Stand Up For Mental Health And Stand Up For Yourself
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.
McHarg, A. (2013, January 22). Stand Up For Mental Health And Stand Up For Yourself, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/funnyinthehead/2013/01/stand-up-for-mental-health-and-stand-up-for-yourself
Author: Alistair McHarg
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...