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The Stigma Against Treatment

Posted on April 9, 2015 in InterNet Debates Mean People Psychotropics Stigma

*TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE**

square861Hell found me recently. Ever hear the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished?” A couple of nights ago, I engaged a chatter first by disagreeing with an assessment of his and then, after watching him become more and more explosive, asking him if everything was all right. I was truly concerned, but that remark was my undoing. Three days of public denunciation and harassment ensued with him accusing me of personally insulting him while questioning my motives and disparaging my intelligence. The staff at the site were no help: they didn’t want to get involved. Finally, I wrote a blog (part of my own account) outlining my rebuttal to his remarks. This led to his posting of yet another diatribe claiming that I was persecuting him. I lost it and let him have it. Suddenly the staff took notice. But instead of trying to put him in line, the one I approached for help told me that there were “two sides”. I pointed out that my blog was directed at his ideas; he had responded by calling me a moron. There was a qualitative difference in the interaction and the staffer was not helping the situation by failing/refusing to see the distinction. There was a wild finish where my persecutor denied he had insulted me, then backed down when I showed him that he had. He apologized and I deleted the whole argument between us as off topic. Of course, he exploded again saying that I had shown that I had not appreciated his apology by deleting it. I wrote one note to him telling him that he was out of control and needed to get a handle on his anger; and another to the staffer noting that not once had he noticed that I had kept my temper for three days under barrage. I was through with both of them. So far, silence from the one and a weak apology from the latter.

While this was happening, I could not help but notice that the other guy was fixated on me. His rage strongly reminded me of the days when my disorder was undiagnosed and unmedicated; when I was prone to irrational and inappropriately emotional outbursts. Who turns an expression of concern for one’s mood into a personal attack? I could not ask this question of the staffer because I could not tell him how I knew that my harasser was mentally ill.

There’s a twisted standard that the so-called sane use to evaluate people. Anger and explosiveness are thought to be nothing more than personality quirks. “Alfred likes to rant” they might say with the same ease as they might say “Alfred likes cornflakes”. People might ask “What did you do to make Alfred mad?” as if the victim of the rage were the cause. Alfred gets a free pass because “it’s only Alfred’s personality” and “the victim must have provoked him”.

Suppose that Alfred mocks his wife, Jill. Jill realizes that something is not right in her life, so she goes to a psychiatrist and is diagnosed, say, with depression. She starts taking medication. She begins to complain about Alfred to outsiders like the staffer who handled my issue. Ah, but Jill is on medication. That means Jill’s thinking is distorted. Can we trust her? Is she being histrionic when she complains about Alfred’s abuse?

Do you think Alfred is going to seek treatment for himself? Hell, no. He’s seen what happened to Jill. Because Jill is an identified mental patient, her thinking and her emotions are suspect. Who would want to find people discounting everything he said because he sought help? So Alfred continues untreated. Then one day some good Samaritan comes in at Jill’s request to intervene. He sees the interaction. He decides that both Alfred and Jill are equally responsible for their messy relationship. But he leans towards Alfred because, well, Jill has a diagnosis and Alfred is — by reason of the fact that he does not see a psychiatrist — not crazy. You can imagine how devastating this is to Jill. The abuse continues, Jill feels trapped by the lack of sympathy for her situation, and, finally, she takes a razor blade and goes for a long, red bath.

Did the diagnosis cause the stigma? No, it was the way that the third party used the diagnosis as an excuse to do nothing to help Jill that led to this unhappy end.

I could not tell the staffer about how the jerk was triggering my mental illness because admitting to taking medications for mental illness is worse than being mentally ill and refusing treatment. The so-called sane regard every last one of us identified patients as potential mass murderers thanks to the NRA and Big Media. When they move to “help” us, they aim to abridge our rights as adults. So a towering wall of distrust is raised and when the bricks fall, they tend to fall on my side of the barrier. If I had mentioned my illness, the focus would have moved away from his behavior to my state of mind. This would have served him well and me very poorly. (Things were bad enough.) So I keep my silence: even though I have controlled my disease, I am of a lower caste than the unmedicated because I admit that I have a problem. It is no wonder that some people don’t take meds — not because they aren’t aware that something is wrong — but because they don’t want people saying that they are crazy. Crazy means less than human. You never want to admit to that.

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