Stigma that hurts most is one we put on ourselves

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All too often I hear my mentally ill peers shame themselves for their symptoms or treatments. When it feels as if the whole world is against us, it's more important than ever that we take a stand for ourselves.

When my good friend needed to seek inpatient treatment, he expressed it as if it was some personal failure on his part. I just didn't see that as the case.

To me, my friend was ill and needed to get medical treatment. Would it be failure if it had been the flu? Or how about a broken bone?

I simply said that if you break your leg. you'll need a cast and crutches. The choice is completely up to you and you can certainly go without those, but how far are you going to get?

What I see in my friend's decision - or any person's decision - to go inpatient for mental health treatment is being proactive about taking their well-being into their own hands.

Someone can faithfully take their medicine, regularly see a therapist and even attend support groups, but sometimes all of that just isn't enough and a higher level of care is needed. What's the shame in that? To me, that shows a high level of self awareness, responsibility and a dedication to their recovery.

If someone is beyond the point of being able to make that decision for herself, I still see no shame, because sometimes it's hard to see what's happening right in front of us.

I have been inpatient for my mental health a total of five times, most recently in 2015. Three times it was not my decision, twice it was. It can be a bitter pill to swallow, realizing I do not have the capability to take care of myself.

However, like any other medical condition, this is the entire point of medical professional and hospitals: They are there for a reason and a resource none of us should feel ashamed to use.

The road to recovery is not linear. Someday I might end up back in the hospital. My level of wellness today might not be my level of wellness tomorrow. And that's okay; I am at peace with this.

Each day I will do the best I can, in each way I can, to move my recovery in a positive direction and that most definitely includes inpatient hospital care, should that be what I need at any given point.

I think the real danger in self stigmatizing is when we end up shaming ourselves to the point of not getting the help we need. That would not only be harmful to ourselves, but potentially to those around us as well.

To me, being responsible for one's own recovery is not something to be shameful of, but rather proud.

To my friend who felt shameful about needing inpatient care, look at the strength it took to make that difficult decision and how much better you are for having made it.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).

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