Booting Stigma: 9 Techniques

Nancy Sinatra sang that her boots were made for walking and they were going to walk all over you.

I propose booting the stigma by walking all over someone with your disarming wit. I’ve tried to get published on HuffingtonPost and elsewhere. The dilemma is I have a sense of humor. The voice of my writing is upbeat and cheerful and I use humor to talk about mental illness. I doubt this flies with the gatekeepers in the mainstream media. I doubt a certain website will ever deign to publish what I write because I’m not wallowing in misery about how schizophrenia effected my life like their resident SZ blogger does.

My hairdresser found out about me and she couldn’t believe I wasn’t crying. She was amazed that I was sunny and cheerful after everything that happened to me.

Cheer on: that’s my motto. What doesn’t break us makes us.

Yes: I’m going to sound flip when I recommend these Top 9 Techniques for Halting Stigma. Yet I truly believe you can win a war of wits and that this is the best way to fight stigma.

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• Do something to be happy. If you exercise two to three times a week, you’ll feel too good to feel bad about what other people say and do. You only need to exercise two or three times a week to be effective at a fitness routine. I strength train for maximum results.

• Remember: the stigma is a “self-selection” tool that aids you in quickly assessing whether you should get involved with another person. They’re doing the dirty work so you don’t have to waste time courting them. Do you really want to be a friend or lover with an ignorant, fearful, narrow-minded person? You’ll save the time and money and effort it takes to pursue them.

• Refrain from telling employers you have schizophrenia. Ask for a reasonable accommodation only if you absolutely need to and have no other choice. As long as you can do your job as well or better than your co-workers, your diagnosis is no one’s business.

• Refuse to take shit from people. I’ll tell others I can power lift 205 pounds at the gym. And I’m only five feet tall and weigh 121 pounds and I’m female. A woman I told this to responded: “You can lift a whole person!” The insinuation is that I could take someone out if I had to.

• Alternately, I have a built-in comeback when another person fears I’ll become violent: play the Italian card. A psychiatrist told me he knew he’d better not mess with me because I was Italian. He’s not the only one that’s told me this. So I have a handy retort: “I’m not violent and I won’t ever be. I’m Italian though so I’m connected. I know someone who knows someone if you know what I mean.” That should take care of things.

• Keep in mind: life isn’t a popularity contest. Be your own best friend. You’ll be doing the rejecting too. And a lot of times you’ll be a mismatch with another person for reasons having nothing to do with your illness.

• Sue their sorry ass if you’re discriminated against in an illegal way. Go to the media to tell your story. Take legal action if you’re denied housing, employment, or other things you’re entitled to by law.

• Act like Mr. T of the 1980s TV character fame and “Pity the Fool” who dares to stigmatize you. Use your wit to disarm any creeper you meet who flips out because you tell them you have schizophrenia. If you’re a woman, and a guy on a date gets freaky when you tell him you have schizophrenia, zing back: “I’m only interested in a guy with balls, not a cowardly lion. Check please.”

• Be the best-dressed person in the room. Care for yourself more than other people do.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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