Coping with stigma
Posted Friday 21 September 2012
I have a massive feeling of guilt regarding my diagnosis, not through any feelings of self pity or sense of being unlucky, but because I feel unworthy of its definition. My life has been a rollercoaster, I first realised I wasn’t as mentally healthy as my friends in my early teens, but did not receive a term for what I was experiencing until my twenties.
I was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia, but that diagnosis later changed. The TV would communicate with me and it was impossible to listen to music because of delusions that I’d written the songs. I also hallucinated about groups of people standing in front of me and gabbling things to me. By the time I got a term for my illness I had been through the criminal justice system, acquired the nickname of ‘Mad Tom’ and was the victim of terrible stigma and bullying.
I had always been open about how I felt and often shared how I was feeling with friends, but only one of them bothered with me when they realised I had a mental health problem.
That’s when the stigma started to develop into something much more serious. At first it was just gentle teasing and comments like 'you’re mental, you’ then as my symptoms gradually got worse it became ostracism to the point that I felt completely isolated.
In an effort to reintegrate myself into the community, I started hanging about with a group of guys who I thought were friends, but the sad reality was they just made my condition worse by winding me up with nasty comments and snide remarks. They would often put ecstasy and cocaine into my drinks without me knowing and then torment me until I cried.
All the time their treatment of me was getting gradually worse, they would shave my hair and cut off my eyebrows, steal my possessions and threaten me with violence if I stood up for myself. They hit me with iron bars to the point that a few months before I turned 33, I attempted suicide.
When I came round from the tablets I had taken, my consultant said to make sure I called him if it happened again. It did and one of my tormenters banged my head on the side of the fireplace, causing a deep cut. When my birthday came around I was bound, naked, with clingfilm, to a lamppost, listening to a chorus of mocking laughter and nasty comments.
That’s when my recovery started, I made a promise to myself to get help and nearly eight years on I have just graduated from university and have a bright future ahead of me.
My experience has made me extremely wary of people and sometimes the anger I feel is very hard to control. But in a strange way, the people who made my life hell were the making of me, because they gave me a drive to get better and learn to live with my illness.
I would say to anyone who is experiencing this kind of treatment to contact someone like Mind, because there are people who will listen and help you to live as full a life as possible.
You can also follow Thomas on Twitter @saddler71
We’re here to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. Search for your local Mind service or call our Infoline team on 0300 123 3393.
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