A very disappointing can of worms has been opened recently in several places. Interestingly enough, it’s not strictly about mental illness stigma (here is a link to an article I wrote which features links to my support on the subject). Rather, it’s an issue of whether or not people should choose non-stigmatizing terms when trying to confront religious issues. I’ve tried explaining this in the past, to no measurable success.
It’s about time that I accept that I might be asking too much of people.
This isn’t a censorship issue.
The thoughts I express here with regards to talking to mentally ill people are my thoughts. I’m not an Internet police force of one. And really, I’m not talking about stigma or mental illness because I like talking about it. It’s something that I face every day. I try to be respectful of others, and I recognize that nobody has to change their rhetoric because of what I say.
I don’t talk about this to shut people up or shame them into compliance. Christianity held too much of that for me, and it makes me sick thinking about that. Instead, I’ve tried to facilitate a better discussion about careless use of language. Three hundred years ago, the language was prettier, but it also allowed for blatant racism, raging sexism, and discrimination in thoughts both expressed and implied. People have chosen to abandon those thoughts, one by one, in a process that continues today.
This process ostensibly includes the idea that it’s being done by a more informed public. However, it’s important that the choice is voluntary. To cajole others into merely doing or saying a specific thing because someone prefers it that way is no ruler to measure human equality. Rather, it’s the same shit under a different delusion of fairness.
Intent has nothing to do with it, either.
Shaming people by using intrinsic qualities as insults doesn’t do any favors for people who share those intrinsic qualities. It’s why we don’t insult people by calling them epithets relating to mental incompetence. Nobody chooses that, and so others have chosen to recognize that using their plight as an insult is a fruitless endeavor at best. The same principle applies to sexism and racism.
Mental illness right now is one of those few categories of people that can still be marginalized. Fortunately, that finally seems to be changing (albeit very slowly). Part of this might be due to the discovery of people they know that actually have a major mental illness. Still, a lot of people don’t know that they know someone with mental illness. One recent estimate in the U.S. puts 1 out of 17 people as being diagnosed with a major disorder that interferes with daily life. If I didn’t blog about my shame, no one would know that I’m one of those people. Admittedly, stigma helps perpetuate itself.
What does it do to people who have a major disorder and get to experience shaming along with it? The answer is complicated. Here is an older article which goes into some of the problems associated with it. All I can really say is how it affects me. You can search WordPress for other mental illness blogs to find out how stigma affects them – provided they’re brave enough to talk about it.
I don’t talk about how it affects me.
There are many reasons why I don’t do it, and this is despite a meticulous effort to keep my real identity separate from my blogging one. That’s right, I don’t even feel secure behind an anonymous label. It’s not easy to admit that, especially when I’m around people who have shown themselves to use such knowledge of weakness to their advantage.
Even if that wasn’t an issue, I’d still be reluctant to fully disclose what other people can do to trigger me. If I get triggered into anxiety or depressive episodes, I don’t talk about that at all. Why give people who have no compunction against being completely merciless that kind of knowledge? Despite that I’m better at managing them now, I still try to avoid the hassle if I can. And really, my triggers belong to me. They’re also hidden to protect people from feeling bad about tripping over them.
What I do feel safe talking about is how it boils down to trust. My trust in most Internet people is like a Ferrari; I don’t have a Ferrari. And unfortunately that lack of trust gets validated – whether it’s rational or not – when I see people who care more about their right to a favorite belief more than how their expressions affect those around them that they allegedly care about. For me, it’s not about feelings, or even disliking people. It’s about constant disappointment that rarely goes away. The saddest thing of all is that this is true of people of any label. In fact, labels have nothing to do with preventing discrimination. At best, they provide irony that most people don’t get.
To be really super clear: it’s not anyone’s fault. While it would be nice to see a healthy conversation, there clearly needs to be more awareness on other things. One day, it would be nice for everyone to feel included at the table. That day isn’t today.
I don’t have the foggiest clue what to do about it, either.
I need to write, because it’s my only outlet, and the only thing keeping me away from other bad stuff. But I’m finding that no matter what, I keep returning to that disappointment. This definitely means that my head isn’t screwed on as tightly as it needs to be (which isn’t something I like admitting). This probably means that I should avoid controversial topics on the Internet. This might mean that I might have to find different avenues for my writing.
Right now, I just have an urge to delete everything. I know that it’s a drastic measure, and that it’s irrational. What it most likely means is that I’ll have to stay away from really controversial and heavy topics in the short term. As much as I don’t want to do it, I’m thinking it’s necessary. Maybe I’ll just post a bunch of meaningless fiction. I really don’t know.
What I do know is that I have to be more careful about managing myself. This issue is a monster of my own creation. No one can devour it but me.