Small Town Stigma, Self Stigma, by Paul Thomas

I was sitting in the central transportation department of a local hospital, a major one, when my co-worker, Allie, having received his assignment from the dispatcher, yelled out in protest: “The looney bin!?”

Our job, the dozen of us, mostly young Turks and a smattering of older woman, was to move patients from point A to point B in the hospital.

We sat on plastic chairs inside the drab cement block compound, waiting for “calls”. There was a tedium that craved resolution. Other times our department got really wild and people needed to blow off steam. Thus Allie and thus a million variations of psych ward jibes that I suffered for more than ten years. Not everybody, but some expressed that surely they would be headed for the psych ward.

I never felt particularly stigmatized or less than. Forgive me, but I was touched by the naivete. It was like being privy to an inside joke. Besides, they were my friends.

I certainly don’t want to condemn any persons or institution. This kind of thing goes on everywhere and all the time.

I almost wish I had a more uplifting story, more swashbuckling, as it were, in which I confronted a stigmatizer, brought him to his knees, then made off with his girlfriend. As it is, my tale of unenlightened nonsense must suffice. I might have been overtly stigmatized without realizing it, such is my natural complacency.

I have been plagued by self-stigma from time to time, especially early on. I am habitually the loner type, so mental illness was like taking a second hit, pushing me even more inward. I kept to myself, pathetic social skills and a Caspar-the-Ghost-like inability to make friends conspiring against me.

The universe became more benign as the years rolled by. I learned a lot from people like you.

I think an excellent stigma-busting technique is going humbly about one’s business. We never know how far-reaching our influence might be.

I’d like to thank those responsible for this essay contest and thank you for listening. I wish to thank my niece, Kristen, for submitting this paper for me. I hope to win something, but not the scholarship. School numbs my buns.

Paul Thomas Bender

 

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