Deconstructing Stigma: Finding The Good In Life

06/01/2017 03:48 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2017

Editor’s note: Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life is a public awareness campaign developed by McLean Hospital to spark conversation not only about behavioral and mental health but also about the stigma that surrounds it. The campaign features compelling stories from people across the United States who have been affected by mental illness, including Clare’s story below.

It has been more than six months since I’ve woken up in a psychiatric hospital, my longest separation from inpatient treatment since 2012. Over the years, the overwhelming pressure I placed on myself to be a good student, a good friend, and a good daughter led me to suicidal thoughts.

I’m constantly over-thinking things: Am I weird? Am I okay? Do they like being my friend? I feel like I am one hair trigger away from being rejected, and that’s the worst pain.

Clare at her photo shoot for the Deconstructing Stigma exhibit at Boston Logan Airport
McLean Hospital
Clare at her photo shoot for the Deconstructing Stigma exhibit at Boston Logan Airport

Making matters worse was the sense that not everyone felt my illness—borderline personality disorder—was legitimate. I got that sense among, most surprisingly, those I sought help from: members of law enforcement, EMTs, and hospital staff who acted as if my illness was a nuisance.

I also noticed the topic was an unwelcome one among family members and friends.

We have the ice bucket challenge for ALS and breast cancer awareness and the diabetes walk. You can post about those on social media, but if you say you’re mentally ill, people are like, “What’s wrong with you?”

Despite my insecurity, I feel remarkably at home and confident on stage. In front of the microphone, I belt out songs from the ‘60s at local pubs.

Sometimes I’m so focused on hitting notes that I just feel free.

I continue to see a psychiatrist and a therapist regularly. I hope to get my master’s degree in healthcare informatics, a specialty that may sound nerdy, but it’s fast changing and challenging.

Mental illness can make you feel unstable. I want to find a career that I love. I want some sense of stability.

Clare is a 28-year-old singer from Massachusetts. To read more about Deconstructing Stigma and to meet more people like her, visit DeconstructingStigma.org.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1.800.273.8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the US, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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