Denise M's Story

A young woman with blonde hair, wearing a white cardigan

A negative experience in a healthcare setting caused Denise’s self-stigma to build up, to the point where she didn’t reach out for help when she needed it. She shares her story, and her advice for other people looking to overcome any stigma they feel.

Self-stigma makes you think that if you speak to someone about how you are really feeling then you will be treated as an outcast. You will be judged and they’ll think you’re not ‘normal’, therefore you don’t ask for help and things get so much worse than they already are and it can often be too late.

A lot of it comes from the stigma we experience from other people.

Not that long ago, in 2019, I went to my current doctor about a physical health problem. He told me to lie on the bed, he moved my leg, and said, ‘It’s muscular, and stress and anxiety.’ He didn’t want to listen.

Later, I was rushed into hospital by ambulance with a potential spinal condition. Luckily it wasn’t as serious but it did prevent me from seeking any help for over a year. I thought they would see my self-harm scars, and put it down to all being in my head.

I have tried speaking to some of my family about the self-stigma I experience, but they just don’t understand. They say they do, but they don’t – they often say, ‘Give yourself a shake,’ or, ‘Snap out of it.’ I gave up a long time ago. Friends, on the other hand, are a completely different story. They are so much more supportive and I would truly be lost without my friends. My husband is also amazing and so supportive too.

After intensive therapy and so many hospital admissions, I feel to challenge my own self-stigma is to be honest and open about my own experiences of mental health.

We have every right to be treated as equals. I am now very open about my mental health issues, and how I got to where I am today, but also honest with myself because I know my mental health conditions are life-long and there will be bumps in my journey.

Being a part of See Me has been a massive help to me. It has shown me that there is no shame in having a mental health condition. It’s good to talk and be open – you never know who could be listening and it could save someone’s life.

Anyone out there really struggling with anything, please don’t give up. Be honest and true to yourself, be kind to yourself – you are worth it. You are special and unique. Keep going, keep fighting.