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What It Can Mean to Be Mentally Ill

Posted on December 10, 2005 in Hope and Joy Stigma

square164I think many of those who read this blog know some if not all the circumstances described in this piece. I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks now, contemplating my experiences and those of others. They tend to reflect a “bipolar” sensibility about the problems, but if you suffer from another organic brain dysfunction feel free to post your own list for a trackback or add them as a comment here.

  • Being mentally ill can mean that people dismiss you as “stupid” or “different” or “dangerous” or “crazy”.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that everyone looks at you when Fox News reports that a new serial killer has been arrested. (Technically, sociopathy is a personality disorder rather than a “true” mental illness.) The same people will never think of you when they hear about a famous artist or writer.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that people will bring up Hitler, Stalin, or Mussolini — even though none of these suffered from mood or schizophrenic disorders — but never accomplished people like Byron, Keats, Shelley, or Michaelangelo.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that those close to you feel that they have to control you.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that people will press and press you to “just get along” with them and make absolutely no effort to get along with you.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you’re called lazy because your disease is fatiguing.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you can be sexually harassed or verbally abused: your abuser need only claim that you were manic and just imagining things or making them up.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that your relatives actively steal from you.
  • Being mentally ill does mean that you are 12 times more likely to be a victim of violence than the ordinary person and yet people around you worry that you’ll go postal at any instant.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you’ll take in all the hateful prejudices against you and believe them.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that your own brothers and sisters won’t let you play with their children.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you lose your job because the boss discovered your secret.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that your health insurance won’t cover all your pharmaceutical and medical needs when you need them most.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that people tell you that you shouldn’t have children because you will pass on your condition.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that people tell you not to have children because you will be a bad parent.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that two hours after the end of your support group meeting, you find yourself handcuffed in the back of a squad car and on your way to the hospital with no idea of how you ramped up so fast.
  • Being mentally ill and being African American can mean that Society’s idea of treatment for you is imprisonment.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that not taking your meds can be interpreted by prosecutors as willful resolution to be destructive or violent.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you end up face down and dead on the tarmac at an airport because federal marshals shot you during an episode.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you feel great after only three hours of sleep. Then you go speeding on the freeway at 90+ mph and get a ticket.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you have friends that nobody else can see and they are more understanding that your other ones.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you must avoid Las Vegas at all costs.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that some people refuse to take you seriously.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that people reject your offers of friendship.
  • Being mentally ill can mean having friends and family tell you there’s nothing wrong with you even though you punched out your computer screen because it was going too slow.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you enjoy driving ultrafast.
  • Being mentally ill can mean using alcohol, street drugs, caffeine, and candy to alter your moods because you can’t stand the ones you have.
  • Being mentally ill can mean starting many crafts projects and finishing none.
  • Being mentally ill can mean going out to buy groceries and coming home with a new car.
  • Being mentally ill can mean opening your wallet, finding it empty, and having no clue where you spent all the money.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you look in the mirror one morning and discover that you’ve changed your hair color and pierced your tongue Your husband tells you that you had that done two weeks ago.
  • Being mentally ill can means you keep going over your credit limit.
  • Being mentally ill can mean a house filled with junk that you don’t need.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that your spouse has to buy an internet filter to keep you from going to eBay.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you see conspiracies everywhere.
  • Being mentally ill can mean many hours spent in your own company.
  • Being mentally ill can mean you hear the mermaids singing, each to each.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you know many angels and archangels by name.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you are God.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that the colors of the autumn trees seem like neon lights scorching the daylight.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that new, liberating perspectives flow from you for the betterment and joy of others.
  • Being mentally ill can mean that you learn new self-respect and freedom when you admit you are sick and start taking meds to control it.
  • Being mentally ill can mean acquiring a sense of sorrow and pain and using that gift to help others, never denying their hurt, their embarassment, their illness.
  • Being mentally ill can mean finding friends who truly understand what you are going through and love you for who you are even if you can be a pain in the wazoo at times.

Accept this as my final gift for International Human Rights Day.

  • Random Quote

    “We are always in search of the redeeming formula, the crystallizing thought.”
    by Etty Hillesum
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