My Own Stigma

Stigma, unfortunately is everywhere in today’s world.  People have stigmas over race, religion, gender, hair colour, mental health.  You name it, there is probably a stigma for it.  It’s a huge part of the reason that we’re years behind where we should be as a society (accepting of each and every living being) and the way things are going it’ll be a long time before stigma does become a thing of the past.

We all have stigmas, or at some point in our lives have had them towards something.  It doesn’t necessarily make us bad people.  A lot of stigma is plain naivety, lack of education, ignorance.  The simple fact is a lot of people just don’t know any better.  Of course there are people out there who do know better and refuse to see it, but they are another story.

I’d like to talk today about the stigmas that I have placed on myself, which I think is something that we all do, whether intentionally or not.  Whether it’s due to societal pressure, pressure from family and friends, even imagined pressure, I think to some extent we’ve all put stigmas on some aspect of our life and try to hide them away from the world.  The need for a house to be tidy for guests is quite a common one, when most of our guests couldn’t care less if our coffee table is covered in junk.  If they are truly our friends, then they came over to see us and not to check out the state of our house.

I used to have a stigma about my mental health.  I was ashamed, felt useless, abnormal, afraid and I didn’t want anyone to know.  I told a few people that I trusted, but that was it.  I tried to hide it by over compensating.  I had an old workmate discover my blog and email me to tell me that in the two or three years they worked in the same office as me, they genuinely had no idea how much I struggled and that I hid it well as for the most part I seemed exceptionally happy.  I thought I didn’t know anyone else who suffered from depression (at the time I didn’t know my constant worrying was anxiety) and even though my doctor, my counsellor and ads on TV said that I wasn’t alone, I truly believed I was.  The most ridiculous thing was that I had a lot of friends who were also suffering in silence, I just couldn’t see it.

Obviously, since I am out and proud as far as talking about my depression and anxiety to anyone taking the time to read my posts, I am no longer ashamed of my mental health, in fact I am proud of it.  It has helped shape me into the person I am today:  Far from perfect, but willing to constantly work on myself, do my best to help others and with a drive to get mental illness into the spotlight in the hopes that one day, stigma towards it will be a thing of the past.  Of course this isn’t something that happened overnight.  I hit rock bottom and could no longer deny what was going on with me and also started seeing people talk about mental illness more.  It was and still is a hugely stigmatised issue, but people bravely opening up to the world gave me the strength to talk about my experiences publicly.  I hope that my sharing gives others strength to share or reach out for help also.

For years I had a stigma about my weight.  I was the chubby kid at school and this continued into my adult life.  I’ve blogged about it a lot, the endless self hate, the endless diets that started on Mondays and finished on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, the mornings spent crying before work because my uniform was getting tighter every day.  I judged other larger people as well.  If I hated myself for my weight then they deserved my disdain also.  It was stupid.  Some of my best friends were overweight and I used to obsess over whether or not they were bigger than me.  I know some did the same to me.   We would swap clothes and it would lift my spirits hugely if a girlfriends clothes were loose on me.  I had some friends lose weight and while I was happy for them and proud of their achievements, I also found it difficult to hide my glee when most of them inevitably put the weight back on.

Let me say this right here and now: This is not something I am proud of.  It is a thing of the past though.  Last year when I lost all the weight and kept most of it off until becoming pregnant (I make jokes about it, but pregnancy is not and never will be fat, despite the bump insecurity I experienced earlier on in my pregnancy), I learned a lot about weight that I was blind to.  I learned that part of the reason I was overweight was because of my diet and some of my conditions such as PCOS, but the most important lesson was learning that I was overweight was because of my attitude.  I held myself back with all the stigmas I put on myself and others.  I wasn’t mentally capable of putting in any real effort towards losing weight.  I also learned that being healthy was more important to me in the end.  Sure, I loved that I was smaller, loved the compliments I got (didn’t so much love the jealousy I received but I probably deserved it based on how badly I had treated people in the same boat in the past), but most of all I loved how amazing I felt, inside and out.  I was healthy mentally and physically something I’d never been able to say before.  Once I have my baby I do intend to lose the weight again, but this time it’s about staying healthy and fit so that I can be the best mother to my child instead of about fitting into that pretty dress I haven’t worn for months.

My current stigma towards myself is about my pregnancy.  Something in me needs people to know that this baby was planned.  Not an accident.  I can’t explain why, simply put, I don’t know.  Yet so often when people talk to me about baby, I will bluntly state that we planned this baby.  I don’t however have a stigma against people who have unplanned children.  I know plenty of people who have had unplanned pregnancies who are now some of the best parents I know.  I have family members who weren’t planned and I certainly don’t judge them for it.  I’ve read articles about girls who fell pregnant at 16 and are now making their mark in the world years later because they took full responsibility, raised a wonderful child and also got an education themselves so that they could provide the best possible life for that child.  Some of these women are better role models than parents who planned their children after buying a house and getting married so the reality is, it makes no difference whether a baby is planned or not.

And yet I still often find myself telling the story of how Zombie and I decided together that we were ready to start trying and that our little Asskicker (our babies nickname, after Judith on The Walking Dead) was 100% not an accident.  I often even talk about how we set a date to start trying so that we both had time to prepare ourselves.  It’s not that I think people even care, I just have this huge urge to make sure that everyone knows.  I’ve made countless mistakes in my life and I’ve been judged to no end for it.  I had a reputation for getting myself into sticky situations for a while.  I guess subconsciously I just want to prove that I did something right for once, that it wasn’t just another typical Katie stuff up.  Because of course I’m the only person who’s ever made mistakes and I’ve never done anything right.  All ridiculous and completely untrue reasons, but I’m pretty sure that Anxiety has a hand in all of this.

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Like all my previous self-imposed stigmas, I don’t how to get past this one.  I do believe I am handling it better than my mental illness, weight or other stigmas I’ve put on myself over the years, because I am not dehumanising others to make myself feel better this time around (yay for growing up), but of course I still would rather not have this stigma at all.  I so often remind myself that nobody cares that my baby was planned, they are just excited for me and yet the words ‘we planned this’ come out of my mouth so often.  Focusing on what’s important helps, I know my baby is healthy and developing well, I know that Zombie is going to be an excellent father, I know that Asskicker is going to be loved by many, family and friends alike.  Like I mentioned above, I have a feeling Anxiety is sticking it’s oar in to give me this stigma so I’m hoping that like all the other worries Anxiety has given me over the years, this one too will fade away.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

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12 thoughts on “My Own Stigma

    1. Lol thanks. My stigma anxiety isn’t the typical can’t breathe, freaking out, can’t function type, it’s more like this little voice in my head that won’t piss off because it’s stupid. I have no issue with my size though, I’m pregnant, I’m supposed to be huge 🙂

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      1. Haha that’s right! I hope you to be growing, that means the baby is growing. I see other’s who are still so tiny in like their last trimesters I’m like your eating for two now, eat something!

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  1. I agree that it can be so hard to let go of the stigmas we place upon ourselves, because in some ways we are our worst enemies. I grew up with low self esteem and had anorexia and bulimia at some points of my life – now I’m past that, but I still find that I develop certain stigmas about things. One thing is ethnicity, like I feel that I’m sometimes discriminated against for being Asian – but really, a lot of times I’m not and I’m just being self-conscious.
    And I do share some thoughts about having planned my pregnancies. I’m a slightly younger mum, not really THAT young but I was 23 when I had my first and some people had the impression my bub wasn’t planned and that I wasn’t ready, etc. Or maybe that thought is all in my head – who knows? But yes both our kids were definitely planned!
    But anyway what I mean to say is thanks for sharing this because I am sure many people can definitely relate to this. You’re not alone, and you will get through this! 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your comment, I’m so glad I’m not the only person who worried about things like planned pregnancies and weight. I think the problem is that people can be so judgemental these days and we almost try to prepare ourselves for a backlash by defending ourselves when we don’t need to, which is probably why you feel self concious about your ethnicity at times, especially since you have been discriminated against (which I think is disgusting but an unfortunate fact of life). Thanks so much for reading 🙂

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  2. You don’t need to hope this stigma will fade; you know it will, either naturally when your baby is born or you, with your positive energy that enables you to embrace change will banish it yourself. Thoughtful, important post, Katie.

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    1. Thank you Janet, I’m sure you are correct. Incidentally a friend pushed me to send this post into Huffington Post and they have agreed to take me on as a blogger! Very exciting times.

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  3. That is good news about you going to blog on Huffington Post. Marilyn and I always read it every day and enjoy the blogs that we see there.

    It such a well known site and I am looking forward to seeing your blog there. Any ideas yet for the blog?

    I have read your blogs for quite a while now and I always find them engaging and enjoyable to read. I am really happy for you that Huffington is going to publish your work – I think it deserves to be there.

    BTW, good times ahead for you both with the baby arriving – it’s all good!

    Cheers, Craig Petrie

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    1. Thanks Craig, when my friend suggested submitting to Huff Post I never thought they would accept me and I was blown away to receive an email from Ariana Huffington herself inviting me to be a part of the blog team. My plan is to keep it a similar theme to this blog, mental health, general health and also now parenting. Mum is also very excited to become a grandmother too!

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  4. I love this blog, you are an amazing person and I for a very long time had no idea you were struggling with depression and or anxiety, I also didn’t know a lot about it either though. I have never been affected myself personally but if I find life hard enough myself I would hate to think how hard it makes things for you and so many others that have It stuck to them like a piece of gum. Feel proud of yourself, feel love and acceptance for yourself because you deserve everything that is good in life. The monster won’t get you, because you will beat it down 🙂

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    1. I think my lowest point was around the time you first moved into The Atlas. After a traumatic experience I made some decisions that negatively impacted on not just me and sent me down really low. The person I was with didn’t want to understand and blamed me for the traumatic experience, despite it being no ones fault and their actions after which made it worse, which in turn made me worse but also made me resent them to a point where we became toxic to each other and affected each others mental health really badly. We were both so all over the place and dishonest about everything, it was just bad. I’ve been low since, it’s an up and down road, but the fact that I came out the other side of that experience okay means I know that I can get through anything. I’ve had ups and downs since but I never want to have my downs affect other people again, no matter what the circumstances. Sorry got a bit rambly there!

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