Stand Up For Mental Health And Stand Up For Yourself

January 22, 2013 Alistair McHarg

Today, Funny In The Head is taking a break from the usual frivolity to help my dear friends at HealthyPlace roll out their “Stand Up For Mental Health” campaign. I believe this subject is absolutely essential to all of us who, in one way or another, have been touched by mental illness.

Many years ago my daughter came crying to me with a tale of adolescent cruelty involving her tight circle of very-best girlfriends. In-between sobs she relayed a saga of vicious betrayal unique to the mysterious world of adolescent girls. I listened quietly and, when she was done, took her into my arms and said this.

“Sweetheart, despite your best efforts, people will always talk about you and 90% of what they say will be wrong. I know it’s not fair but the best thing to do is let go.”

I am polishing this chestnut from the McHarg family vault for one reason. No matter where you are in your recovery – (or if you love and support a person with mental illness) – you need to know this:

There is a beautiful place out there beyond fear, beyond shame, beyond inferiority, beyond jealousy, beyond regret, beyond denial, beyond self-loathing and the name of that place is I Just Don’t Care.

I Just Don’t Care is actually an abbreviation. The whole name is I Just Don’t Give A Flaming Squid Cutlet What You Or Anyone Else Thinks Of Me – If You Dig Me, Great, If You Don’t Dig Me, Great, But Watch Me And Know One Thing – I Live A Life Of Self-Respect And Dignity.

America is a land of immigrants and consequently it is also a land of xenophobia and prejudice. We blow trumpets in praise of democracy but don’t be deceived, there is a very definite pecking order in our culture and the mentally ill are way down at the bottom.

Take it from me, no one is going to give you respect, no one is going to give you equal rights. Square America can’t even understand you; much less know how to bring you inside out of the rain. Do not look to others for your redemption. (If you doubt me, just look to the history of America’s other minority groups.)

I went public as a bipolar person 23 years ago; I even wrote the first bipolar memoir, Invisible Driving. Nothing could have prepared me for the wave after wave of rejection, fear, and marginalization I faced. (Really, I did expect at least a little respect for what I’d done!)

The point is, if you tie your emotional well being to the opinion others have of you then disaster is sure to follow. Keep growing extra layers of skin until stupid comments and remarks bounce right off.

Today I tell people I’m bipolar the same way I might tell them I’m a writer, it’s a detail that helps them understand me but I am not defined by it. I have absolutely no shame about my history of mental illness – read my lips – NO SHAME – and neither should you when it comes time to talking about your particular challenge.

They say that guilt is when you feel bad about something you did but shame is when you feel bad about something you are. You’re a teacher now; let them know just what you are – shamelessly.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2013, January 22). Stand Up For Mental Health And Stand Up For Yourself, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

February, 2 2013 at 11:10 pm

OOPS! I just posted a response to your comments on the "Stand Up For Mental Health" site, and then got the idea to google you. Alas, I realize now that you are obviously much more educated on the topic that I may have implied. I'm sorry.
But regarding what you say regarding growing extra skin about how people treat you: How do you do it? Part of some particular illnesses (I believe) are caused by, or at least helped along by... thin skin. Something that some of us are born with. And then the illness makes it 1,000 times worse! I am doing meditation on this and using CBT principles to chip away at my sensitivity toward others' behavior, but a paucity of "skin", I'm afraid, is like having freckles or blue eyes; it's an inborn trait that bad life experiences and repeated depressive episodes make pathologically "thinner".
This is just a comment; I'm not expecting a panacea in the form of an answer... but if you find some skin on Amazon, Ebay, or even a garage sale, I will buy it...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
February, 3 2013 at 3:07 am

you make a great point. our sensitivity is part of what makes us great, it would be terrible to lose it. and yet, one owes it to one's self to protect one's self. it is a fine balance.

Lori Zacharuk
January, 22 2013 at 3:36 pm

This article is awesome! I have been bipolar all my life, but was only diagnosed in 1996 and on medication for it, but I recently stood up for myself a waitress in a resturant was having a bad day and snapped at a costumer,,and this lady costumer said to her friend"She must be bipolar!"and the waitress heard her and the look on her face was so sad, but I stood up and said "Hey, I am bipolar and I do not appreciate that comment!" The two ladies left and the waitress came over and said thanks to me! She was just having a bad day! But it really ticks me off when people do not understand that if you are bipolar, we are not gonna commit murder or just freak out okay! If you stay on your meds every day can be great but if you go off your meds lifeis going to be hard! So I stand up for Mental Illness and I am not afraid anymore!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
January, 22 2013 at 4:19 pm

Hello Lori: Thanks for the nice words and thanks especially for writing. Your story really is inspiring. It is so tempting to be silent and avoid confrontation, but - as your story shows so nicely - often when we push back very positive things happen. In many cases people aren't really jerks, they're just misinformed and fearful. Bravo you.

January, 22 2013 at 8:10 am

Hi Alistair! I try to keep "I just don't care" in mind,successfully and not so successfully at times. Self-respect and dignity are so important to recovery, otherwise we don't see ourselves are deserving to get better,to be in remission. As for telling others I'm Bipolar, I've found I am really careful and leery about who I tell, sometimes to the extreme. The responses have, for the most part,been positive, different from what I expected at times. It's the positives that keep me going, being able to see the goodness in others, and especially in myself. Standing up for mental health is standing up for yourself first, and then for others! Best to you, looking to reading and replying to you sometime in February. Cindy

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
January, 22 2013 at 8:45 am

Hi Cindy: I have noticed that demonstrating a genuine disinterest in the approval of others greatly increases the chances of receiving it, ironically. Also, when one reveals it almost offhandedly, as if it's no big deal, that encourages others to be less afraid. (Which is to say, your actions give them "permission" to treat it in a different way.)

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