The Stigma of Being Mentally Ill on Disability

Most of you know me pretty well by now, I’m generally not ashamed of my mental illnesses, I could talk about them all day long on the internet. I’ll tell you anything that you want to know. Just ask me and I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you about the time I cried uncontrollably in a heap on my bathroom floor or the time that I got so manic I ate nothing but potato soup for a month. I’ll tell you about the time that I thought about jumping off a bridge for fun and the time that I thought about jumping off that same bridge to kill myself. But the other day I found myself in a situation that I hadn’t found myself in before.

I was out for lunch with my gran and someone that I hadn’t met before and while my gran was ordering our food this new person asked me what I did for a living. I considered this for a minute before telling her that I was on disability. I didn’t tell her what for. You see for the first time I found myself ashamed to be on disability for a mental illness. I found myself fearful of being judged. What would they think of me? Would they think that I was just some lazy person sponging off the government? Would they think that my illness wasn’t real? Luckily the conversation didn’t go any further. But it weighed on my mind.

In that moment I was ashamed. I never had been before because I hadn’t ever really been put in that situation before. Not unwilfully anyway. I talk to a lot of people about my disability and about being on disability. It made me question myself, why should I be ashamed? I have an illness right? A chronic illness? Yes, I do. So why was it so hard for me to say it? Because it’s invisible. You can’t see it. You can’t grasp what you cannot see. I was so afraid of being judged for something which cannot be seen, by a stranger.

I thought about it a lot when I got home. I should have just said it, ‘I’m on disability, I have Bipolar Disorder’. I’m all about breaking down stigma but it just didn’t come out. Next time though, next time somebody asks me what I do I’ll tell them, ‘I’m on disability, I have Bipolar Disorder’. And if they don’t like it they can shove it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 thoughts on “The Stigma of Being Mentally Ill on Disability

  1. I am in your shoes. However, I have taken a different path. I just don’t answer like I want to. I don’t need the strange looks or that gut wrenching pause or the stigma from someone. I prefer to keep it to myself. I don’t judge people by what they do or they don’t do. I know I am on disability, I can’t work, I am very ill. Try and explain that to someone who will typically say “just get over it”. I have heard that term one too many times.

  2. I’m always reading about you you’re very open about yourself. I’m also on disability I’ll tell anyone till I’m blue in the face that I have bipolar disorder but a couple of months ago I went to a new barbers on a friends recommendation. But the lady who was cutting my hair asked me what I did for a living I didn’t know what to say so I told her I have bipolar disorder and can’t work. This was her response oh a lot of people have that these days it’s very easy to treat isn’t it when are you back at work I felt like I was being interrogated!! Bipolar runs in my family OK so I didn’t make it any better with drugs and drink but I have been clean and sober for 18 years. She treated me like I was something to be ashamed of!! As for you you have a great book which I throughly enjoyed still have my copy sitting proud in the bookshelf that’s something to be proud of. If you find yourself in that situation again tell then your an author specialising in mental health never be ashamed of who you are. Ps I use a different barber now one who doesn’t talk to much!!! Jamie.

    1. Good on you! I’m proud of you! What a shitty barber. I’m so glad that you enjoyed my book, I always love to hear that 🙂

  3. I find answering the “what do you do for a living” question hard too – I guess it’s often asked by strangers and catches me off guard. Sometimes I just say that I’m a freelance writer to avoid awkwardness, which is a half truth – I write articles, just don’t get paid for it!
    I’m working on this though, I want us all to be able to say the truth without having the stigma attached, so I guess it’s up to me to help end it!

  4. I usually tell people I’m retired. I get a pension from the company I worked at for 20 years, so there’s some truth to that. But I also get disability, so I’m telling a partial truth at best. People I know better get the whole story.

    1. Thats a good story. I can’t get away with that, I’m only 27, soon to be 28. But I’m determined to no longer be ashamed.

  5. I am also on disability but I tell people I’m a Writer which I am but I’m not disclosing my disabilities for fear of #stigma from strangers, all the people close to me know, but reading your piece, I will also fight the stigma and reply I’m a Writer on Disability. I suffer Bipolar Disorder and panick attacks. Why not?