help in the hopes that they would pass, but also because the NHS does not allow me to get any help. These past few years I have been my own worst enemy.
I find that often people who have to battle mental illness everyday are labelled as ‘strong’, and it was this label that caught me out. I was ‘strong’ to the point where I ignored my own needs because I didn’t want to succumb or admit that I was unwell. But these past few months I’ve learnt that being strong isn’t about fighting through mental illnesses, because for some mental illness is a life long reality – it’s about endurance. I endure mental torture every day, I endure physical health problems every day, I endure having my mind and body against me and still I survive. The strength comes in the survival, not in the being mental illness free.
The irony is, I feel so much stigma towards myself and my own mental illness. It’s a special brand of stigma, self-stigma, that we reserve especially for ourselves. The paradox of self-stigma has been fairly written about in academic literature and the effects can be seen in three ways; some people damage their self-esteem, some are invigorated and outraged by it, and some are neither. I am the former. I feel that me having my mental illness makes me weak and pathetic, things which if someone else was going through the same situation would never even cross my mind.
I am aware of my stigma towards myself, but some people are not. Some people are new to this, to navigating the world of mental health and to them I would say this, be kind to yourself. Take time out of you need to, this will probably not get better by itself. Take yourself out on long walks, write, think about life. Go to the doctors, but do not expect them to save you, because they are underfunded and the waits are far too long. I have spent so many years now just trying to get on with it, and let me tell you it does not work. We need help and we need support; what’s terrifying is that for years I tried to get help on the NHS and was completely unable to do so, the constant rejection that I have received from health services fuels my own feelings of unreservedness. Take all the time you need, it’s not worth pushing through and ‘getting over it’. It doesn’t work.