Our society hates whiners. We are told from most every aspect of our lives to stop whining and complaining, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get moving.
It is very rare that I feel comfortable or confident when writing my posts. They can take me hours/days to do. Quite often I get part way through a post and find myself so conflicted that I don’t finish. Sometimes I don’t begin.
It seems I’m always apologizing for the content of my posts and the timing gaps between them. I worry that they don’t contain enough information and resources to assist those who read them. I don’t give many facts and figures; I don’t cite many authorities on the subject of mental illness.
My blog is personal. Because it’s personal, it’s difficult for me to write. It seems I’ve been apologizing for my mental “illness” all my life – both before and after it being recognized as an “illness”. As we “mental health consumers” begin to find our voice much of what is related seem like horror stories. They are discouraging to hear, over and over. However I don’t believe the stories are told simply for dramatic effect or to solicit sympathy – the events are, after all, horrific to experience.
A couple of days ago on the Minds on the Edge Facebook page a posting suggested that while it is comforting to commiserate over the stigma of mental illness, perhaps it would be helpful to post actions we are taking to fight it. While I agree that it is important to move beyond the pain to empowerment when we relate to each other, I do not think we are yet ready to stop telling our story to the general public. It is with the general public that stigma must be stopped.
On Wednesday night President Obama spoke in his State of the Union Address of the anger that the American people are feeling right now. He said (paraphrased) “they are afraid for their lives and their livelihood. They are frustrated because they continue to ask for, vote for change and get instead the same status quo of immovable personal interests, and end up feeling they are not being heard. Fear makes us angry.”
I will be following up this blog posting with one on how I feel the statement "Fear makes us angry" can directly relate to mental illness, specific to my personal experience.
The mentally ill are often seen as violent, to be feared, and put away from others. Indeed, our voices can be angry and may continue to be in the near future. I submit that quite often it is because we are afraid – for our lives. We are frustrated with the lack of true understanding, consideration and concern for our health, our safety and our quality of life.
Yes, we're angry. We're afraid! Quite often we have been living a nightmare. We are asking to be heard.
The President also spoke of not giving up on working together to bring about change.
Neither should we. But in order for change to occur, it must be recognized as necessary. In order for others to come together with us to create change, they must be educated as to exactly what needs to be changed and why, and to recognize its importance. Sometimes a large pendulum swing is necessary for change to occur.
No, the general public does not want to hear our horror stories. They don’t want to hear or experience the angry voices. Much better those voices be sedated - relegated to inferior, unworthy, shameful beings much easier forgotten.
It is needful that we continue to make our voices heard – to Bring Change to Mind – to educate and promote understanding and compassion. I am not whining. I am not less than others because my inter-personal education and physical genetics could use improvement and assistance. I do not deserve less than others – in my health, my safety, or my quality of life.
I stand with Dr. Fred Freese when he said, “I refuse to be ashamed any longer”. I refuse to stop telling my story - difficult and uncomfortable though it is – for myself and those who may read it. I refuse to stop providing links to other stories.
With that in mind, please check out this blog posting by John McManamy entitled Clinicians - Worst Purveyors of Stigma. Be sure to also read the insightful comment by Loretta that follows the article. This is a mind-set/practice that needs to be changed.