I want to start off by saying that some of the things I'm going to talk about this post may be offensive to some people, and some of it may make some people angry. That is not, in any way, my intent. To me, a large part of having a healthy conversation regarding mental health is having uncomfortable conversations as to what mental health care means to you, and what it means to me. Those two things can often be very different, though equally important in my opinion. In addition to all of that, this post is not meant to be a solid statement of my stance on any way of thinking or differing opinions, but rather the things I debate and try to work though in my own mind, and things I often struggle with rectifying.
Still reading? Okay..let's start digging.
So, I've been thinking a lot lately about the current social push for ending the stigma on mental health, mental health awareness, and other things of that nature. I've been thinking about what those social pushes are demanding of the general populace in comparison to what we are demanding of ourselves in regards to our own mental health and all of the negatives that that entails.
We want to not be judged for our mental illnesses, but we also don't feel like we should have to answer personal questions about it from people that are ignorant as to what it means. We often expect society and the work place to be understanding of some of the special needs we have in regards to our illness, but we often don't think about the money it costs a company or a business to cater to those needs. We want to limit people's speech in regards to what might be deemed offensive (i.e. "The weather is so bipolar lately", "Stop acting so crazy"), but we often won't take the time to explain to people who say those things (usually innocently) in a loving and patient way exactly why that verbiage can be offensive. The list of what is seemingly sometimes hypocritical goes on and on.
I think about this stuff often. What it means to me...which can be very different compared to what it means to others. See, I'm not, by nature an inherently empathetic, emotional, or even caring person. I exhibit a lot of sociopathic tendencies. I work hard on not being an overtly uncaring asshole all the time, and sometimes I succeed. With that being said, I sometimes have a hard time understanding why a lot of people get offended by things, because I really don't care.
Does that make sense? God I hope so. It doesn't make sense to me sometimes. I recognize the need for awareness, but don't always understand why people want it.
Okay so, I guess what my point is with this...the crux of what I think this all revolves around...is what is our responsibility as mental health advocates and people with mental health issues, and what is the responsibility of society both in regards to dealing with and/or making/expecting accommodations for those issues.
There isn't a solid line. Every person is different and every person has an opinion (like my grandfather used to say, "Opinions are like assholes; everyone's got 'em and they all stink".). Two people diagnosed with the exact same illness can be affected by it in very different ways.
So, if we're all different, and if we all come from different angles, why do we insist on other people conforming to the way think is the right way.
I'm personally not offended by someone calling me crazy. Calling someone else crazy could be a deeply hurtful event. People need to be considerate, but we can't expect them never to offend. They need to be aware, we need to have thicker skin (as a whole).
So I ask again, what is our responsibility in our own health and recovery, and what is society's? My personal opinion is that the burden is on us to do the bulk of the work. What we can do that can be truly effective is to ask nicely for understanding and show compassion to people that don't understand, be willing to have hard conversations about things that makes us uncomfortable, and hope that that kindness and patience can eventually lead to change.
At least that's what I think. Which doesn't mean much. If you disagree, let's talk. Let's have that conversation. Because that's how we'll end the stigma. That's how we'll make the world a safer place for people with mental illness.
I'm willing. Are you? ---Steven