I have lived with panic disorder since I was 15 years old. I suffered in silence for the most part. Only my immediate family and my best friend, Mint, knew about my illness. Living in silence began to take a toll on my mental and physical health. I felt like I was harboring a secret and I wasn’t being honest with myself and the people around me. When I began blogging for The Huffington Post, I finally had an opportunity to come out of the mental health closet. I told my story about living with panic disorder in the most public forum I had access to.
After my story went viral, I was contacted via email by a number of people, who thanked me for sharing my story. One woman from South America said she wished there was a place that she could share her story. It got me thinking, there should be a place for people to share their stories about living with mental illness. So I searched the Internet for a centralized location where people could share their stories about living with mental illness; I couldn’t find one. So I created Stigma Fighters – www.stigmafighters.com – a place where people could share their journeys about living with mental ilness. This included stories about living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, BPD, PTSD and many more diagnoses. I wanted to humanize what it looks like to live with a mental illness.
Then, I met my business partner, Allie Burke. Initially she submitted to Stigma Fighters about living with schizophrenia. We immediately clicked and together we took Stigma Fighters from an online forum to a non-profit organization.
Allie Burke and I both write columns for Psychology Today where we speak about our illnesses and empower others.
One of our contributors, Katy Young, became our Executive Assistant. She had a brilliant idea – we should compile some of the essays from the website and make a Stigma Fighters Anthology. So we did it and our anthology is now for sale in Barnes & Noble Bookstores.
How does Stigma Fighters go about mental health awareness?
We share real stories from people living with mental illness on our website and in our mental health anthologies.
What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with Stigma Fighters?
Hearing other people’s stories is healing for me. I feel empowered and inspired by hearing the journeys from others like myself living with mental illness.
Do you think coverage of mental illness (in media, and elsewhere) has been getting better or worse in recent years?
People living with mental illness are speaking up more and more. We are beginning to see a cultural shift in the way that people with mental illness are portrayed in the media, however it is not great enough. There is still work to be done with regard to the portrayal of mentally ill people in the media. Often people with mental illness are connected to mass shootings. I have written about this topic for Quartz.
Tell us about your anthology:
The Stigma Fighters Anthology is a collection of personal essays from real people living with mental illness. It is raw and real and beautiful. You are taken on an emotional roller coaster as you read and left with a sense of hope.
If a person came to you with a rare disorder, such as Misophonia, what would you suggest they do?
I would suggest they write about it so that people could learn more.
How can people help and get involved with Stigma Fighters?
You are welcome to share your story with us by submitting here:
You can read the brave stories from real people living with mental illness here: www.stigmafighters.com