I’m online today twittering away, publishing my fiction blog. Someone on Twitter responds to a tweet I made. I have no idea who this person is and, to be perfectly honest, I have no real interest in finding out who he is. I reply to his response in a way that, to me, said that I wasn’t going to be budged on my opinion. He would press his point which, as it turned out, wasn’t necessarily his point of view as he was just looking to be “devil’s advocate”, i.e. looking for an argument. Whatever his motivations for needing to argue where I have no idea and no interest in finding out. He irritated me and continued to ignore what I thought were quite polite statements that didn’t ask for a response. I am not one to suffer fools gladly and sooner or later I will lash out and, when I’m depressed or manic, that’s sooner rather than later.
He’d responded to a tweet I’d made a statement about how I thought the belief that there is such a thing as “self-stigma” is wrong. To me it is doubt under another name, it is a human condition that is overblown when mental health is poor. It is not symptomatic of mental illness it is a natural human reaction. Certainly it is often the case where doubt is so great that it’s impossible to make decisions and where you constantly question your judgment but everyone has periods where they doubt and question judgment.
The dictionary states that stigmatization is “to describe or regard of worthy of disgrace or great disapproval”. I suppose that does, in a round about sort of way, describe self doubt but it is not something that is wrong if it comes from within a person about themselves. Doubt is healthy, questioning one’s judgment is healthy. It helps to protect against arrogance and provides a brake so that we can see things in a rational and good way. It makes us work harder to see we’ve covered all the angles and helps us to become more thorough. That’s not a bad thing.
What makes it a bad thing is the way we look at it. If you think that the world is stigmatizing you for a disability or your race or your creed then it’s an evil that is not necessary and has no part in this world. If you think that self-doubt and questioning your judgment, both natural parts of human nature, is the same thing then think again.
DSM-V, which is currently waiting to be published, has been criticized for turning every human emotion and experience into a mental health problem. By labelling self-doubt and questioning one’s judgment as self-stigmatization then we are doing the exact thing that we are being critical of.
It boils down to perspective and it is easy to lose perspective when you are ill. Today I feel that I have no future and I have had no past. I’m longing to take a knife out of the kitchen drawer and relieve myself of my pain by harming myself. I cannot see beyond the next hour or the next hours. Life is dark at the moment, almost as dark as it can get. It won’t last. A wise man reminded me this morning that bipolar disorder is a cyclical illness therefore the cycle will change in time. That’s what I focus on and it’s why I won’t die today. That’s why I won’t be re-labelling my doubts about myself as stigmatization because they’re not permanent doubts; they exist in fragments of time that are gone much quicker than it seems.
Perspective, common sense, lack of desire to segregate and separate from mainstream society. That would help stop real stigmatization.