When Others Blame Your Mental Illness for Every Emotion You Feel
By: Beth McHugh 2006
There are several aspects to the stigma of mental illness. The first one is obvious. Many people do not want to reveal that they have a mental illness due to possible detrimental effects on their careers and personal relationships.
This is understandable as sadly the prejudice attached to having a chronic mental illness of any variety is still alive and well in our society. Stereotypical thinking of what a person who suffers from bipolar, schizophrenia, depression and the raft of anxiety disorders is like is peppered with theories largely based on Hollywood hype and the furtive whispers of misinformed neighbors, friends and family members.
It is sad that mental illness is held in such fear by society that sufferers must endure a double load: the illness itself, plus the attitude of people they come into contact with. Most suffers report that, sadly, it is the latter that causes them the most pain.
But another less well documented aspect of mental illness is that when the sufferer divulges the nature of their illness to family, friends and colleagues, they often find they have another dilemma on their hands. And that dilemma is this. Every time they cry, or get angry about a certain issue, it is dismissed by others as being a part of their mental illness. In effect, what others are saying is that the sufferer no longer has any valid feelings. All their feelings are generated completely and solely by their mental illness.
Take the case of Sarah. Sarah suffers from a chronic anxiety condition. Despite her illness she has managed to successfully undertake part-time work and care for her chronically ill child into the bargain. This is a heavy load for a person to bear. Yet her family does very little around the house to help Sarah with the day-to-day running of the household. Every now and then, she becomes understandably angry when she finds that jobs she has allocated to her husband and teenage daughter have not been done.
However, both these family members simply put the outburst down to “Mom’s mental condition”. As Sarah so correctly points out to her family, if she were well and the CEO of Microsoft she would still be angry with her family’s lack of support. It is even more poignant that Sarah battles her condition on a daily basis and yet receives little praise for her mighty efforts.
The stigma of mental illness comes in many forms and this is just one
example. Any readers who have similar stories to tell are welcome to
contribute their own experiences where their justifiable feelings are
not being correctly validated.