I’m a Bit Bitter Because I Want Things to Be Better for Those with a Mental Illness

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stigmatization

something out of their control

 mental illness

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Several people in my social circle have a mental illness. Actually, I’m not allowed to talk about them because they don’t want anyone to know.

And that’s a shame.

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As far as I’m concerned, there shouldn’t be a stigma associated with mental illness, just as there’s rarely one with other health issues.

But there is.

The first time I experienced the sting of this stigma was back in the 1980’s when I mentioned to a co-worker my dad had bipolar I disorder. She immediately said I needed to watch out for manifestations of it in my own mind.

Trust me—you don’t need to warn a family member about this.

I was already worried.

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Years later, after my dad died, I mentioned his disorder to a woman I’d gotten to know at our children’s playgroup. Immediately she went on a diatribe about how one of her friends had inherited a bipolar illness, and one by one her friend’s siblings were diagnosed with it too.

So why would I dare to write about this now—I mean—are you going to wonder if I’ve got a mental illness?

So what.

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Until those who know much about such matters are brave enough to talk openly about them, how is the general public going to learn to behave graciously towards those with a mental illness?

No, as far as I know, I don’t have one; although, I suffered with eating disorders in my late teens and early twenties. In fact, I went to extreme lengths to have myself scrutinized by three different psychiatrists—thanks to the warnings of the not so gracious.

Yeah, this is personal.

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But until people see how hurtful their flippant phrases can be, it won’t be as safe for those with mental illnesses to come out of the closet as it is for someone with Diabetes etc. And because of the stigma and associated fear, there are tons of people not seeking the professional help they desperately need.

Some people self-medicate with alcohol/drugs and may eventually end up living on the streets.

Some sufferers resort to suicide because they didn’t get diagnosed and treated in time.

Sadly, if you want to get help, there’s a potential waiting period long enough to enable you to hang yourself a dozen times over before you get to your first appointment to see a specialist.

You’d be better off needing a dermatologist than a psychiatrist.

Someone I know waited almost a year to get help for anxiety and depression. But it only took a couple of months to be seen for a skin rash.

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I’ll be happy when mental illness is no longer stigmatized because maybe then it will get better funding in our healthcare system.

Many of the mentally ill won’t live long enough to sop up the healthcare dollars like the rest of us will with hip, back, or whatever surgeries. Lucky for us there’s no stigma associated with our needs.

I’m a bit bitter because I want things to be better for the mentally ill.

How about you?

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Do you have friends or family members with mental illnesses? Are you hoping for change, or are you one of the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” crowd?

Should we be more concerned about our freedom to own guns than the welfare of those who may use one to end their own life?

I don’t think so.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

Merciful Blessings ~ Wendy

PS – I purposely shared roses (photographed last summer) to help balance out this blog post. This is not a very uplifting topic. But those of you who care about (or for) someone with a mental illness know the pain can cut deeper than a rose thorn can.

But unconditional love given without the expectation of anything in return is more beautiful than a rose.

It’s the fragrance of grace.

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47 thoughts on “I’m a Bit Bitter Because I Want Things to Be Better for Those with a Mental Illness

  1. I am so glad you wrote about this subject, and shared your heart. Facebook has been an eye opening experience for me. I have seen professing Christians share posters about the love of Christ one minute and then turn around and share posters that shame those who suffer from depression and other emotional difficulties with messages that say we can simply choose to be happy…just snap out of it, or we have failed to be thankful for our blessings if we are sad. It is really offensive to me.

    Hugs and Blessings,

    Theresa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Theresa, I agree that counting our blessings can only help so much when clinical depression has taken hold of someone’s mind. Yes, we shame others when we deny the existence of true mental disorders. I remember someone sharing with me they had no idea what emotional suffering was until a serious physical illness brought on deep depression. She said the mental anguish was worse than the illness that had almost killed her. Experience is a cure for doubt. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our healthcare system here in the United States has so many hoops and flaws…

        so I typed “clinical depression definition” in the google search bar. This is from the Mayo Clinic site:

        “For clinical depression, you must have five or more of the following symptoms over a two-week period, most of the day, nearly every day. At least one of the symptoms must be either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure. Signs and symptoms may include:

        Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as constant irritability)
        Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities
        Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight as expected)
        Insomnia or increased desire to sleep
        Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
        Fatigue or loss of energy
        Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
        Trouble making decisions, or trouble thinking or concentrating
        Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt

        Your symptoms must be severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities. Symptoms may be based on your own feelings or on the observations of someone else.

        Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.”

        A “two week period”?

        How about a three year period with “all” of those symptoms?

        The Lord is gracious, though, and is slowly but surely reviving me. The prayers and encouraging word of others has had big impact. 🙂

        Like

        1. I made a mistake. I said “all”, but I never attempted suicide…thought about it on a few occasions over a year ago, but didn’t do it…was too cowardly to go through with it, and also couldn’t bear the thought of hurting my husband.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Theresa, I’m so glad your loving heart thought of your husband and chose life instead. ❤ It's tragic when someone reaches a place so dark and despairing they no longer hear the call of those who love them.
            It makes me want to extend kindness–always. You never know the battle behind the brow of those you run into each day. xo

            Liked by 1 person

  2. A brilliant piece, Wendy and I couldn’t agree more with the points you raised throughout. We ALL need to talk about these issues more freely and openly and yes, invest in treatments, care and cures rather than the weapons with which many will find an unnecessary and tragic solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Darren. Yes, I like your word “invest”. When we take care of those with mental illnesses, we’re investing in people. And this will help society in the long run to avoid the bigger financial and emotional costs. We need early prevention, intervention, diagnosis and treatment. It’s not a good use of funds to wait until the garment is ripped to shreds when a stitch in time would have been better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wendy, my family too is no stranger to mental illness, and just glancing at the other comments I can see there are many whose lives have been touched by it. A truly brave and loving post for all who have to deal with mental illness and its many ramifications.
    Hugs, Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am mentally ill and have written of it for years… I have gotten various types of reactions or complete oblivion and much of the time, I end up yanking those most personal of posts. They may reappear if I feel they are needed, like “They shoot crazy women, don’t they?” … I think that’s currently in hiding! Well said and of course, I love the roses. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda, I suspect you’ve blessed more people than you’ll ever know with your honesty. We don’t like to think we’re alone, and so when we see similarities in other people’s experiences, we’re comforted. Each of us have stories that may point someone to an answer they’ve been searching for—such as a diagnosis they hadn’t heard of or considered. But, as always, we need to respect our personal boundaries and those of our inner circle of loved ones. We own our stories—but not other’s reactions to it.

      By the way, I love the blog post title you mentioned. 🙂

      Like

    1. Thank you, dear Jill. I’d appreciate prayers for one of those I alluded to in my post (for a proper diagnosis, treatment, and salvation). I’ve always been drawn to poignant prose and poetry—but I must have my happy ending whether it’s fiction or not. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Wendy,
    Congratulations on your commentary which is tender and fierce in the face of a vast and daunting subject. Many people with mental illness live in hell and it is true that sometimes suicide is their escape of choice. This is not only tragic for the suicide, it can be dangerous for everyone who knows him and particularly perilous for his family members, increasing the possibility of another suicide by 20x to 40x. I lost both my maternal grandfather and my only brother to suicide, before nearly succumbing to it myself. Both were afflicted with mental illness, and both were conflicted about following through with treatment due in part to the stigma of which you speak.

    There are so many heartbreaking aspects of this world, thank you for illuminating and encouraging support for this very vital one.

    With appreciation and gratitude,
    Vivian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vivian, I’m sending you a hug. The gaping wound of hearing your relative took his own life never completely goes away. And I’m so glad you beat those odds you mentioned. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about my Grandfather and my cousin. It’s kinda like a personal 911–isn’t it? Yet, I wasn’t without any understanding of how they could think of doing what they did. When I was experiencing suicidal thoughts during my eating disorder days in 1979-1983, I had no idea I was going to get better and find true love and joy in life. My healing boosted my new faith and has made me quick to let others know I’m glad I didn’t end it way back in my teens or twenties.

      But I haven’t forgotten how dark those days felt. And my heart aches at the thought of people being in that place and possibly ending their life. Depression lies and says we’ll never be happy, but “perfect love casts out fear”. Blessings of peace, and again I’m so sorry your time with your brother was cut short on this side of Heaven. I know our family members had no idea it would hurt us so much. But depression lied to them about that too. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sorry to hear that you also lost family members to suicide. You are so right, depression too often obliterates the caring that comes naturally when we are not in bondage and understand that we are in the care of God. I love that you’ve chosen through your blog to be generous with your experiences of your faith-based peace.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with you Wendy. I have family who are also affected, and it is such a shame that the world can’t accept it simply as an illness. My family members are great at letting it be a part of them … one does stand up comedy acts to talk about her challenges. I love the ads on TV right now that “out” the standard societal opinions that fit into the category of “that’s not a real illness” or “you are making this up”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ian. I love the idea of your family member doing “stand up comedy acts to talk about her challenges”. Humor is an excellent way to engage people and educate them at the same time. And those TV ads sound wonderful. Yes, mental health issues are really real. Have you noticed the #BellLetsTalk on Twitter? Check it out if you get a chance. Even PM Justin Trudeau has been tweeting about mental health. 🙂

      Like

  7. Wendy, when I saw your beautiful roses woven between your heartfelt words, my first thought was that beauty and heartache go hand in hand in our fallen world. To be the fragrance, like a rose, for the hurting is what we’re all called to do as Christians but first we must remove our own masks, be real and authentic within the church. So many within the walls of our churches are suffering in silence, because of the stigma of mental illness. Thank you for shedding light on this important subject. One of my good friends has a son (now an adult) who suffers from schizophrenia and I’ve seen the struggle they’ve gone through. I will join you in praying that the stigma would be lifted! God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true, Nancy—“beauty and heartache go hand in hand in our fallen world.” Your friend with a son who has schizophrenia is blessed to have your friendship. You can’t heal her son, but your compassion and presence strengthen her so she can continue to comfort and support him.

      Church folk often find it easier to pray for children who live in other countries than to pray for the ones in their own congregations suffering with mental health issues. It’s a lonely road for the families of these kids/adults. God bless you for reaching out to your friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A fascinating topic, Wendy. I suffered from a mental disorder for 15 years, and had 2 hospitalizations. I’m well beyond the point of caring how people react, so I’ll comfortably refer to ‘when I was in the psyche ward’ in a conversation. Most people move right past it. Some who have known me a long time might try to minimize it on my behalf. Nobody, I repeat – NOBODY has ever asked me to tell them more. I’m okay with that too. The day when someone does is a day I’ll celebrate! Until then, I’ll be open and honest and at least desensitize my listeners a bit. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bobbi, you’re so refreshing and inspiring. I hope you like hugs, cause that’s what I want to give you if or when I meet you in person.

      I’ve spent a few hours visiting my dad in the psyche ward over the years. My heart was always moved by the shame and sadness I saw in some of the faces of other patients when we were in a common area. I wanted to hug them, and say God loves them right where they are–right now.

      This morning I came across the following verse, and it made me think
      of those who are in a deep, dark place:
      “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8

      I’ve been broke before. But the feeling of emotional destitution is a million times worse. Let’s keep desensitizing as the Lord leads, sister. ❤

      Like

  9. So true. If we broke a limb we would think nothing of going and getting help. So many suffer alone because they are afraid of the stigma attached. Is someone is physically injured we recognise it; but mental scars?
    I hope one day we can be open and talk about mental health, good and bad. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, dialogue is good. There’s a need in all of us to know we’re not alone. Isolation is unhealthy at the best of times—and for those suffering a mental disorder it’s devastating. Thanks for participating in this topic.

      Like

  10. Sensitively written… with empathy and compassion for those with mental illness, Wendy. As one who works in the field of counselling I do agree about the stigma they sadly face. Indeed they need all the love and understanding and our prayers. God is faithful and let’s continue to be kind and empathetic to those afflicted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Iris. I can picture you being a big blessing to those you work with. There’s an aura of peace around your words and your blog.

      I like your 3-pce approach: love, understanding & prayers. Yes, good health involves more than taking care of our mind and synapses—it includes nurturing our spirit —our soul. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Wendy. The Lord is certainly my strength in this challenging and engaging work. There are so many who are misunderstood and marginalised and who do need a listening ear. I am thankful to be of some comfort and help to those who are emotionally and psychologically affected. It is rewarding when they make progress and move on in life.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I applaud your efforts. I know all about stigma because I am Bipolar with a few little extras thrown in. My husband works with the poorest of the poor mentally ill. He himself has an anxiety disorder. There’s racial bias in this country but bias against the mentally ill is socially acceptable and all pervasive. I worked for 30 something years and lived with the fear of being “found out” every single work day. Thank you for writing such an important post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Ellen, I admire your courage, your art, and your heart. Your care for others (including all of creation) is evident in your beautiful and poignant work. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to feel the need to hide your Bipolar for so long. I’m ashamed for having hid my own family history all these years. Blessings to you both. Your many years of marriage is a testimony to what can be accomplished when spouses support each other. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a lovely reply, Wendy. I don’t know if it applies to me but it certainly applies to you in spades. Everything you said to me and more. Your spirituality pervades your every post. Though I have written a book about my mental illness, I still feel shame, especially when with”new” friends. I admire your courage in writing about this last prejudice in our society.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ellen, your words, “this last prejudice in our society” gives me hope. So much has changed since I was a child. Even if I don’t agree with all of them, I agree with mutual respect and tolerance for everyone and all faiths etc.

          Yes, maybe this “last prejudice” is on its last lap.

          Like

  12. Wendy, how the fragrance of grace overflows as you bravely addressed this issue of stigma against mental health illnesses. Mental health unwellness is as real and terrible and painful as any physical ailment for which we pray to God for healing, if not more so…for mental health suffering is most often ‘invisible’ suffering and for this reason requires greater care and understanding. Praying and standing with you for God’s tender and healing mercies to abound towards all who suffer such afflictions, and I praise God that as He has promised…He restores ALL (Psalm 103: 3)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, dear Susan. I often draw strength and peace remembering one day all sickness and death will be finished—forever. And seeing someone you love suffer is worse than suffering yourself.

      Yes, “He restores ALL “. My first response to symptoms of sickness in me or anyone else is to pray. God will lead us to what is the best treatment for ailments of the mind, soul, or flesh. Blessings on your weekend, friend.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So nice to meet you, Melissa. For me, the most painful part of having mental illness in my family is seeing someone I love struggling to accept it’s their battle too.

      Good on you for helping create awareness. I’m still a chicken at heart about this subject, but I crave to be part of the solution. I posted this article on my other blog and had changed my mind about sharing it on this one, but now that it’s here, I’m glad.

      Let’s be brave and beat the stigma beast.

      Liked by 1 person

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