I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long, long, LONG while, and I’ve put it in words now after reading some others’ blogs. Here it is: My mental illness is NOT an excuse for people with whom I interact to just write off anything I say or do that they disagree with. And yes, this extends to opinions that I have that are carefully considered, based on life experiences and, yes, even my interactions with YOU, who are so eager to chalk up my opinions to craziness.
I’m not going to say that in my darkest moments (and the times I feel most ashamed of myself and my behavior) I never say something I regret or that I don’t even completely, 100%, mean. I do. But, honestly, DON’T WE ALL? We all get tired, angry, frustrated, annoyed, irritated, strung out and worn out, and say and do things we don’t mean or that we just regret. So in this way, I’m really no different than any “normal” person, if you’d like to use that easy but non-precise terminology.
Here’s what really, really, REALLY bugs me: when I choose to discuss an issue with someone who is treating me poorly, in an effort to improve the relationship or our necessary interactions, and then that person essentially throws up a wall and refuses to talk because they don’t like what I have to say. People do that a lot anyway, sure. But I am convinced that some people through the course of my life have been all too quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to anything I say. If it’s something they don’t want to hear, they say, “You’re overwrought. You don’t know what you’re saying.” and then either studiously ignore me or what I tried to discuss, or they react with righteous indignation, even putting a burden of guilt and shame on me for daring to be open. They might even point the finger at me outright and denounce me to others. Not cool, people, not cool.
Because I’m that type of person. I don’t like having any kind of relationship with someone, whether it’s family, friends or acquaintances, or even work associates, that essentially forces me to bury any hurts or problems. I like to TRY, at least, to resolve the issue, to bring it to light and talk about it and free all from the burden of darkness. I think it’s much kinder to everyone. It does generally involve the peeling back of a scab, but then that sore is much more likely to heal over and not scar or get infected. It’s worth the initial discomfort.
But it angers me when my efforts are met with derision, nastiness, and blame. I have also tried to be somewhat open about the mental illness with which I struggle on occasion. And that, unfortunately, is seen by some people as a free pass, as a way to characterize my opinions as simply the effects of a frenzied mind. And they’re not. I might end up being not as soft and kind as I generally am (I think I’m pretty good at phrasing things well most of the time), and I do regret that. But that doesn’t mean that what I have to say is wholly without merit. If there’s a problem festering in our relationship, it’s NOT ALL ON ME. Face it: it might be you. Or at least partly you.
Let’s not be too quick to peel blame off ourselves and throw it back on another person, especially someone who is an easy target like one afflicted with mental illness. Let’s stand courageous and brave and compassionate and stop deflecting. Please just don’t write me off. My thoughts, opinions, and concerns have value. Please treat them accordingly.