Write hard and clear about what hurts- Ernest Hemingway
I love this quote. Ernest understood writing at it's finest but he also understood mental illness. Mainly because he struggled with it and sadly he eventually lost his lifelong battle with it. I admire his honesty and I have to agree that writing should be about the taboo more painful topics as well. They are just as important as the comical oddities and the feel good stories of the day. Mainly because although all of us love to laugh and feel good, it is my belief that painful things need to be purged so they can be examined and then worked on. I find that writing about them has helped me to do that. It has helped me close open wounds and heal older scars. It has made my voice heard for the first time in thirty four years and I finally feel like the struggles I have gone through have a purpose to them. If I can't let go of them than at least maybe, they can help someone else. And while ignorance may be bliss to those it that suffer from it, it is hell on the rest of us.
I haven't ranted in awhile. It is hard to make me mad, mostly. I am the not typical red head in that fashion. But oh my God when you do anger me it becomes a boiled over pot of pissed off and it is not pretty. I don't like to get angry. It scares me a bit. I have never been violent in my life, however when angry, the rise of emotions makes me uncomfortable.
Certain things make me angrier quicker than others. Bullying for one. Whether done on the internet or to a person's face, I become irate. As a victim of bullying for most of my life, I know how bad that affects people and I know the pain it causes. In all of my situations of being bullied I do not remember the faces of those that stood by and let it happen to me. It becomes a blur of flesh colored smears. There were many. Too many. But what I do remember is the faces of those that stood up for me and stood up for themselves. I remember those people's faces in stark clarity. They were my heroes, who I strived to be like. Not a nameless faceless coward who sat back and watched other people torment me, but someone who may not have even really liked me but knew that what was happening was wrong. And even twenty years later, I am still thankful for them. They saved me not just from the bullies but from the negative way I viewed myself. I am grateful that they were there and that they refused to be part of the humiliation and pain inflicted upon me.
As a victim I know that to stand by and say nothing makes you equally as guilty as the person inflicting the humiliation and torment. It makes no difference whether you are the one actually bullying, if you stand by and watch it happen you are an accomplice. You condone those actions. And I will never be that kind of person. Never.
Bullying as whole is a complicated issue. Why it occurs so frequently is a mystery to most of us except that the one main component is ignorance. Just plain and simple ignorance and fear of what we don't understand.
Suffering from a mental illness puts us, the sufferers, in a hard spot. We are so afraid of being singled out, which we often times are. We are afraid of being ostracized, because we become that way. We are afraid to openly talk about what we go through because of the ever oppressive stigma that hangs over us and our diagnoses like a damp woolen coat that smells like mildew and vomit. And it is painful.
And even when we don't tell people about our problems we often times hear others making negative comments about mental illness and it makes us less willing to openly talk about it. I mean, if you hear someone talking bad about your particular mental illness are you going to feel comfortable actually discussing that you have that diagnoses with them? Hell no.
We have mental illness, we are not stupid. We already suffer. The last thing we want is to be harassed or punished for having it.
Stigma. It is such a small word and yet it carries such a profound weight to it. It smothers us. It suffocates our progress. It shames our sense of self worth. It stifles our growth and it prevents our treatment. It keeps us sick and in many cases it promotes our suicidal population.
Make no mistake stigma kills just as surely as does the weapon we use to kill ourselves with. It is the poison that keeps us sick. And the worst part is, it doesn't have to exist at all. If people would just educate themselves.
No I am not talking about reading a few pamphlets and watching one episode of Dr. Phil. I am talking about really educating yourself. Talking to people. Gaining insight and not becoming some deranged arm chair psychiatrist full of misquoted statistics and opinionated ideals.
It angers me. When I hear people have lost their inner fight to live with mental illness because they were afraid to get help simply because of the ramifications getting help could cause. The shame they feel and the agony of having to face the people we love or respect and have to admit that no, we are not okay. It is a hard thing to do. It's hard because stigma confines how others think about us. It confines how we think about ourselves. It confines everything we say or do.
And until we stop being ignorant and judgmental we will continue to lose good people that could have gotten help but were too afraid to. And it really pisses me off, because stigma is just another form of bullying. Yet another form of ignorance.
Mental illness is looked down upon and completely misrepresented. It makes our lives harder and harder for the ones we share our lives with as well.
Today I heard some idiot, for lack of a better word, talking about how one in five people have a personality disorder.....
Really, where did you get that statistic, a the back of cereal box? Are you serious? What the hell is that? Do you even know what a personality disorder is? I am pretty sure that people with personality disorders don't have three heads and green skin so how would you know? Do you realize that they are people just like everyone else and that they have their own issues to deal with and one of them shouldn't be your crappy attitude, unbelievable amount of ignorance, and ridiculous accusations?
Or how many times have I heard about the guy that killed those soldiers in Fort Hood this last time? The guy that was trying to get help for PTSD but was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Now everyone with an anxiety disorder or depression gets the sideways glances. Like we are all closeted murderers in waiting. Thanks, like we didn't have enough problems already. Now people are afraid of us for being afraid. Awesome (sarcasm).
And if it weren't maddening enough with the media trying to come up with what mental illness is the flavor of the month that may make a person a mass killer, they keep saying how he was taking antidepressants and sleeping pills so he was being treated....
Listen, just because they throw a few pills and a diagnoses at you doesn't mean that you are being "treated". That is akin to cutting off your leg and slapping a few band-aids over the gaping wound and then wondering why you are bleeding to death. I mean you put band-aids over the problem area so in theory you are being "treated" right? The word treated isn't necessarily in question. What should be in question is the words "treated properly". You can treat diabetes with tomato soup and hot tea, it doesn't mean that it is going to work. It ridiculous!
Treatment is a long process. For some of us it is a life long process. Just because you get medication doesn't mean that it will work effectively. Doesn't mean that it won't react to other medications. Doesn't mean that you will wake up and everything be rosy and perfect in the morning. That is ignorance at it's finest right there on the nightly news.
Treatment requires the right diagnoses, which for some us takes many wrong diagnoses and treatments to figure out. It takes therapy and constant mindfulness of our limitations and triggers. It takes time and effort and down right grit to deal with it on a daily basis. It takes the proper therapy and medications. It takes a lot and it is not an easy fix. And it certainly doesn't help to be constantly reminded of just how ignorant the rest of the world is on the subject.
We are not worthless.
We are not crazy.
We are not broken.
We are not evil.
We are not the demons living under your bed waiting to get you.
Somewhere, somehow over the millennium, mental illness has become a dirty word. A secret kept closed to the vest. Something to disregard and make fun of. Something in which to use as a scapegoat or a easily ready excuse. It has become synonymous with evil and bad. It has become something to be ashamed of and feel worthless about. It has become an entity other than itself. A curse. A damnation. A character flaw of the highest kind and it is all wrong.
We are not the danger. Stigma and ignorance are the danger that lurks behind the shadows. Lies and misrepresentation are the killers of people that could be helped. Shame and discrimination are the chains that bind us all.
We can not get help if we are too scared to admit there is a problem. We can not get better if we are to ashamed to seek treatment. We can not get treatment if we are not allowed to because of others incorrect ideals of what having a mental illness is.
For every mass murder you hear about on tv there are thousands of mentally ill people not being dangerous. Not harming others. Not becoming killers and yet we never hear those statistics. We never hear about the fact that we are less likely to be violent than addicts or domestic abusers. We never hear about the fact that the mentally ill are twice as more likely to be victims of violence rather than to perpetrate it.
So when I say ignorance is bliss, I don't mean for those of us that have to live in it's disfiguring shadow. It's crushing misrepresentations. It's shame.
If bullying is from ignorance than it stands to reason that stigma is also a form of bullying. It has the same result. It carries the same stench of discrimination.
So before you continue to spout degrading, incorrect, misrepresentations of what you think mental illness is like, educate yourself. Because if you don't stand up for us and say something then you are condoning the ignorance that has been allowed to be broadcast all over the world for hundreds of years. Are you going to be a hero or an accomplice? It's your choice but make no mistake it is our lives that hang in the balance and we deserve better.