Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When They Say Mental Illness Is Not Real

One of the main issues which comes up in my discussions with other people with mental illness that causes them the most pain and spiritual despair is when family and friends refuse to accept that mental illness is real.

It just seems ridiculous to me to say that an illness well known by the medical field and which we can see on a brain scan is not real. These people who say mental illness is not real always, without fail, say that instead people use mental illness as an excuse not to take care of their life, themselves, and take responsibility for their life. I am always amazed that anyone would think someone would chose to have the difficulties people with mental illness have. No one wants this.

As I talked about this with my husband, he made me realize something, he said "Saying mental illness is not real is just a cop-out." So true. It is just denial. Family and friends who claim their loved one does not have mental illness can not admit to themselves that there is a problem, someone is sick, and they need help. It is their inability to deal with reality that makes them use this cop-out. And frankly, most of these people in denial have their own issues they need to work on and seeing someone else working on their life and trying to get better, is a reminder to them that they can not face the reality of their own life. This fear of theirs takes away their ability to be compassionate towards someone else.

If you have someone in your life that believes your illness is not real, I hate to say that you probably will never change their mind. Even if you show them test results, brain scans, and have them talk to doctors. I actually had one person in my life say that I was having my psychiatrist lie for me and say I had mental illness so that I could get away with being irresponsible in my life. So, these people will most likely never understand and it is extremely hurtful to you to have to try and defend yourself all the time. To sit and be made fun of, ridiculed, and shamed because you have an illness. No one would ever do that with someone who had cancer or Multiple Sclerosis and no one should do it to you.

Photo by K. Norris. (Hapkido, but you get the idea)
If people are hurting you in this way, you might think that you should ask them, kindly, not to talk about your illness anymore since you can't agree. However, this approach will probably just enrage them further and cause more attacks on you. Try giving them a little bit of information such as "I am working with my therapist on calming my anxiety." Just think of some short answer that does not offend them, gives them little information, but helps redirect or stop the conversation. Think of it as verbal Tai Chi where instead of countering your opponent's force, you deflecting it. You can also only put yourself in safe situations such as seeing them at large events when other people are around or meet them for coffee in public rather than have them over to your house. It's all about not falling into their trap and perpetuating the unhealthy system they are creating.

These people in your life are not bad people, they are just doing something that is extremely unkind. It really does not have anything to do with you but with whatever issues they have in their own life. Send them thoughts of loving kindness and move on with your life. One day they may come around, but in the mean time you need to take care of yourself.

Stay strong friends!

Rev. Katie

1 comment:

  1. This is the reason why I have never discussed my mental illness with my family. Only my husband a couple very close friends. It is very sad to me that people still see mental illness as something you "choose". I would never choose this.