33 Things not to say to a Head Case

i created this graphic a few years ago. i forget what the incident was that made this little truth clear to me, but
i have never forgotten this thought. why? because it's
a fact of my life, and the lives of many people who
have been diagnosed as bipolar.

it's on my mind now because an interesting thread came up
this weekend in a online mental health group i'm part of -  someone asked what comments by others people were upset by/sick of hearing and/or angry about their health issues...

there were a lot of responses, including a few from me.
it was interesting how many of these remarks were familiar to most of the participants and reading them, it seemed to me that a few themes began to emerge.

i've compiled them here in the order they appeared...


"Everyone has highs and lows, that's normal"

"I know people who are bipolar,
    you aren't bipolar"

"you have nothing to be depressed about"

"you need to pull yourself up
      by the boot straps"

"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"

"I know how you feel"

"We create our own reality"

"I've never really noticed
      anything wrong with you"

"don't be so over-dramatic"

"Yeah, I get depressed like you"

"It's all in your head"

"You're ALWAYS sick."

"when are you going to grow up?"

"You just have to work harder to control it"

"you read too much"

"You just refuse to accept reality,
       there's nothing wrong with you"

"just leave her, ignore her,
       she'll get over it"

"I get depressed too - thinking positive
    and being active helps me a lot"

naturally, there were comments people had heard
       from those i call "god crazy" ...

"depression is lack of dedication to God"

"you need to go to church"

"you need prayer"

and then it was back to 'non-denominational'...

"Are you crazy?"

"get over yourself"

"Its not that bad, I get depressed too"

"You take way too many meds"

"Stop being so negative, think positively"

"Everyone goes through stressful mental times"

"You are not trying hard enough"

but by far, the gold medal, most-often-said comment people mentioned was the classic...

"Snap out of it"

The level of condescension implicit in most of these remarks
is incredible
and - i would suggest - inevitable, given the awesome sense of superiority that the speakers have endowed themselves with...

It's difficult to imagine a similar list coming from a group
of diabetics,
or people with MS. Would people say things
like this to someone with
Crohn's disease or arthritis?
i think not...

Yet people feel completely justified saying all this and more (and worse) to anyone with a mental illness. Why?

There are a lot of reasons, and i wouldn't pretend to
know them all. There is a very strong tendency in this culture to blame the victim. It's virtually the default in many situations. A woman gets raped? She shouldn't have dressed so provocatively. Someone gets mugged? What were they doing in such a bad neighbourhood?

The list is endless. The habit is probably as old as time.
It's a primitive urge - the need to dissociate ones' self
from 'the unclean', the 'defective', the weak of the herd who will probably attract more predators.

- to be continued -

1 comment:

  1. I've been told many of these things, and some things even more hurtful.

    Thank you for posting this. If society's collective attitude is going to gradually change, it is thanks to those who have the courage to speak up.

    An excellent blog.