You are not your farts or your mental illness symptoms.

I got this question over on the EHAB Tumblr: Can I ask why it’s not good to define yourself based on your mental illness? I mean I understand that I am complex and interesting beyond my depression, but sometimes I feel like people who say things like that are trying to get me to stop talking about it/get over it. Can you explain what you think the goal of “you are not your illness” mantras are? The simple answer is:

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Overcoming stigma when blogging about health and illness.

I recently gave a keynote presentation at Diabetes Linkup, a conference for Type 2 Diabetes bloggers, on the topic of overcoming stigma to connect with peers online. I was sharing lessons learned from the past four years of sharing about my brain. Whether it’s diabetes or mental illness, the challenges we run into online and the ways we can overcome them are very similar. Here are the five lessons I shared:

Mental Illness is Like Drowning (video)

When I say that mental illness is like drowning and building better mental health is like learning how to swim, I’m not suggesting that mental illnesses aren’t real biological experiences. Drowning is a very biological experience. If we took some guy that doesn’t know how to swim and pushed him off the side of a boat into deep water, he’s going to have a very stressful experience. It’s going to be distressing and traumatic — for him and for those watching. He’s

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Being open about mental health isn’t brave.

It’s normal. It’s healthy. It’s responsible. Talking about stuff in your brain is no different than talking about stuff going on with any other body part. Talking about improving your mental health and fitness is no different than talking about improving your physical health and fitness. Swapping techniques on how to do difficult exercises is the same whether it’s a CBT exercise or a crossfit WOD. It’s all about health. Speaking about mental health isn’t brave. It’s the stuff happening

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Your fear of stigma is part of the illness.

When we’re talking about stigma, we’re really talking about the fear of stigma. People don’t open up about mental health because they’re afraid of what others might say or do. It’s a fear of a possibility. And avoidance of something based on anxieties about other people is no different than any other social anxiety or OCD behavior. In other words: the fear of stigma is part of the illness. We know that trying to avoid feeling anxious is one of

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You’re not the only one with mental health issues.

  This image is from The Acceptance Field Guide: Navigating anxiety and depression in an uncertain world, which explores how to practically apply the concepts of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy to overcome anxiety and compulsive behaviors in your daily life. The Acceptance Field Guide is available for $2.99 on Amazon: www.amazon.com/Acceptance-Field-Guide-Navigating-ebook/dp/B006W950CG/

Mental health stigma is just a squirrel with a fake monster mask.

When I began to speak openly about my mental health issues, people would often tell me about stigma–that it’s something to be afraid of, that I should watch out for it, that it could compromise my career, etc. But the things people would say sounded very similar to things I used to tell myself to justify the compulsive behaviors that defined my OCD. 

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