Stigma

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“We regret to inform you that we are currently unable to provide additional life insurance coverage for Stephanie Nash due to the following:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • PTSD”

This is the beginning of a letter we recently received from the life insurance company that insures us through my husband’s work. We were trying to up the coverage and I had to do a health self-evaluation sheet for “evidence of insurability.”

So OBVIOUSLY I’m uninsurable because of my history of mental illness. And too bad for my husband because if he was trying to up my insurance policy so he could off me and collect some cash, the joke’s on him. Sorry, babe.

But in all seriousness…as I filled out this form, I considered not including all these items on it. Maybe I would just put depression. Maybe just anxiety. But I knew that would be dishonest and frankly, in a million years I never imagined that these three things would be a reason for denial.

I understand insurance companies have complex processes and maybe fancy algorithms for determining insurability, and my best guess is that they consider me a suicide risk. I also understand that this is completely non-personal and they are going off of a single piece of paper that doesn’t tell them who I am at all.

But…but…reading this letter really hurt me. It made me feel like I was unworthy because of the illnesses I struggle with. It made me feel rejected and ashamed. It made me feel stigmatized.

It made me feel that maybe, like Hester Prynne, I was wearing a scarlet letter on my clothes, but instead of an A for Adulteress, mine was a C for Crazy Person.

It did take me a few hours to shake off the sense of personal failure and rejection I felt reading this letter. The feeling that my depression, anxiety, and PTSD are all things I should be ashamed of, things I should sweep under the rug, things I should be able to just will away so that I didn’t have to write them down anymore as part of my medical history.

But this is bullshit. I know this is bullshit. The stigma placed on those with mental illness is real, but it is bullshit too.

Those of us who struggle with mental illness are still fully capable of living happy, productive lives. Right now, I am in the best place I’ve been mentally and physically in my entire life.

But the stigma remains, and this is not the only time I have felt it.

I could lie about all of it. I could leave it off every medical form that asks for my history. I could delete this entire blog–or at least the entries in which I’ve written about my darkest days–but I am determined to continue embracing even those dark times as part of who I am, regardless of any stigma society may attach to them.

The only way we can stop the stigmatization is to keep bringing these issues into the light, and I will continue to do so.

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