For my first trick I will pull a rant out of my ass on mental illness and the stigma attached to it.
“Oh, you silly little blogger, there isn’t a stigma against mental illness! Everyone is on Zoloft now.”
Yeah, yeah. I’m not talking about that. It’s fine to pop a pill for anything nowadays. But popping a pill because you’re sad isn’t what I’m talking about. It’s fine to knock back some anti-depressants if it makes it more pleasant for the world to deal with you. However, what isn’t fine is admitting “Hi there, I’m ______, and I’m depressed/have a mental illness and working am on it.”
Why is because of the lovely idea that anyone that has a mental illness is going to use it as a crutch. They’re going to lay back and whine and complain that “ooh, my life is terrible because I’m depressed” or “it’s okay for me to be an asshole to everyone, I have Aspbergers!” In this lovely politically correct, apologetic world we live in, if someone pulls that card, you’re not allowed to do much to them except passively aggressively get pissy at them and, of course, avoid them. You are NOT allowed to say “Well, then you should go get your ass some help for it and stop trying to get special treatment. Other people have problems too.”
Thus, a stigma, defined here as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation,” is born. “All people that will openly tell you they have a mental illness want special treatment/are using it as a way to be excused for actions that we would not put up with from a mentally healthy person.”
Why is this not okay? Shouldn’t we point out that, yes, in fact, some people use their illness as a crutch? Damn skippy we should. However, you should point your wrath toward them and the fact they refuse to do anything about their condition, not the condition itself. Subtle difference. The mental illness may, in fact, be causing them to act like an asshole, but if they are making no effort to control it, you should treat them like just another asshole. You should tell them to stop it. You should tell them it’s not okay to be insensitive to other people, that they are not, in fact, a special snowflake that has a free pass. When they throw it back at you that “I HAVE A DISEASE!!!1111!!!!” ask them, “What are you doing to control it?” If the answer is a dumb stare, or a “I TAKEZ THE MEDS MAH DOCTOR GIVES ME!” then yes, treat them as another asshole.
“WHOA. Hold the fuck up. They’re taking medication! They’re doing something! You frigging hypocrite!”
Before you toss out everything I just said, let me clarify: If your symptoms are NOT adequately controlled by medication, your illness still affects your relationships and actions, unconsciously or not, you need to be doing something else. I don’t care if it’s formal therapy or simply taking stock of potential actions before you act, you need to take responsibility and recognize that you are the only person that can control your mental illness, no one else.
Before those of you that are mentally ill chime in that that is harder than most people realize: Yes, it is. I have been clinically depressed for years. It’s easy to pop the pills, it is not easy to realize when I’m getting angry at everything, nothing seems to be going right, and that self-destructive behavior is perfectly justified because who the fuck cares anyway if things are this shit anyway that it my perceptions are skewed all to hell. It is NOT easy to separate myself from those feelings and say “Okay, yes, I missed the bus, my friend is pissed at me for something not my fault and lashing out, I have more work than I can handle and almost no money, but that is not an okay reason to get angry at myself or others. How can I improve this or prevent these things from happening next time is constructive, self punishment for simply having a bad day is not.”
“You arrogant twat, not everyone is you.”
No, no they’re not. But in my tiny, screwed up little world, everyone should try their damnedest to fix their problems if they can. Having to rework your whole way of thinking is not easy, especially under stress and the heat of emotion, but it can be done. Go check out A Beautiful Mind for the best example of how difficult this is I’ve found. It’s not that he made himself somehow un-schizophrenic. He’s not cured. He has to go through his every step of life checking “is this real? Is this a hallucination?” if it is, he has to ignore it, no matter how hard it is, how hard it fights for his attention. Living with a mental illness is hard, very hard. But it can, and should, be done.
“Why should they have to conform to social rules? Why? Do you really think you can come in here with your holier than thou attitude and hold up the rules of society as being good things when you repeatedly fly in the face of them, are a self-proclaimed misanthrope, and anyone who knows you in daily life knows you act a hell of a lot like Gregory House did in the first four seasons of the show?!”
I do piss people off just to piss them off. You’re right. Congrats. However, I am holding people to the niceties of society here only to the extent that I want to believe that yes, everyone, in fact, deserves to be treated equally. The people around a mentally ill person do not deserve to be yelled at, cursed at, beat up on, the mentally ill does not deserve to be excused for their actions, they do NOT deserve to be excused from being a selfish ass to everyone around them and taking their own life. Yes, yes, I said it. Suicide is selfish, and it’s a self serving gesture that makes your life a hell of a lot easier by ending it and spits in the face of everyone that cared for you, tried to help you, wanted to help you, listened to you, and makes their life ten times harder because it made things easier for YOU. Suicide is never the answer, and not because I particularly care that you stay alive. It’s wrong that you think you are special enough to make those around you miserable and question what they did wrong when it’s YOU that screwed up.
I uphold the idea that everyone deserves equal respect. That does not mean that if you are hateful to everyone else and happen to have a mental illness you have to still be treated with respect. Those people you’re hateful toward deserve respect and aren’t getting it, therefore, you don’t get respect.
One last note on that: No one is perfect. No one. We all lash out at times. But there is a big damn difference between saying “I should not have said that, I apologize, that was uncalled for. What I said is not true and I know that.” And saying “Sorry I said you were worthless and nobody loves you, it’s just because I have a mental illness and lash out sometimes.” One says that lack of self control is not okay and that it was the person’s failing. The other says “I’m allowed to treat you badly because my mental illness makes me special. I didn’t fuck up, the disease made me do it.”
No one makes anyone do anything. Nothing made the people that committed suicide commit suicide. They took the gun, the knife, the poison in a conscious act. They did it themselves. If someone was forcing them, it isn’t suicide. It’s murder.
Stop lumping the people in that fight to swallow their pride and say “I need help. I’m sick, I need to work to get better,” with the people that sit on their ass and refuse to get help. Stop lumping in those working to control their illness and sometimes screwing up with those that don’t work to control it at all.
Remove the stigma attached to the mental illness. You want to shame someone, shame them for thinking they’re too special to be treated like everyone else and should be excused from responsibility of solving their own problems. Not because their thought processes are damaged.