Don’t use my mental illness as an excuse to write off everything I say or do

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.

Life of the mind

lifeandlims View All →

I'm a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. This is what I would advise:
    Create a new moniker for your situation.
    How about, instead of mental-illness, you say you have a “mental difference”?
    When one of our children was “diagnosed” with a “learning disorder”, I felt that it diminished him in the eyes of friends, society, and even family.
    And then, I met a woman who had overcome her own “learning disorder”. She was offering tutoring services for children, like my son.
    She said, “Your son simply has a ‘learning difference’ .”
    WHAT A REVELATION!
    The new “label” identified that there was something about him that was “out of the norm”, that he was a boy who needed extra support, in some cases, but the unusual and refreshing replacement of one word removed the negative connotation and stigma of having a “disorder”, which made him sound hopelessly defective.
    You and I are going to think of something to replace “mental illness”.
    It has to be something that signifies all that your physical, mental, and emotional situation entails, while NOT allowing those who know you NOT to use the label to somehow diminish your valid thoughts, opinions, and solutions.
    There is a great deal of evidence that shows when people are openly confronted with difficulties, their own shortcomings which causes problems and contention, their ineptitudes, and just their general inability to be exposed in the light of truth, they are apt to try ANY way to finagle out of their responsibility in the matter.
    What is their lifeboat? Wrong as it is? Sick as it is?
    They attack another person.
    Deflection.
    In your case, they point to the person who has been honest enough to tell the world who they REALLY are, even if it requires that they use an inexact name society and the medical community have given them to help them explain to the world why they conduct themselves the way they do.
    Instead of ‘mental illness’, which some people hear in connection with a person, and then come to think of the person, to which the diagnosis is attached, with derision and contempt…and worse…pity, I think we need other words.
    Words which show the reality of the situation but also point to the strengths those who possess the condition exhibit.
    Let’s not forget GENIUSES, throughout history, have been “mentally ill”, and yet, they have been the productive bearers of new ideas and useful inventions in every school of thought.
    This is what I think the “mentally ill” or the “mentally different” should say to others:
    ” I just want you to know. I am different. This difference makes me aware of things in the world your typical, standard, normal mind and being does not have the capability to bear. Yes, my burden is tremendous. You should be grateful that this burden is mine, not yours, because frankly with your insensitive Spock-like mind, the world would lack… humanity. My friend, I have a condition which is beyond physical, it is as eternal as my pure spirit, I have
    Atypical Phrenic Syndrome….DEAL WITH IT!”

    • I love it! How about I have a “beautiful mind.” That’s it! I am also pleased to report that I know I’m strong and resilient. My therapist says I am very resilient. But even so, there’s only so much one can bend and flex. I’m at my limit right now.

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