I have to admit that I am about 2 weeks late on handing in this essay. When Stigma Project contacted me I thought that surely it would not take me long to write up a short piece on stigma. Then my brain started going. You know, that old lump above my shoulders that sorts and sifts memories, stories, and ideas all day? Apparently there were more memories to sort and sift than I originally thought. It seems that mental illness is the “in thing” as far as labeling someone. It is the easiest way to hit someone below the belt. If one happens to feel threatened, jealous, uneducated, scared, or weakened by another it is an easy cop-out to question their sanity instead of minding their own business.
Well, instead of telling a story about the many times I have been stigmatized, I am going to use my essay to turn the tables on those that label, judge, harass, stigmatize, and discriminate. From now on when you hear a comment that questions your ability to think, that questions your ability to make sound choices, that questions your whole being, I challenge you to take a second to pause. Keep your head up, take a deep breath, smile, and keep moving forward, because tonight your conscience will be clear. You were not the one wasting your day, running around, calling people names, and undermining a kind, thoughtful, and caring person. When you lay down to go to sleep tonight to do not pay any mind to the poor person from work, class, media, or entertainment that was spewing immaturity all over the place. Remember, we are what we take in and we are what we give out. Do not waste your thoughts on this hater, because a hater is only filled with hate. And thank all that is good that you are not so filled with hate that hate is all that overflows out of your mouth twenty four hours a day every day.
Instead be thankful that today you learned how to keep your cool. Today you learned that you are a good person. You are a patient person. You are a strong person. And most of all, you are a wise person. Do you think the one that stigmatizes and discriminates is able to say these things with a good conscience at the end of the day? I doubt it, but because we are so wise I think we can have hope for them. Shake the stigma off, because it is not your burden to bear, it is theirs. Sending all of my love and support to you…
Joseph S. Fusaro