Since I got so confessional lately, I guess I can keep the honest boat rolling and tell you that sometimes I get really mad. Entirely mad about how I turned out as a “borderline” person, and how this killed everything around me, and how it was not my fault, not the fault of my friends either, but this slowly ate up all the bridges that would tie me to anyone. They often say that this is characteristic of the personality disorder to cut ties intensely, but I have another theory. Why would anyone want to lose relation with a society which is the only place they can be safe? Because this society, out of its own will – I like to believe – is drowning in a cult of moralizing and stereotyping about mental health. For many years I did not want to even talk about that, thinking the world was a solid entity incapable of change.
I’m talking about how people are trying to help their friends with mental health problems and how they fail one by one, wondering why they ever got involved in the first place. This is a very painful process on both sides.
When they just laugh at you
I remember the very first people to whom I told – as a child – that I have strange experiences. (Namely that the world seems to drift off and become a frightening, bizarre dreamlike place where I am so slow that even crossing through the road bears enormous danger). The reaction was a laugh. I don’t know what was so funny about it, and probably never will know. Now I am aware what this experience was and what it was signalling, or what its name is.
When they think you are ‘making this up’
I also had a bizarre habit as a child. I used to believe I had a dead sister, who was buried under a tree not far from our block. I would take flowers there sometimes, and whenever something bad happened, which I wanted to forget I would put it on a piece of paper and bury it at the tree too, thinking my sister will come at night and take the paper and the thing I put on it disappears forever. I guess I made it up. Maybe I did not want to be alone and thought someone who is dead knows more than me and can help me. But this experience was still frightening and I still wanted to get rid of it. But when I told adults about this it suddenly was a lie and that “all in your head” crap commenced. Well of course it’s all in my head, genius! Where else could it be? This is like telling someone with Asthma “It’s all in your lungs”. The person already knows and it does not help them anyway… however, it is a good way to make someone feel alienated and misunderstood.
When you seem to be “making it for attention”
I had thoughts of suicide ever since I can remember. But at the age of 16 or so I could no longer contain it or fight it effectively. These thoughts crept up on me, like snares underwater that would not let go of my limbs, and the more I tried to break away from them the more they kept dragging me down to the bottom of the lake. Not a clear lake either. A stinky, blood steamed lake of tears. I was frightened and chilled to the bone. So I told someone. Did not listen or bombarded me with the stereotypes of cowardice or other. And came the next person and the next and the next, but nobody wished to fight for me. So I fought for me with the methods I had. Already told you, it was the cutting thing. So I told only one person about this at the start, and this person went home, read about it on the internet, and figured out I just want some attention. Question one, why do you figure out what I want when you could just ask me? Question two, how come ‘whys’ matter more than ‘how to make it betters’? This is where I started losing it and friend after friend I lost contact, lost interest. When someone can tell you things and you cannot do the same it suddenly becomes a relationship you are unable to fight for.
When some people are “just acting like they want to help you”
Once I felt very bad about someone. The person who read the stuff on the internet (mentioned above. So this person decided to sit and have a talk about suicide with me. Mostly it was them talking and me listening, which I know should have been the other way around. I learnt that later, that when you are feeling suicidal the last thing you need is a lecture on the devastating nature of suicide. You probably know more about that than they do anyway. No, when you are in distress you need to talk. Talking is like action. You should not be afraid when someone shares a suicidal fantasy with you – it means they want to talk it out because it saves them from acting on it. Anyway we were in a café with this person and I could talk a bit about what I was feeling and while I was in the middle of struggling over to breathe or not to this person sprung to their feet and started talking to the “bartender” asking what song was on the radio. Sitting back “So where were we”. Of course I did not continue….
When “Starving Africans and orphans have it worse and you should be grateful”
If you suffer from a mental health problem you must be awfully familiar with this approach. While it may be true on the physical level not having a toilet or starving is not a mental disorder. It can induce one – which is why starving Africans can also suffer from a mental disorder, what you really need to understand is that mental health problems are “way better than us” in a way that they don’t discriminate. They do not differentiate between rich and poor etc. So when you cannot get out of bed or have delusions it truly does not have to do anything with whether you are grateful or not. Besides when someone you know gets out of their brand new car to tell you that others have it worse than you when they do not know you might not even own a bed is another aspect, but it is not relevant for me now.
“Everyone has their fights”
I could go on for what seems way too much for a blogpost but just one more. This is the latest thing I heard. Again it is a cliché. Of course everyone has their fights. You too. You may be fired, you may be broke, you may be sad, you may be lonely etc. But to tell a mental health patient that everyone has their fights is like telling someone with malaria that everybody gets a fever every now and then. Why is it so hard to understand, that nor malaria nor mental disorder belongs on the scale of “normal life hardships” because they just don’t. You don’t tell someone with diabetes “you don’t need insulin” or “your illness is your fault” or “snap out of it”…. So why tell someone so who is mentally ill? I just don’t get it.
This is not a judgement. It’s not an aimless whining. I want you to see these! So next time you could help a friend effectively! If your friend is in distress they do not need moral or religious – and preferably any – lectures. They need ears that listen and hands that hold. You may not be able to provide them, but that is what professionals are for and you can sure as hell convince them to seek that help. Do not promise anything you cannot or will not do, because it fills them up with false hopes they will regret later.
I don’t know if I can put up with this world forever. Maybe not for long, who knows. But until that point I sure as hell cannot be silenced about this one hope: that I and people like me do not have to lose anyone. That all the world needs is to be more educated on mental health for us to fit in better and live a relatively better life. If you want to help us, please come down from the chair of judges, believe me we can judge ourselves very efficiently. If we are worth the fight for you, please fight for us. For our rights, for our case. For our lasting friendship.