Kicking Stigma To The Curb Begins At Home

You kick the stigma to the curb by having the last laugh when it seems the joke is on you.

I see things differently in this regard and will continue in the vein of the last entry here.

It’s true I have a strong reaction against labeling a person as either normal or a freak of nature. Both stereotypes straitjacket all human beings.

I believe in the ethic of expressing yourself, not being afraid to be who you are. Even if the world is not kind to “beautiful dreamers” and others who don’t follow along in the rules of society. Who made up those rules anyway?

The way you value-or don’t value-yourself determines whether other people value you. If you don’t respect yourself enough to respect others, how can you expect them to think highly of you, if you use other people as a dishrag?

That’s my big beef with what passes for normal in society: the lack of compassion, the lack of dignity people accord others: that is, acting with dignity or giving others dignity is about as common as a roller rink or a typewriter these days: it’s often non-existent.

Living your life Left of the Dial is a way to kick ass in this department. It’s a way to do your own thing faced with the pressure to Photoshop your personality into an acceptable social persona.

This is a way to liberate your spirit: to unchain the essence of you; to free yourself from the stigma by living your life.

A person must value themselves first of all: learn to accept the diagnosis or that they have a mental health challenge. To turn the liability into a positive: use it to your advantage to claim your power.

That’s all I’m saying: re-think your impressions of what you’re capable of living with a mental illness.

I used to wear medallion-print pajama pants everywhere with tee shirts and I carried the kind of army bag you could buy in the now-defunct Canal Jeans on Lower Broadway. I was told no employer would hire me. The staff in the day programs stereotyped me because they considered my quiet nature to be pathological. I was literally shell-shocked because I had been shunted into a day program that was little more than a babysitting service.

Remembering this is what ignited me to elegantly spoof my counselor in Left of the Dial. All of us must have a sense of humor about these things because to not forgive others isn’t healthy. That’s the way to heal: to forgive even if you can’t forget.

Most of all, we must forgive others in society who stigmatize people with mental illnesses. You don’t cure hate with hate: you allow yourself to have compassion for others.

It’s 2015 in 5 months. It’s a new year so we can all change our tune: let into our hearts a little more light and love for others. This starts when each of us opens our heart to ourselves-and embraces our own quirks, our illness and whatever else is part of the package.

The world is going mad: in the Ukraine and Russia, in the Middle East. We don’t need to join others in going mad. It’s high tide for something to change. We can decide to love: to choose to value ourselves and others and what each of us brings to the table.

It’s called R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and a little goes a long way.

You kick the stigma to the curb by valuing yourself when others do not, by not giving others permission to make you feel inferior.

Don’t give up the fight to claim for yourself a better life.

In a coming entry here I will talk about options for creating a good life.

Stay tuned.

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. 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 athlete.

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