Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Stigma

Hey guys,
I know it's been awhile. I'm a bit behind on my blog reading, but I'm trying to catch up. I've been watching an unhealthy amount of Dexter dealing with a roommate situation and doing copious amounts of physics. I know some of you know details but for those of you who don't - it boils down to the stigma of mental illness (and some people just being horrible but that's not what I'm going to talk about, this time). This roommate put me down repeatedly and called me weak for doing possibly the strongest thing I've ever done - getting help.

If you think mental illness doesn't have a stigma - then you are probably contributing to it. And you are hopefully lucky enough to never have to experience being sick in this way. (Aside: I'm going to use quotation marks to add in what "you" say. It's probably not what any of you would actual say but that's how I think.) "But two of my best friends have been on antidepressants for years" (you say, see?) "and I still think you're wrong." Well, there are different levels of severities. And I'm not saying that antidepressants are over prescribed (I totally am) but the stigma still exists. It's not okay to stare at someone in a wheelchair, but it's okay to shoot dirty looks at "crazy" people and mumble about how they should be locked up. Words like "psychotic" are spat out like poison. And no one's supposed to hang out with people who are "not quite right in the head" or "insane." Why? Because it might rub off? Last time I checked hallucinations, compulsions, and panic attacks are about as contagious as cancer. For example, people claim it's because of old movies that they think ECT is horrible. But people who haven't even seen the movies feel the same way. When the facts are... oh wait... they have none.

And then, after all that, people decide that it must be fun or easy. We just don't want to deal with things. We made it up. We just want attention. The truth? All we want is to be normal. While you're thinking about how easy it is to stay in bed all day, we're thinking about how easy it must be to be like everyone else. How easy it must be to know that you're seeing the same thing as everyone else. How easy it must be not to freak out over something that isn't scary. How easy it must be to go about life without knowing that in a second everything could change and you could be completely incapacitated with no one to help you.

Others only seem to see two types of mental illness. Those who have "completely lost it" and those who are pretending, enviable because they can get out of things. They don't see how truly desperate these people are to escape. I've tried to find experimental treatments, trials, to join from horse tranquilizers to brain surgery. "That's ridiculous - you don't need that, don't be silly, you're just a little sad." Well, you don't understand, you can't understand, what it's like for something to always be there. And that's okay. I envy you. And I really hope you don't envy me. Because there is no one I would wish a severe mental illness on. Because it doesn't just stop. It doesn't take breaks no matter what is going on. And it's always there. No matter what.

This stigma affects the people who actually suffer from these conditions. Especially because after awhile - we start to believe it's true. We believe we must be faking. We believe that maybe we should and could just "snap out of it." We believe that we are weak for getting or accepting help. So on top of everything else, we put off getting help, and hide our conditions. We don't want anyone else to know because they might think we are weak. We don't want to accept to ourselves that we are that weak and couldn't just deal with stuff on our own like everyone else. The disease lies to us and on top of that we have others agreeing with it. And so it's hard for us to decide which voice to listen to. Who is right. Especially since we know everything could change it in a second.

This is what happened to me and this roommate. I believed her. She was saying, confirming, the things I was already thinking. While other voices protested, I just couldn't believe them. I wasn't that bad. There were tons of people who waited more time to get help and were therefore worse than I was. I was faking it. I was over exaggerating. I was needy. I was weak.

I know these things are not true. I know that those who are close to me and care about me are correct. I know it. I try to believe it. And I try not to listen to the negative forces in my life, both external and internal. But it's hard.That is something I think everyone can agree on, mental illness or not.

This is my take. I use "we" meaning people suffering with mental illness, but this is only my reality. There are exceptions. I know there are others who feel the same as I do, but just because someone is mentally ill do not assume that this is how they feel. Because we are not all the same. But at the same time, we're really not all that different from everyone else. Don't be afraid of us. Don't make assumptions. Treat us the same way as you would treat someone with diabetes. Diabetics may need special medication or watch what they eat. But it would be silly not to talk to someone because s/he were a diabetic, right? And it would be just as silly not to talk to someone because s/he had a mental illness.

On a completely different note, I started running with one of my roommates last week. And by started running I mean I went twice with her. And then once by myself, where I guess I did too much too soon because I injured myself a little. But as soon as I feel completely recovered and find the right insoles for my shoes, I plan on going back to it. Maybe a little slower this time.
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