Laura Lee – Stigma Begone

At Glastonbury festival, I had the good fortune to meet Ruby Wax, and listen to her talk on mental health. There was so much I could relate to, like allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by mania. I’m certainly guilty, that email must be answered in the next five minutes in spite of the fact I give a twenty four hour turn around time on my website. The house must be immaculate, because the world will grind to a halt if the bathroom tiles have toothpaste on them. You get the picture. You see for me, there are two speeds – go and stop. Since I spent a sizable proportion of last year up to my waist in plaster, it’s been go ever since. If I’m being honest, I was worried about how stop would feel.

Couple lying in bed
Loving couple in bed. Beautiful young loving couple lying in bed and looking at each other

That’s where mindfulness comes in, this was a new concept to me. Although I am familiar with self care, it had simply never occurred to me to just sit and be still. To clear your mind of those racing thoughts and just enjoy a couple of moments of peace. Ms. Wax gave us a demonstration and it’s now a practice I do regularly. She spoke very candidly about her own mental health issues which I found eye opening and very brave. But since then, in a recent interview, Ms. Wax said that she doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to mention any mental health issues at job interviews because of the stigma. I disagree.

Stigma Is Powerful

Stigma is powerful in it’s ability to cause harm and the only way to beat it, is to bring those issues at it’s foundations to the surface. As an out and proud sex worker, I’ve stared stigma down many times . So if someone sniggers “I heard you have a website”, the answer is simply “And what ? It’s been online since 2008.” For me it’s simple – if it’s not a secret, it can’t hurt you.

Back in the bad old days of nine to five, a young man was sent for a medical as part of an application to join a bank. When asked how many units of alcohol he consumed on a weekly basis he roared, “Och I can’t be doing with that, just put me down for three to four litres.” He got the job. As part of my applications to corporate drudgery, I had to be honest and say that I am under the watchful eye of my GP for depression and mood swings, it’s really nothing to be ashamed of. I still got the job, too.

You know the truth is, almost everyone I know has an “ism”. It’s part of what makes us unique. The only way to beat the stigma around our “isms” is to acknowledge that they’re there, and bid a final farewell to shame.

Laura Lee

Laura Lee

Irish mother, writer, animal lover, perpetual student and sex workers' rights campaigner.
Laura Lee

2 thoughts on “Laura Lee – Stigma Begone”

  1. I have read Ruby Wax’s Autobiography and she has had a life that was full of twists and turns. It’s good to hear that she is now using that hardship and experience to help others. You know what they say about ‘funny’ people. They often have a sad soul behind it.

    Time for reflection is really important. It’s the time when we learn from our experiences and take stock for the future and I agree that stigma is a powerful thing, which is only ever used to push people down and be negative. It’s stigma itself that is wrong, not the ‘ism’ it is wagging it’s finger at.

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