Monday, August 10, 2009

Does This Blog Post Make Me Look Angry?

In my last post I mentioned that I have been and am mentally ill. For those of you who haven’t read this blog from the beginning – let me clarify for you.

In 1998 my life caught up to me and I had a complete mental breakdown and was hospitalized for nine months. For the first number of months I didn’t know who I was or anyone else for that matter. I thought I was waiting for a cruise ship – in my pyjamas – that was parked just outside the window of the lunch room. I live on the dry prairies of Alberta. The nearest port is a 15 hour drive from here. Nevertheless – I waited. And I survived.

I survived suicide attempts and longings. I survived psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses as well as psychiatric patients. I survived a threat to move me to a psychiatric hospital where there would have been little chance of getting out.

Yes – I survived. And when I started to see the light of day for what it was, I vowed to help others who were suffering or who had suffered any form of mental illness. I wanted to help. To at least be someone who would listen and understand and hold out a hand. To be someone who wouldn’t judge because a person had faltered or been struck down by whatever it is that affects our brains. I wanted others to know that there was a chance to feel better about ourselves and that someone had been there and come out the other side – so there was hope – some kind of hope – no matter how small.

When I look back to my childhood I am ashamed to say that I joined in with the other children and called someone a ‘retard’. Nowadays I wouldn’t let that happen. Not only because I now see things differently but also because I hope I’ve matured.

Yet being judged follows us – especially the mentally ill – wherever we go. It’s just not the mentally ill in New Orleans – it’s everyone around the world who has suffered anything from depression to mental incapacity in some way. Not only are we judged but we are shunned because of it. In most countries mental illness is treated like leprosy – shoved away into institutions – the key thrown away. Some countries have incredible support for this illness – yet most fail and in fact don’t want to talk about it. The words ‘mentally ill’ are often whispered – like the C word or like when our mothers talked about a single pregnant woman. It’s shameful. It’s something we don’t want to acknowledge.

Yet people will call it out in the streets quite easily. ‘Retard'!’ People will leave comments about the mentally ill as being losers and wasters and they think we want to be this way.

Here – on the other side – I look into the mirror and wonder if my mental capacity (or perhaps lack thereof) can be seen by others. Would someone be able to yell that at me if I got up the courage to actually walk down a street? I wonder.

Let’s get back to the judging bit. Remember the famous judgement made by Tom Cruise about Brooke Shields because she took some medication to help with her post-partum depression? What a judgement that was on someone who was trying to tell it like it is so that she could help other women who suffer from this. But Tom ‘knew psychiatry’. He had read about it.

That judgement ricocheted around the world and caused an incredible amount of talk about psychiatry and depression. There are those who would have marched along with Tom proclaiming us as losers – but there would have been those who benefited from Brooke telling it like it is. I can only be thankful for that and I imagine there are a number of woman who are grateful as well.

A couple of years ago I saw a job advertised that I thought I might be able to do. My boss would be a ‘friend’ of mine. I was feeling pretty good those days and had hardly had any setbacks, but in the end I didn’t apply. I am on a disability pension which will change to an old-age pension in the future. Yet, when I casually mentioned to my ‘friend’ that I thought I might have applied for that position – he said “Doesn’t matter – I know your mental history and I would never hire you’.

Ah! I’ve been branded for life! Apparently I have a big L tattooed right in the middle of my forehead – ‘Loser!’ And if you can’t see that you can probably see the big sign on my back that says - ‘Mentally Ill – Kick Here’.

I am not alone. Every single one of us who has had any kind of mental disease must now run the gamut of boots and sneers and derogatory remarks. We must be braver than ‘normal people’ when we venture past the front door because of how the ‘normal people’ are going to treat us. We must have tougher skin. We must be partially deaf. We must smile and take it or duck our heads and run.

And if some people get their way – our mental history and drugs we have been (forced) asked to take will be on display for the government, insurance companies and future employers (because they need to know if they are hiring a loony or not).

It doesn’t matter if we are ‘cured’. Does it? We’ve still been mentally ill. It’s like cancer – once you’ve had it (and I have) then you are a ‘cancer survivor’. Perhaps we need to start a movement that says we are a ‘mental illness survivor’. Come on – walk for us. It’s a good cause and you never know if you are going to be struck down with it.

I want to label this ‘End of Part One’ because I have a feeling I’ve got more to say about this.

31 comments:

Jeanne said...

I think you very very strong and can handle the stupid and rude comments people make about the mentally ill among us. We are not on this earth to judge but to help others along this path we call life and I commend you for staying the path and helping whenever you can.

Mneme's Cat said...

Yes, it does make you look angry - justifiably so. You have every right to be. Your courage is an example I can look up to. Thank you for this and the previous posts.

Leslie: said...

What angers me is that persons on disability have no ability to financially improve their lot in life, even to the point of saving for old age. If they earn more than a certain amount of $ over the limit, it's taken away from them. If they qualify for the GST rebate, it's taken away from them. They aren't allowed to have more than a certain amount of $ in their bank accounts - or it's taken away from them.

How is anyone with a disability ever going to be able to get ahead? How are they going to be able to survive old age on CPP and OAP??? Their CPP will be at a minimum if they haven't been able to work all their lives and the OAP wouldn't pay their rent, let alone the bills and food!

I know quite a bit about this because I have a daughter who struggles with all this and has even written to someone at the local newspaper but hasn't had a reply.

*SIGH*

Maybe we SHOULD start walking!

Maggie May said...

Aims...... you have touched on a very true and valid point.
Not only for mentally ill ( or people who HAVE been mentally ill) but for a whole group of other illnesses as well.
In England we are supposed to have EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES, but in reality many people don't stand a chance of getting into the system.
Travel insurance has terrible exclusions so I can imagine what it must be like with private health insurance.
I think you are a very strong person, stronger than you think and you are obviously using your terrible experiences to help others.
Sometimes we have a perfect right to be angry..... when justice isn't being done.
Keep up your good fight for it. X

Jopan said...

perhaps if you want to get a job you should try writing books? you seem to write very well and its a job that can be done in the home. Its worth a try i always say. I'm trying to be published as i really don't like the 'outside world' and find it difficult to go out without my dog. i used to have terrible panic attacks when i was out. Of course nobody listened or believed me. So i've learnt to catch them early now, and stop them. the frightening thing is my neice has now started to have them. She's frightened of the wind and of cars and of quite a lot of things (she was twelve when it started) A strange thing to have run in the family. Anyway. what i'm trying to say is you're not alone in this, i might not have gone to a hospital for it but i've always been considered the strange one, the 'not all there' one. And i'm sure that there are a lot of people out there that have been through it too. In Britain we seem to ignore people with problems and let them sort themselves out or get um filled full of drugs. i wondor just how many people would have been hospitalised if anyone actually paid them attention... But man i do go on. i've been talking for a while and i don't think what i actually wanted to say got said. But this is the best i can do. Good luck with it all.

bermudabluez said...

You have every right to be angry...and pissed off!!! That would have made me boil!! You are an inspiration, my friend! Thank you for sharing your strength with others.

Leatherdykeuk said...

You are a survivor and an inspiration.

Chapati said...

Three things:

1) "I wanted to help. To at least be someone who would listen and understand and hold out a hand."

Thank you for that. Means a lot to us. I don't know if you know it but here's one chick you definitely have done!

2) Whilst you think 'normal' people may be judging you, maybe they are keeping you distant because they are scared that what they see is something close to what they have experienced? How many people have touched upon mental illness and just kept quiet? How many people happened to get non-medicinal help before things got worse? You don't know what people are feeling behind closed doors.

3) What the 'normal' people don't realise is that this is something that can effect them in the future. A bad breakup, a lost job, a death of a loved one, a traumatic experience...anything can cause someone to have a breakdown. So we should support, not shun, the inclusion of 'mentally ill' people - one day we could be there too...

Akelamalu said...

You have every right to be angry. Labels are for things not for people.

This

When I look back to my childhood I am ashamed to say that I joined in with the other children and called someone a ‘retard’. Nowadays I wouldn’t let that happen. Not only because I now see things differently but also because I hope I’ve matured.

brought back the lesson our two severely disabled grandchildren taught their father. He too was in the habit of calling people retards and spastics until his own children were affected - it taught him the biggest lesson of his life, and he's a better person for it.

Melanie said...

There's an ad in the UK from the government encouraging people to re examine the way they look at disabilities when employing people. One example they give is "Would you employ a nurse with a history of depression and mental illness to look after terminally ill people? No then congratulations you have just fired Florence Nightengale." It hit home. People look first at the problems a person has rather than the possible skills.

The Green Stone Woman said...

I haven't tried to be out there since I have been sick, but it is assumed by the ones who are in charge, that I will take my rightful place in the working community. I think this is a positive attitude and very laudable, put totally unrealistic, of course, as I will never be completely cured, I can just pass as normal, but I appreciate the fact that they have such high hopes for me.So, here we have the problem of reverse discrimination, where I am supposed to perform no matter what. Isn't that an interesting position to be in? They will find me the job to match my capacities and take everything into account. It seems to me I live in the right country, because this is what you want, right? Be careful what you wish for.

Daryl said...

Today sadly the world lost a huge advocate of treating the mentally ill and those who have special needs .. Eunice Kennedy Shriver ... may she rest in peace and may her work continue .. she fought for those less mentally able to given the chance to have normal lives and be open to experience things that would help them become an active part of their communities ... I think she would have cheered you and this post.

Polergirl said...

Aims - You have helped me a lot. When I didn't have the strength to carry on fighting, your words delivered the strength that I needed.

Thank you.

dulwichmum said...

This blog post made me angry right alongside you sweetie. Everything you say is rational and makes complete sense. Tom Cruise makes me want to grind my teeth into powder.

travelling, but not in love said...

I'm with Daryl - Eunice Shriver would have cheered for you and for your brave and insightful posting.

Love your work....

travelling, but not in love said...

( ... and I was going to say "no, but it does make your bum look big" but figured it wasn't the moment for childish humour ;-) ... )

rosiero said...

I think you should man the barricades at national and even international level. You would make a good spokes-person for the cause.

BT said...

It is a touch one aims, yes, it does make you look angry, but is that a bad thing. You have much knowledge of your subject and I admire your fight for yourself and others. You are hoping to publish 'The Man' story aren't you?

Virtualsprite said...

I think it's amazing you have pulled yourself out and are doing well. It's a testament to your strength.

I think it's horribly unfair to judge someone for past mental issues, especially when we know so much more about them. There are so many treatments out there that are working. Not only that, some conditions may be temporary or related to a specific environment. It's unfair to say that once someone has struggled with mental illness that they always will.

I'm so glad you're posting about this. This needs to be said.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Just read your last three posts. Sorry I haven't been around much. You are a great ambasador for mental illness. Anger is good as it is very energising and propels you forward and onto greater things. Keep posting on this very important topic. Don't forget that the people who make negative comments about mental illness are profoundly damaged and possibly beyond help unless they are open to change. These people are the ones who should be avoided as their sickness cannot be cured. They must be the kind of folks that most people avoid because they are small minded, judgemental and nasty. hence the reason they have a lot of time to leave nasty comments on blogs. They have no life! Hugs.

Dr.John said...

I am very lucky because though I can understand something of mental illness. During my illness there were times when I slipped into hallucinations which were as real as every day life. Sometimes I worked everybody in the room into them. So in the hospital room I talked to my wife ho was there and she replied but I saw a different world than we were really in. Once in the local hospital I made them call my wife because this man was going there to kill them. After a while I learned to fight my way out of the unreal and back to the real.
So that part I understand. I was lucky because the label mentally ill was never applied to me. It was seen as a part of a physical problem.
Somehow we need to kill the labels.
Why were my mental problems caused by C02 buildup in the bloodstream any better than yours with other cause.
Yours can possibly come back if you don't take your meds and mine will come back if I stop sleeping in the breathing mask that clears the C02. we are different only by label.

lisaschaos said...

I agree. Most people in my life now don't know that I went through a few years where I was labeled bi-polar - due to moving and such it has not followed me, but it could have.

TSannie said...

Please don't lose hope. There are many good folk in the world that would never be so calloused, untaught, cruel, .... to put a label on other folks. Far as I can tell, there's not one of us that is perfect. xoabb

Crystal Jigsaw said...

It's how we often feel when we are judged as being judged by some ignorant moran is inexcusable. No one deserves to be branded inferior, no one should be thought of as less capable. We all have our talents, our skills, our needs. We all have a future which will make a difference to someone's life. Amy gets judged and it's shit. I have learnt to ignore it. She doesn't even know.

Love CJ xx

Thumbelina said...

I read this before and for some reason didn't comment. You know how much I admire your strength.
Keep going girl.

My visiting is very sporadic at present but this is no reflection on you. My posting is the same. Last post just gone up.

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