No…I mean stigma. Stigmata is that other thing, what with the hands and the feet and the blood and the froinlavin. Good morning dear reader(s), or morning in the PST, but good whatever time of day it might be where you currently are viewing this amazing blog-type-thing from. Is it good? Is that any of my business? Does the fact that, so far, my morning is good (thanks to finally getting some good sleep last night) matter in any way? If I was having a bad morning, and it was in a string of bad mornings, would that make me any worse of a person? Would you feel compelled to flood me with a bunch of memes about how a positive attitude can determine my life and all I have to do is ask the universe for happiness and I will receive it?
Regular reader(s) of this here blog-type-thing will know that I am a cancer survivor who is currently very damaged from the cancer, the stem-cell transplant I underwent to get rid of it, and the complications from it and the chemo. Let’s say I was feeling fatigued from it (I am), would you tell me that all I have to do is ask for the energy from the universe and be a bit more positive and I will have the energy I need to function like a normal human being? Or let’s say I still had my cancer, and was still getting daily blood transfusions, and my white cell count was at 0. Now, let’s say that I had sepsis as I did four times. Now, pretending that I was lying in the hospital bed with very low blood pressure and requiring a ventilator (as happened), would you come into my room and tell me that I can change the course of my illness with positive thinking or “The Law of Attraction”?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Mental illness is a physical illness where something happens in the brain that causes real, not imaginary, not made up, not controllable with happy thoughts symptoms. There are actual changes that take place in the brain. There is nothing that the depressed, schizophrenic, bi-polar, PTSD afflicted, etc, etc… can do to prevent it. Sometimes, they can keep it at bay with treatment, but it is an illness they suffer from, all the same. Some depression heals completely, and no longer needs treatment, some doesn’t.
But do you know what isn’t treatment? Telling people with mental illness to “snap out of it” or “cheer up” of “ask the universe for what you want”. That works about the same as walking into a cancer patient’s room and telling them the same things.
My positive attitude may have kept me going, the support from my friends and family may have helped, the positive energy could have possibly affected something (though that is just seriously unknown at this point), but make no mistake…it was the doctors, the nurses, the medicine, and the procedures that saved my life. The way to cure an illness, or to treat the ones that are incurable, is with treatment. If you can’t understand that perhaps you are mentally ill. (Oh, do you see what I did just there? That is how prevalent it is to ostracize those suffering from mental illness in our society.)
“That person is crazy.” “Those homeless people are just a bunch of whack-jobs.” “All those people with PTSD are just weak-minded and need to be slapped across the face with Patton’s glove.” It is a common refrain. As you push your government for spending cuts because you think your taxes are too high, then complain about all the homeless people you have to step over and your way to work, you ignore that the vast, vast majority of the people you ostracize are sick. And when you get to the office, you log into your Facecrap account and share the picture of the bald child in his hospital bed asking for “likes” and “shares” before his illness takes his life so he can feel like people care. Then you go to the water-cooler and joke with a co-worker about the crazy guy on the bus who was screaming at nobody, oblivious to the pain that person must be feeling. Would you joke about that little kid’s pain too? I bet you might even donate to St. Jude’s or something.
But hey, those kids with cancer just need to cheer up. Why can’t they just be happy? Why do they have to be down all the time? That person with AIDS over there, I’m sure she must be weak or sleazy to have allowed herself to be raped and have the disease transmitted to her. That kid with Autism is such a spaz. You wouldn’t do that. Would you?
And yet, the crazy jokes fly out of your mouth like your saliva after a sneeze. You post those memes and tell your friends who are suffering that they are just being too dramatic. It isn’t right, and you know it.
I suffer from PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I used to have Social Anxiety Disorder but whatever happened during my cancer fight destroyed that obsessive worry about what others think of me, as you can probably tell by my eagerness to challenge perceptions. I’m not ashamed of my mental illnesses. They are illnesses, just as my cancer was an illness, just as the pneumonia, the infections, etc…
You try going through what I went through and come away from it without damage. Then, if you do, feel free to tell me to cheer up, or stop obsessing over things, or not to worry. Tell me just to get out there and live. Tell me how easy it is once I ask the universe for what I need. I dare you. Or better yet, go up to a combat vet (you know, the people trained to kill) who saw something so terrible they are suffering from their own form of PTSD. Tell him to get over it. See what happens.
So, I hope everyone is having a good morning, or day, or evening. But if you aren’t, that’s okay. I hope it gets better and you heal.