#AgainstStigma. The Face of Addiction/’Mental Illness*’. #12.
My name is Lola Pieterse, I am a recovered alcoholic and addict [1 year, 4 months]. I live with mental illness (bi-polar II) for 8 years.
Self-portrait by Lola.
Johannesburg, South Africa.
*/** PLEASE READ MY ‘DEFINITIONS’ OF ‘ADDICTION’, ‘MENTAL ILLNESS’, AND ‘RECOVERY’.
For every person we lose to depression and/or addiction, there are thousands who not only survive, but thrive. Is death and suffering the legacy we want to leave for those still struggling out there, or can we speak out against stigma, the silence and the anonymity and help leave a legacy of strength, victory and power? Join #AgainstStigma and help change the legacy of depression, mental illness and addiction.
Please join me in providing a face to the anonymous diseases, in standing against stigma. Please join me in this photographic project: We all have addictions, and a lot of us live with mental illness. If you’re in active recovery, whether it be from mental illness* or from the addictions of smoking, sugar, over-working or heroin, etc., please take part and please share. So this is a call to take the anonymous out of addiction and mental illness. I’d like to begin a movement, centring around a photographic project, where we ‘come out’ as addicts and those living with mental illness. Because those in active addiction and active mental illness need to have a blueprint of what it looks like to be ‘allowed’ back into society, of what it looks like to live day by day with these diseases. Because being in recovery is one of the bravest things anyone can ever do, and this needs to be celebrated rather than stigmatised. And perhaps this will prevent the completely unnecessary deaths of those whom we know and love who feel that they are alone in their addiction and depression.
What are the requirements?
– That you’re a recovering addict** and/or living with mental illness, and not in active addiction** or in any way a victim** of your mental illness*. This project is for people who have overcome or are in the process of overcoming the dysfunction and are stronger for it, who have learned or are learning not only to live with their addictive personalities and mental illness, but who are stronger and more whole than when they first used or became mentally ill.
– The willingness to have your photograph, your full name and your information about your addiction and/or mental illness published on the internet in various social media forms, to be tagged on Facebook, as well as to have your image and details publicised in the form of a physical exhibition.
– That you use your full name.
– Photo: This project is about the message, not the photograph, so it will only work if all the portraits are in the same format. Sorry to limit your creativity, but if you could keep the photograph setup as close to the ones already online that would be great. I’ll edit if needed. Thanks!
– Text: Please fill your details into this format –
My name is ____________. I am a recovering addict (_________ [__ months/years], etc.). I live with mental illness (_________ [_____ months/years*]).
[…] indicates clean time.
* A note on what I mean by mental illness. The word ‘illness’ is something I use for the sake of clarity, to make sure that everyone knows what I am speaking about. So I use the psychiatric term. So whatever your definition and whether you see it as a burden or a gift, what I mean here by ‘mental illness’ is the same thing you mean. I have huge issues with the psychiatric institution and see it as very fraught, and I am not a big fan of the DSM whatever version we’re on now. I don’t believe in ‘diagnosis’ and hate how it labels and limits one. I see my ‘mental illness’ as part of my personality, not a pathology, something that makes me more sensitive and creative than most, which is both beautiful and difficult. Whether you align yourself to addiction as an illness or something that is not pathological, this project is for you, because I would like to put a face on those living outside the boundaries of what most people consider ‘normal’, and making a success of the daily struggles.
** recovery / active recovery / clean time / active recovery from mental illness / clean time from mental illness: ‘Recovery’ is not easily definable. I use the terms ‘recovery’ and ‘mental illness’ in the way that they are defined by the very, very fraught psychiatric institution. What I mean by ‘in recovery’ as opposed to ‘active addiction’ is that the former has taken the steps needed to live with their mental illness/addiction. They are aware that it is a day-to-day struggle and not something that is ever cured. An active addict or someone who is a victim to their mental illness is someone who is waiting to be saved; someone who does not take responsibility for what they are dealing with. And certainly, reaching out for help is taking responsibility. It’s the difference between between active, an agent in one’s own recovery, and being passive and waiting for a pill/professional/sobriety to save one. What it means for me is the last time my life was completely unmanageable, when I was not functioning, when the depression controlled me instead of the other way around; when I was a victim to it instead of a survivor living with and dealing with it daily. But having said that, it is not all smooth sailing. And not just because I’m an addict and living with mental illness, but because I’m alive There are ups and downs and I have bad days and even relapse in some of my addictions. Or if I don’t relapse in my addictions, then I relapse in my addictive thinking and do impulsive, self-destructive and general ‘addict’ things. This clarification is under constant revision and has not been expressed very well here. Comments, queries and suggestions are very, very welcome. Let’s keep redefining what we live with, by ourselves, for ourselves, instead of having a psychiatric institution tell us what we live with.
Stigma Too Much for #AgainstStigma? Please Participate Anonymously in Writing.
Now a month into the project, I must say that I had absolutely no idea how great the stigma is re addiction and mental illness until I started my In Recovery: The Face of Addiction/Mental Illness. #AgainstStigma project. I’m getting quite a bit of feedback that people would love to participate, but that they too did not realise how insidious the stigma was. I’d like to ask that those of you who feel that they cannot participate in this project due to the stigma please inbox or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d like to include your anonymous comments in this project in a piece I’ll be writing along with it.
And remember: this stigma says more about society than it does about you and your ability to participate.
For any queries, debates, additions to my definitions or submissions, please email email@example.com