There is a hashtag on twitter going around called #imnotashamed. It is a symbol to fight against the stigma that many of us face on a daily basis. When you live under the diagnoses of having a mental illness a great deal of emotions come with it. One of those is shame.
I am not ashamed. I used to be. I grew up being extremely ashamed of how different I was. How odd I seemed. How weak I felt. I grew up thinking that I was damaged. I was broken. I was worthless.
It was not my choice to be born with a mental illness. It is, however, my choice on how I perceive myself to be because of it. I perceive myself to be just as unique and important as everyone else.
When I was younger, I had delusions of my ability to control everything in my life. I felt that I had the power of willing myself into normalcy if I really wanted to. When I couldn't, I felt that it was my fault because I just didn't want it badly enough.
I blamed myself as if I had woken up one day and just decided to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As if I had ordered it as a side on my plate next to the eggs and hashbrowns. As if it were something you picked up by design.
I just couldn't understand that my mental illness was not my fault. That it was simply a misfiring in my brain.
I prayed relentlessly in the hopes that the bad thoughts would cease. When they did not I beat myself up because, clearly, I was doing something wrong. I wasn't praying right or hard enough. I was ashamed that I had failed to become normal even with my constant prayers.
As a child I thought that if I could just be the best little girl I could be, that the OCD would go away. If I did my best at school, if I tried my hardest to listen, if I was sweet and kind and always followed the rules the thoughts would simply vanish... but they never did. I thought that deep down I was a terrible girl, a bad person, a horrid child. I continued to strive to be what I thought good little girls were supposed to be but the intrusive thoughts did not vanish, no matter how desperately I tried to be good enough and I blamed myself for that too.
It took me years, literal years, to accept that my OCD was not the product of my failure as a person. That it was not a punishment for some unforeseen or long forgotten sin.
That it had never been my fault nor could I simply will it away with the good deeds and desperate prayers of a small naive child. I never had control of whether or not I would have this.
It simply is.
And with that acknowledgement I began to realize that shame has no place in my life because to feel ashamed would mean that I would have to accept the blame for having something I never asked for nor wanted to have to begin with.
The guilt is not mine to carry. The blame does not rest at my feet for this.
Living in shame just because I was born with a mental illness is no longer acceptable to me....and I rebuke any implication that says otherwise.
Mental illness does not define me as a human being. It does make me different in some ways but it does not in any way lessen my worth.
It has changed my life but it does not get to own it. It does not get to control everything. It is there but it does not outshine who I am as a person. It does not get to make me feel guilty and it will never again make me feel ashamed.
Because I am more than just a diagnoses and I am not ashamed.
If you are interested in the #imnotashamed hashtag look it up on twitter and read all about their fight against stigma.
Until next time, stay strong and be kind to yourself and never be ashamed.