On Self-Stigmatization II

Following on from my earlier post: I have meditated, and disentangled some of the strands of the knot I’d tied myself in.


I have diagnoses of general anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. These two conditions do not define me, but have had a great and negative impact on my life, particularly this year. The ways my mental health have impacted on my life recently include lengthy hospitalizations, dramatic weight gain, loss of livelihood, and the disappointment of watching a cherished project fall apart (my business).


Sadness / Grief – for the losses mentioned above

Guilt – about not emailing my friend; about being ashamed to share parts of my life with her

Anger – that my life has been so adversely affected

A sense of failure – especially connected to my business

Shame – at having ‘failed’ in  my business; at getting tied up in today’s emotional crisis in the first place

Disgust – at being so fat and unfit

Judgmental – towards myself for my many and various failings

Puzzled – at this outburst of self-stigmatization

“Should” Thoughts

That I “should” keep in touch with my friend; that I “should” tell her everything that has been going on in my life, without glossing over details; that I “should” not feel ashamed about being anxious and depressed; that I “should” not feel sad about the things which have happened in my life because of my mental health.


To retreat into myself for the rest of the day; to eat, for comfort; to not do the rest of the things on today’s “To Do” list, as a form of ‘taking care of myself’; to either engage deeply in self-critical thinking, or to deliberately ‘not-think’ (e.g. watch TV, read) for the rest of the day.

More Helpful Behaviours

Instead of giving in to my urges, some of which would lead to maladaptive behaviours, I will:

  1. Neither judge nor not-judge my emotional state, but simply allow it some “corner space” inside my head
  2. Continue to work through my “To Do” list, because completing it will not only make me feel great but also be good, in and of itself
  3. Choose not to eat (or over eat!) but instead find other way to self-sooth through negative emotions
  4. Postpone making a decision on whether to email my friend or not until tomorrow, and consciously put off all thinking on that matter until tomorrow
  5. Reward myself with an episode of my favourite TV show when my “To Do” list is completed.


Finally, tongue firmly in cheek: This post is dedicated to all the hospital therapists who ran all the workshops I attended on “Challenging Unhelpful Thoughts”.

My strict anonymity policy does not allow me to share the content of this post with you directly, but I’m sure you might be pleased to see the analysis of thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviours above! And I did it all without one of those bloody sheets. (We all grew heartily sick and tired of the “Challenging Unhelpful Thoughts” worksheets.)


Filed under Down, Out

4 responses to “On Self-Stigmatization II

  1. Wow, I could have written nearly the same feelings, shoulds and urges. I guess it makes sense since we have the same diagnosis! That’s great that you absorbed so many of those challenging unhelpful thoughts handouts. I think I’ve been a slow learner in that regard, but you have reminded me of what my mindfulness coach said about being “gentle” towards myself. We really are our worst critics!


  2. I have had these same types of thoughts since I started ECT in 2010. I told only those people that are really close. And even then I didn’t tell all of them everything. The psychotic break took my career away from me and the ECT was taking any possibility of finding a new job. I was taking away the rest of those possibilities by buying in to it. As you say, I was self-stigmatizing.

    It was not until I started attending a NAMI peer to peer group that I started to become comfortable in my own skin. There are people in the group that are out there looking for work, becoming peer support specialists, raising children and supporting families that have had some of the same experiences I have.

    My Helpful Behavior
    A couple of weeks ago, I started my blog and there were a couple of times where I thought to abandon it. Thanks to people like you, I have been able to keep it going. This past Sunday night I opened it up to my parents and then to friends/family on Facebook. I have received many words of support and encouragement.

    Now that it’s out there there’s no turning back. I just have to take what comes and hope for the best. I’m not going to stop writing about my experience despite what anyone says.


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