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The Black Sheep Syndrome and Mental Health Stigma

Mental health stigma makes many people feel as if they are the black sheep of humanity. The reality: people are each unique - so we're all a black sheep.

As if dealing with a diagnosis of mental illness is not hard enough, many of us are confronted with a feeling that we do not belong in our family, within our peer group — we feel different. I’m pretty sure there is no definition for ‘the black sheep syndrome’ but, just in case, let me refer to my trusted thesaurus.

Alas, apparently there is! And I am not surprised that it falls in the category of EXCLUSION. It is directly connected to the following words:




Not one of us

Well, I suppose this was the worth purchase and space it takes up on my desk. At this point, I’m not sure if I want to burn it or contact the editor and tell her how accurate her damn thesaurus is. The definition of being, “not one of us” really hits home with me. And I would bet you my trusted thesaurus that you  have, at some point, felt this way. If you have not, please, do not hesitate to provide me, and our readers, with some tips.

Feeling like the Black Sheep In Mental Illness Recovery

Living with a mental illness makes many people feel as if they are the black sheep of humanity. The reality: people are each unique - and a black sheep.Alright, now we have a definition. But words cannot describe how it actually feels to be diagnosed with a mental illness and suddenly feel different than others. Even if we are told we are normal (what a ridiculous word) taking medication can be a constant reminder that we feel, definitely, unfairly stigmatized and segregated from others.

People, all of us, want to feel like we fit in with the rest of society. It is the human condition—amongst the importance of eating and drinking water, etc etc. The juxtaposition: we all want to be different than each other, special, and eccentric in our own way. Diagnosed with a mental illness, you probably feel like you have just landed on a different planet: The Planet of the Mentally Ill. Sometimes, regardless of positive reassurance from those who care about us, we cannot shake the feeling of being abnormal. Feeling like the black sheep.

The Definition of Normal Defies Reality

Yes, we have a mental illness but everyone has things they keep from other people. This is healthy. This, this is normal. Based on the absolute truth that there is not a definition of normal (and I will refrain from referencing my thesaurus–promise) having a mental illness, battling addiction, eating disorders and anxiety, alongside a slew of other lovely diagnosis, makes us normal. Human. Pain is a shared experience.

An example: the end of a relationship, the pain that that brings, is something shared among people, and so too is the feeling we might not fit in. But think about it: do you really want to aspire to be what the masses view as the societal ideal? An ideal that does not  exist. Having a mental illness makes you unique, and the people you talk to on a daily basis, carry baggage that makes them unique. We all struggle. That’s life….

Last thoughts: having a mental illness can make you feel like you are the black sheep, and rightfully so, but work to understand that ‘normal’ is just a variation of individual behavior. You are as normal as the person sitting closest to you. Normal, well, throw the word away.

We are all unique.

Photo by Megan Johnston on Unsplash

14 thoughts on “The Black Sheep Syndrome and Mental Health Stigma”

  1. Without ever having to say it, but having been criticized, belittled, shamed, (the list goes on), from mostly my elderly, always narcissistic mother, I’ve chosen major depressive disorder, to avoid my family and ruin what’s left of her life. (Her words many many times), as well as the rest of my family abandoning me when I needed them most. Second failed marriage and losing my home was my fault as well. (How could I possibly shame and embarrass her that way)? They aren’t even aware of the adjoining anxiety diagnosis and complex-ptsd that came before during and after divorcing my narcissist ex spouse nearly four long years ago, not only personally but publicly humiliating me I every grandiose fashion he could. If not for my dog I don’t know that I’d be here today. But all this being said, as hard as it’s been each and every day and night to fight this, (agoraphobia as well), due to my own fears and feeling I don’t fit in anywhere, I know I’m 100% better of a person than any family I’ve had and lost. They honestly don’t know if I’m dead or alive, and that’s a horrible feeling to have each day, knowing that all you’ve ever wanted was to be loved. Thanks for this article. I’m glad to have found it, and even though I stopped blaming myself long ago, it still hurts.

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