Booting Self-Stigma to Mars

I want to write about self-stigma. First: on confidentiality: I strictly adhere to it in a support group. I go further: I won’t talk at all–even anonymously–about a person in a support group.

Years ago I regret I titled a blog entry circa 2009 “No Comment” in response to a woman who wrote in. I didn’t like that she talked about a member of her support group. More than this I did not like that she took pity on everyone because they were “just a”–as in “just a cashier at McDonald’s.” (details changed.)

Her self-stigma rubbed me the wrong way. In my response I wrote that the illness “cherry bombs” us and we do the best we can when our lives explode in pain.

Ever since then I’ve tried to write in the blog about treating everyone the same open, equal way.

Any honest job labored at with love can give a person dignity. I met a guy who was a janitor. He didn’t have a mental illness. He was proud of his job and called himself a “custodial engineer.” No kidding.

I was a cashier in McCrory’s for six months when I was 19. It was the last of the “five-and-dimes”–like Woolworth’s. I’m so old I have shopped in a Woolworth’s.

So: I was in college; I dressed trendy. The store manager told me I was a throwback to the sixties. I rang up orders. There was a lunch counter, and a shoe repair guy in the back. The female co-workers bonded over the job as we unpacked knick-knacks and placed them on the metal shelves to sell. We punched in and out of work on a clock.

Self-stigma is a more fervent disabler than the diagnosis. I’m also so old I’ve been there, done that with stigma.

Yes: I might go overboard in making this claim that you don’t have to be a J.D.–you can be a humble librarian or you can collect SSDI and work in Rite Aid.

I revisit the idea of self-stigma in here because it’s fall 2015: time to stop drowning in a downpour of shame, regret, and jealousy.

It’s time to praise not stigmatize each other as peers living with challenges. I see no shame in mopping floors. I see no shame in having a no-fault medical condition.

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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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