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A Guide to Overcoming Self-Stigma

For years, self-stigma overcame me and I couldn't guide my way free. But I’ve learned how to overcome self-stigma and can guide you from it toward self-worth.

I can guide you to overcome self-stigma because I once brutally self-stigmatized. However, now I clearly see that self-stigma hurt me in the past far more than the problems caused when anyone else stigmatized me. Follow this guide to overcoming self-stigma and feel much better about life, your mental illness, and being able to handle it all.

My Guide to Overcoming Self-Stigma: When, Why and How

When Can You Overcome Self-Stigma?

You overcome self-stigma when you choose to overcome it. You have to choose to reach for happiness and increased self-worth. No one chooses to have a mental illness, and you can’t choose to not have one. What we can choose is what we do with our mental illness. We can choose to let it control us and destroy our lives or we can choose to work with it.

Why Overcome Self-Stigma?

Throughout my many years of depression, I had convinced myself that I was unworthy of happiness or much else good in my life. To cope with my unworthiness, I convinced myself that happiness didn’t exist; that happy people were in fact deluded and it was only I who knew the truth. That’s what self-stigma does to you. It creates lies to support lies and changes your reality into delusion.

How Did I Overcome Self-Stigma?

Today I work hard to think rationally. In my mental illness, emotion often doesn’t reflect the truth of what I should feel. Like when you know there’s nothing to be afraid of, but you can’t reach out and touch a germ-laden doorknob. My emotions can lie.

What helps me today is thinking rationally about my mental health challenges. If I’m feeling down, I know that rationally, exercising would make me feel better. But in the past, I often chose to stay trapped in my depressed feelings. Today as a rationally-minded person, I no longer afford myself the twisted luxury of staying trapped in my dismal feelings. I know what works to get out of them and I don’t allow myself excuses for not doing what I should be doing.

Takeaways from This Overcoming Self-Stigma Guide

So, as a guide to overcoming self-stigma, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise and a fulfilling social life can go a long way towards increasing feelings of self-worth.

  • By exercising regularly, you will no longer view yourself as weak; as a victim of your illness.
  • By getting enough sleep, you will notice a reduction in anxiety and depression.
  • By eating healthy, you will provide your brain with the necessary nutrients to keep your ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters firing.
  • And, finally, engaging in social activities will help you work with your social anxiety.

I know this all sounds a little too good to be true, but it really isn’t. The first and only time I ever experienced a decrease in my symptoms of mental illness was when I absorbed myself in getting better and made recovery my first priority every day.

Every person is, of course, very different. But these seemingly tiny adjustments can make a world of difference for anyone suffering from self-stigma and other mental health challenges.

The Completely in Blue website is here. Chris is also on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

6 thoughts on “A Guide to Overcoming Self-Stigma”

  1. Dear Chris, how do you propose one starts this practice if the symptomotology if depression makes getting started that much more difficult? Do you suggest a stage of change model approach, such as prochaska’s? Thank you kindly…

    1. Hi there Rob. As you can well see, I’m not Chris, but I’m the current moderator of the blog and I just thought I would take a stab at responding to your question. I’m not familiar with any stage of change models, but I will say I totally get what you mean about doing something when it’s hard to get going. What I like to recommend to people, and what has helped me immensely in recovery with my own mental illnesses, is baby steps. Start small, even if it’s just getting out of bed in the morning or going outside to check the mail. Whatever it is that you normally wouldn’t do because of your depression, conquer it by chipping away at it as opposed to trying to demolish it in one fell swoop. And because I know even that can be daunting, here’s my second piece of advice that I give: have a solid support system. Whether it’s online or in person, having people you can lean on, share your frustrations with and so forth makes a big difference. They don’t need to understand what you’re going through, but rather just be willing to walk along side you as you go through it.

      If you’re still interested in Chris’ thoughts on this, I recommend reaching out to him through the social media links at the bottom of his post.

  2. Dear Chris, I very much appreciate the contents of your article. As a volunteer working for the cause of mentally ill and their families in Pune, India, I have come to know how hard the families find it to cope with stigma as much as with illness itself. I love the points covered by you in this article and especially the simple yet effective words to drive home the point. Would certainly like to go through your other articles. Please continue your sincere efforts to transform and enrich lives of those coping with mental illness and the associated stigma.

  3. I like this article, but I’m curious as to what you believe the real cure for a mental illness is, if there is one. For some, such as autism, I realize there’s not, but for things like depression. Do you believe it’s having more self-esteem, changing habits, self-hypnosis, or something else?

    1. Thanks for the comment John. I don’t really like the word ‘cure’ all that much. But I think all of the things you mentioned would allow people to successfully manage their mental illness.

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