This episode goes with Chapter 1, Section 7 of Anxiety…I’m So Done with You!
In this episode, I address mental health stigma to decrease its effects on you, especially since it might stop you from getting help. Additionally, I discuss the following:
- Why stigma over mental health problems exists
- The problem of self-stigmatizing
- Why you defend your “differences.”
- Why you deserve to get help
That Dang Mental Health Stigma
We all need to work together to dismantle mental health stigma! I share my recommendation for eliminating mental health stigma in this episode.
Stigma makes us wait to get help. It’s a feeling of being a failure and a burden of shame for being different. If we were collectively able to normalize our mental health problems, stigma would undoubtedly decrease. Instead of thinking that some people have mental health problems and others don’t, it is helpful to understand that problems come from the context of our lives rather than an illness inside us.
Understanding stigma and what sustains it will help you to learn ways to decrease it. Don’t let the shame of feeling weak because you have anxiety or depression stop you from getting the help you need and deserve. The are many tools for overcoming anxiety and depression. Medicine is one of the available tools. Counseling is another. Here are some tips on making that decision.
“Don’t defend that you can’t. The more you defend that you can’t, the more you won’t be able to. Remember that Henry Ford quote. “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” If you constantly defend to people or defend yourself that you can’t do something, you will keep that limitation on your ability.”Doctor Jodi
To Medicate? Or, Not to Medicate?
Deciding whether to use psychotropic medication for anxiety or depression is difficult for many people. The significant stigma against people with mental health problems has much to do with that difficulty. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the decision because there is no definitive test to determine whether you need antidepressives. They are one of many tools that eliminate your symptoms and transform your life.
Like with most decisions, when deciding if psychotropic medicine is for you, you must weigh the risks of doing it against the benefits you will receive. For example, When you are profoundly suffering and have trouble pulling yourself back up, the risks are too dangerous and devastating. If you are having trouble:
- getting out of bed
- leaving the house
- motivating yourself to do anything
- avoiding self-harm, or
- shifting your attention off of the panic, dying, or intrusive thoughts
don’t hesitate to get some help! Also, please don’t assume that you have to do it alone. Healing happens in relationships and fails in isolation. Among many other tools, I list in this old blog post, consider medication a tool to get you well enough to do the psychological work of healing the rest of the way. Or, utilize another tool, like support groups, meditation, counseling, reading, creativity, exercise, good friends, or a new job, Don’t stay suffering because you think you “should” figure out how to get yourself better. You are not the first person to feel this way. Other people, like me, have gotten themselves better. Don’t reinvent the wheel. That causes a longer period of turmoil when you can simply follow the steps that are tried and true and get relief.
Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!”
I am so excited about this podcast. It accompanies my book by the same name, “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!” It’s a teen’s guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness, because that is what we’re going to do in the series: We’re ditching that freaking toxic stress and hardwiring your brain to generate happiness every day.
This is what you do: You read or listen to a section of the book. Then come on over here and listen to an episode where we’re going to go a little bit deeper, give more examples, and tell more stories. I want to provide you with everything you need to be sure that you find your way out of this horrible anxiety cycle so that you no longer have to suffer. Please leave me a five-star review on Apple podcasts. That’ll help me get in the ears of more people who need this series. Mental health problems are skyrocketing, especially among teenagers, and this series will change the tide.
Welcome to Chapter 1, Section 7: That Dang Stigma.
We are finally at the end of this chapter, where we went over so many different things to help you understand the context of anxiety and depression and anger, and any other emotional issues that might be coming up for you.
In this episode, we’re finally going to address this thing called stigma. You probably know what stigma is because you’ve read about it all over the place, and everybody’s talking about it on social media, trying to decrease the stigma of mental health problems. Stigma affects you because it is hard to escape, if not explicitly, then implicitly. We are talking about stigma because it is really important to stop it because, among other things that make us feel horrible, stigma prevents us from getting help.
Research says that people wait an average of 11 years to get help. There are other reasons for that, but stigma is significant. People stay suffering because they’re afraid to get help, often because they think they got themself into this, so they should be able to get themself out of it.
Those same colonizing ideas, the high expectations, that we discussed in the last episode. You remember our high expectations in this culture about you being able to handle everything by yourself, get yourself out of all the messes, and cure yourself of everything. It’s ridiculous.
Stigma, if you don’t know, is defined as “a mark of disgrace.” It’s a shame. You could experience stigma or judgment from other people or yourself. That’s you giving yourself shame for what you experienced. Many practitioners use the metaphor of diabetes to help people relieve their stigma, at least the self-stigma. As I explained in this section, there is not only any truth to that metaphor but it is totally unhelpful. They want you to think that this problem is not your fault, that it’s something that your body is doing.
Increases the mental health stigma
However, when you think about your body doing this, and it’s not the regular way a body’s supposed to do things, then you think of yourself as “different,” and this actually increases our stigma. We think that we’re different, we think that we can’t, we think we have a problem, we don’t understand why, and it makes us feel worse. It makes us feel like we don’t belong to “regular people.” Well, there is no normal, and there are no regular people. Everybody is different, and everybody has their things. But when you’re suffering inside your mind, that negativity towards yourself is so huge, and you just feel different. It’s devastating.
I argue that it would decrease our stigma a lot more if we normalized our mental health problems.
Suppose we see those problems come out of the contexts of our lives. We all experience contexts. We’re all in this world, and things happen. Bad things happen, some good things happen, and some benign things happen. Even when things don’t happen to us, we witness bad things happening or read about bad things happening. We hear our friends talk about bad things happening to them. These all create a context of heaviness, worry, toxic stress, and feeling like we’re out of control. We have a ripe context in this culture for mental health problems. That acknowledgment that we’re regular, humans having appropriate responses to our modern world would decrease the stigma more than anything else.
Mental health advocates
You’ve probably noticed that many mental health advocates online or many people struggling with mental health issues are speaking about their experience online. It’s helping people be more open and honest with how they feel and is taking down some stigma. But part of what is happening is people are defending that they’re different. In some ways, it’s beautiful. We’re all unique, and we’re all different. It’s great to celebrate our differences and acknowledge our differences.
Still, if you think there’s us versus them, there are “regular people,” and then “people with OCD,” or there are “regular people” and then “people with anxiety,” it affects how you see yourself. You see yourself as unable to do anything about that problem. Even if you don’t cognitively believe it, somewhere in that belief that you are different is implied that you’re unable to get better. This, hurts you, and I don’t want it to hurt you anymore.
One of my favorite quotes by Richard Bach is short, sweet, and to the point. It goes like this,
“Argue your limitations, and you get to keep them.”
This means when you defend that your deficits and inadequacies are real and awful, the more meaning you give them and the more intense you feel and attach to them.
It doesn’t mean denying them and invalidating the efforts you have to put forth because of them. Don’t defend that you can’t. The more you defend that you can’t, the more you won’t be able to. Remember that Henry Ford quote?
“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
If you constantly defend to people or defend to yourself that you can’t do something, you will keep that limitation on your ability.
How to Decrease the Mental Health Stigma
I suggest decreasing the mental health stigma by addressing why people defend their differences in the first place. They do this because they’re working really hard. People struggling with any kind of emotional problems, which is almost everybody, work really hard to do everything they do. They must overcome immobilization, lack of motivation, exhaustion, self-doubt, depression, and panic to do what they do.
It’s a miracle to get out of bed sometimes. It’s a miracle to do work. When it is hard to do things, doing anything is a miracle. The problem is that this effort is invisiblized by a culture that assumes we should be able to do more than we can.
Listen, you are amazing. However, you are probably not giving yourself any credit for that effort. But I’m sure you feel how much you are effort-ing.
When you’re in that place, and you see everyone else happy and think that they don’t have to make that same effort that you do, it makes you feel horrible about yourself. You are working hard, and it feels like no one else has to, and no one sees it. This is a lonely and discouraging place to be, and it also makes you feel unloved and wants to isolate yourself. Remember worrying if we are worthy of love is our most basic fear.
Notice and Validate People
In order to be seen and seen as worthy, we desire that people see our efforts, and in order to know if they see them, they need to acknowledge those efforts.
So what I think is: the most successful at decreasing the stigma is for us to start acknowledging each other’s efforts, start acknowledging each other’s worth as human beings. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? If you think about the world and think about all the things that hurt us are things that devalue us, which means anything that re-values us or gives us value helps us heal. This is important knowledge to have as you walk around the world in your human body and relate to anyone around you. Everybody you see has been hurt by somebody or has had lots of people devaluing them.
What do you want to do about that?
What can you do about that?
For one, you can walk through this life committed to acknowledging the value of the people around you. Can you imagine what kind of impact that would make? When we acknowledge their ideas, we acknowledge that there are skills that they have and that there is effort that they are making. Not only are we helping them notice the things they’re doing, but we’re also lifting them up, helping them sustain those things, and healing their hearts.
Okay, let’s talk about medication.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression and you want to know whether to take medication or not, I wrote a blog post, and I linked to it in the blog post that goes along with this episode. The link to that is in the show notes. In it, I share with you a process for deciding if you want to take medication. I’m bringing up your decision whether to take medicine or not in this section of the book because we have to separate it from those pharmaceutical marketing tactics.
The marketing wants you to think that you’re different, that you need their medicine because you are different, that there is something pathological in your brain, a chemical imbalance, and that you need their medicine. These marketing messages are still around. My clients have recently told me that even recently, their practitioners, doctors, other therapists, and psychiatrists have said to them that they “need medicine like diabetics need insulin.”
This metaphor comes from old marketing messages that have long since been debunked, but practitioners are still telling their patients this. Their intention is so good; they really want you to feel better about what’s going on; they know that guilt and shame about feeling these problems have plagued you and may keep you from getting the help you need to feel better; and they are trying to relieve you of that guilt and shame, which is good. I applaud them for doing this because I want you to be rid of this guilt and shame. You don’t deserve to have guilt and shame about this because these feelings come out of contexts.
Review of how to decide about medicine
They are absolutely understandable because of what you’re living through. If you went through this and didn’t have feelings, that would be weird. I get it. I understand why you’re feeling that way, and I want you to understand too. When you understand yourself, you’ll have compassion for yourself, and it will help you feel better.
This is what to know about medicine. Medicine is a tool. It’s a tool that could be incredibly helpful, and it’s a tool that saves lives. That doesn’t mean you either “need” medicine or you “don’t need” medicine––that gives the monkey something to try to figure out.
Do I need it?
Do I not need it?
How do I know if I need it?
There are no answers to those questions. There is no truth about need. Instead, think about it this way. Medicine has benefits, and it has risks. When you decide to use medicine, you’re choosing to gain the benefits despite any risks.
Luckily, in general, with antidepressants, there are very few risks. Since anti-depressives have been around for a long time, there has been lots of research to confirm the low risks. I’ve listed those risks for you in the book and blog post that goes along with this episode. Other resources in the blog post for this episode are some alternative tips if you don’t want to take medicine if it doesn’t work for you or if you have side effects so can’t take it; I listed some things that you can do to help yourself feel better.
What I was hoping you could take away most from this episode is not to let stigma get in your way of getting better. No matter what you feel, it’s understandable. No matter what you feel, if you’re not happy or struggling, you deserve to get some help, and it is okay for you to get help. If you have some people in your life that don’t understand what you’re going through, I also have videos and blog posts that you could give your family members to help explain what you’re going through:
Then, all you have to worry about is the stigma you’re holding against yourself. You need to let that go. That negative self-judgment? You know from this chapter that it is never helpful. Self-stigma is negative self-judgment. It keeps your anxiety, it keeps your depression, it makes it worse, and it balloons it. Remember the globs of self-judgment? They make it bigger and bigger and more complicated to handle, which makes the stigma more and the anxiety more, and then the stigma more and the anxiety more.
The Stigma Spiral
Do you see how that spiral works? Let’s undo it. Let’s start the spiral the other way and have compassion for ourselves. First and foremost, you want to have compassion for yourself, and you want to start to acknowledge yourself for all the effort that you’re making. You are amazing for making all that effort. It is nothing short of a miracle, and I am so proud of you. You will reap so many benefits from doing what you’re doing. Please keep it up. You are amazing, you are amazing, you are amazing. I know the anxiety is telling you the opposite, and that’s why I’m repeating the truth. You are so much more than your anxiety tells you that you are.
I’ve had so much fun explaining everything I wanted you to have in this first chapter, and wow, I could keep going. I’m Italian American, and I could talk forever, but I tried to keep these short so that they’re digestible. Just a little information, and then you could go out in the world and let it process, let it go deep into your body, into your beliefs because there’s a lot of beliefs in there that we need to change.
Because of all the discourses and the stories and the expectations and the high standards of our culture, these beliefs, which were just ideas, are now constructed to be absolute truths in your mind. That’s what we’re going to address in chapter two, all of these things that anxiety says are true but are lies. Chapter 2 is “I’m Done with Your Lies.”
Thank you so much for listening to “Anxiety… I’m So Done with You!” with me, Jodi Aman. In this episode, we covered That Dang Stigma. We talked about everything about medicine and mental health treatment, why the stigma’s there, and how to get rid of it. I appreciate all the subscribers and the five-star reviews on Apple Podcasts. It will help this podcast get into the ears of people who need it. Next, read Chapter 2, Section 1, and I’ll meet you in the next episode.