When I came to sit down to write today’s installment of the Mental Health Month Challenge, I seriously considered using one of the two ‘get out of posting’ cards that accompany this challenge. But using one so early would be admitting to failure.
Thus, I contemplated using one of the bonus prompts that can be substituted for the daily prompts throughout the month. But as I am obsessed with challenging myself, I decided to tackle the original prompt however I could.
In all the years I’ve suffered from mental health issues, I’ve never once considered my illnesses to be ‘weird’. So I turned to Google for inspiration and used the three definitions of the word ‘weird’ this search provided as a springboard; the adjective, the noun and the verb.
~ Tea Party ~
Adjective: suggesting something supernatural; uncanny
A few months ago I woke up, walked into my lounge room and flicked on the radio. After pouring myself a glass of water and muttering some sarcastic comment at the newsreader I turned around and promptly dropped the glass. After carefully navigating my bare feet through the broken shards I wandered across the room and knelt beside the sofa, slowly poking my right index finger at the white china mug that had surprised me so.
This mug was precariously perched on the arm of the sofa, full to the brim of un-drunk tea and I have no idea how it got there. Granted, I could have made it to drink before promptly forgetting about it, but that is very unlike me. What is even more unlike me is preparing three mugs of tea and leaving them in random locations around the lounge room.
For in addition to the one on the arm of the sofa were two on the table that houses my computer, both positioned next to chairs. Upon further investigation at this random oddity, I discovered a fourth mug sitting on the carpet beside the cushion of the sofa I usually sit on. Only this fourth mug had been emptied, leaving a few specks of sugar and the tell-tale stain of tea at the base of the cup.
Immediately I decided someone had broken into my house in the middle of the night, made several cups of tea (left three of them un-drunk) and then left without taking any of the meager possessions I owned. However, this sounded completely insane! So I set about trying to figure out why there were four mugs of tea placed in strategic positions around my lounge room.
The only conclusion I could draw was that at some point in the evening I had made hot beverages for my hallucinations, who had sat in various positions around the room whilst (based on other conversations I do remember) we had engaged in a rather eclectic, heated debate.
A conclusion that was confirmed a little later that day when my neighbour expressed surprise that my ‘party guests’ had been able to arrive and leave without him noticing.
It’s not the hallucinations I consider weird about this. I’ve heard voices on and off since I was a teenager and since the breakdown they’ve grown in number, intensity and volume to the point it’s rare for me to go a single day without hearing them in some form or another.
What I do find weird about this particular incident is that I have no memory of the evening in question, only the discovery of the mugs the following morning and the hours of piecing together the possibilities of how they got there.
Along with several other periods of my life, to have no memory of something where alcohol was not involved is disconcerting and confusing. It frustrates me that I don’t know what I was doing and no matter how much I want to know, I’m completely aware that I probably never will.
However, this incident pales in comparison to the moment I woke up in a foreign park with absolutely no memory of how I got there…but that’s an exceedingly weird (and unsettling) story for another time!
~ Did I hear that right? ~
Noun: A person’s destiny
“Do you have children?”
The psychiatrist leaned forward in his chair as he prepared to ask another question. “Do you have children?”
“Um. No, I just said that,”
“I see.” This time he leaned back in his chair. “You need to be honest with me. Do you have any children?”
Exasperated, I said. “No. I do not have any children.”
“So you don’t have any children. Anywhere in the world?”
“No. I do not have any children. Anywhere in the world. Or the universe for that matter.”
“Good. You don’t deserve to anyway,”
“It’s not important. Now…” And he swiftly moved on to something else, leaving me wondering whether or not I had correctly heard my psychiatrist inform me I didn’t deserve to have children.
Certainly, there have been many odd incidents (such as the ‘Tea Party’ above) that I have no explanation of, but I’ve never considered my illness weird. Over the years I’ve come to accept that it’s just a part of who I am and all I can do is learn to live with the occasional moments of quiet insanity that come with it.
What I do find weird is the reactions other people give to my mental illnesses. The endless stream of stigmatizing discrimination that I, and all affected with mental illness, have to endure throughout our lives. A discrimination that denotes, because of my illness, my destiny is to suffer a long and lonely life.
The above is just one such example.
Now, it’s entirely possible he meant something completely different when he said “You don’t deserve to anyway”, but coming so soon after asking the same question about children four times, many people would associate what I didn’t deserve to mean children.
Followers of this blog will know that I have always wanted to have a family; that this desire has been one of the constant driving forces of my life. Since my breakdown in 2007 I’ve spent a long time coming to terms with the fact I’ll never have this opportunity, that this lifelong dream has been lost to the winds of time.
But to be told I don’t deserve children (by a mental health professional no less) is not only deeply discriminatory but intensely damaging to someone with fragile self-esteem and anxiety.
Mental illness is no different from physical illness. Certainly, there is a large school of thought that believes mental health problems are genetic, especially when it comes to illnesses such as bipolar, depression or schizophrenia. But there are many that believe illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are also linked to genetics – and I struggle to believe that anyone would be told they didn’t deserve children if they were unfortunate enough to suffer from any of these illnesses.
Note: For the record, that sentence was not a hallucination.
~ “People like you deserve to be alone forever,” ~
Verb: Induce a sense of disbelief or alienation in someone
“I can’t have anything to do with anything who self-harms,”
“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. Call me when you’re better,”
“I can’t be around you when you’re depressed because it just makes me depressed. Don’t you realize it’s contagious? Just cheer up?”
“No-one wants to be friends with someone like you,”
“Don’t you get it? Everyone hates you. No-one thinks of you as a friend. They hate you,”
“You only attempted suicide to get sympathy. You just didn’t realize that no-one cares enough about you to actually care,”
“People like you deserve to be alone forever,”
“No-one wants to be friends with someone as weak and worthless as you,”
These are just a selection of the things I’ve been told (by real people) throughout my life concerning how I deserve to be alone because of my mental illnesses. And in fear of sounding like a broken record, I do consider this discrimination weird because I personally cannot understand the difference between a mental health problem and a physical one, other than the latter can be seen (and believed) whilst the former remains invisible (and therefore easy to classify as imaginary).
Like I said before, I’ve never considered my illnesses weird. But I do frequently consider the actions of others to be weird. Just because someone suffers from an illness that cannot be seen does not mean they deserve to live an alienated and lonely life.
Aside from the hallucinations, irrational anxiety and occasional black outs, there is nothing weird about my illness.
The only thing that is weird is the continuing stigma against those with a mental health problem.
- Why I write about my (mental) health… (myjourneywithdepression.wordpress.com)
- Wales News: Four AMs go public with their experiences of mental illness to fight stigma (walesonline.co.uk)
- How Psychology, Psychiatry Discriminate Against People with Mental Illness (psychcentral.com)
- Experts Call for Mental Illness Screening for Children (nlm.nih.gov)
- A jail is no place for the mentally ill (prisonmovement.wordpress.com)
- Handbook to combat stigma of mental illness (todayonline.com)