Natasha Tracy’s list of worst things to say to a person with a mental illness, from her article Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say at her blog| Breaking Bipolar:
- Snap out of it
- There are a lot of people worse off than you
- You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?
- You’d feel better if you got off all those pills
- What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
- Go out and have some fun
- I know how you feel
- So you’re depressed, aren’t you always?
- This too shall pass
- We all have our crosses to bear
Natasha’s personal favourite is We create our own reality.
The one I would ad to this list is We all feel that way sometimes. This is, of course, and like all the others in this list, coming from a loving and well-meaning place — in this case, that I am not a complete wierdo, not so different, not defective, since what i feel is not so different from others; but then, what is the point of a diagnosis? Doesn’t that mean that while I have the same feelings as others, they are more intense and last longer and this is the disability? The effect of this phrase is that I feel shame, guilt and confusion. Oh, if everyone feels that way, and I am the only one who is needing support around this, I must be a real loser.
My own mind begins a relentless loop of shaming put-downs, which often resembles the contents of Natasha’s second list, of the inherant messages in the statements above:
- They could choose not to be sick if they really wanted
- Their illness is not serious
- They have no “reason” to be ill
- Their treatment is wrong
- They’ll be better off from it
- They would be fine if they would just “go out”
- Their illness is minimal
- Their pain doesn’t matter
- They should just wait for the pain to end
- Their illness is just like anyone else’s problem
- They choose to be sick
And here we have arrived again, at the old corner debate of weak vs. ill. Do i need a big kick in the ass and to just “stop listening” to the thoughts and feelings I have, or do I need to accept that it’s not as simple as that, forgive myself, and lead my life accordingly. Again and again, I see that the kick in the ass theory can have disastrous consequences. That I am so hard on myself that few sane people would survive a day in my brain. That I have accomplished a lot with the kick ass technique, but that it has further damaged my brain and almost cost me my life.
Furthermore, and as Natasha speaks about also in the last part of her post, others are not so lucky as to write about it. Death by mental illness is a real and prevalent threat — a lot more prevalent than a lot of people are able to see.
I’m going to finish by recommending another one of Natasha’s posts, about the best things to say to someone with a mental illness. More people need to know these things. People with mental illness, or in trauma recovery, are far from minority status in the world. The status quo is the new minority.
- I AM NOT a demon, i just have demons w/which i contend… (welcometomycell.wordpress.com)
- Today I say goodbye (sexyonthedarkside.wordpress.com)
- What Mental Illness is to Me Part II (kstruggles.wordpress.com)
- Loneliness – the secret hell of mental illness (stephintoronto.com)