If someone had cancer, would you berate them for their lot in life? Would you laugh and cajole when they couldn’t get out of the bed or feed themselves properly? Would you write them disparaging comments when they could no longer handle the daily tasks of life all of us take for granted? You would be shamed into submission by your peers. Why is this not true for mental illness? My negative anonymous comments are an example of this. They probably wouldn’t get on a blog written by a lung cancer patient and write, just go ahead and die already!
Thus is the stigma of mental illness. Many times mental illness is seen as a defect of character. Oh, he’s just lazy, or he’s just willfully dependent on his parents. He’s got it easy. He doesn’t want to work or support himself. George might drink and be dysfunctional, but he is a man supporting himself! George doesn’t have a chemical and neurological imbalance and misfiring in his brain. He just has an addiction which can be remedied most of the time.
People with schizophrenia have a malfunctioning brain just like cancer patients have cells dividing uncontrollably. Cancer patients have chemo and I have Risperdal Consta. Cancer can go into remission and then suddenly reemerge just like my own condition. Why are illnesses of the brain taken so lightly? So many mentally ill people are scorned by their families and friends and fall into disparaging conditions such as homelessness, isolation, mental wards, and assisted living homes. People rally around loved ones with cancer, support them, and do what is needed to see they have the proper medical treatment. A lot of money and time is poured into finding cures and treatments for cancer.
I will be the first to admit I am a lot like a child, but I am also smart, cunning, and vibrant – full of life – damned to this seeming duality of existence. Many brilliant people had or have a mental illness. John Forbes Nash anyone? I sometimes wish I was of their lot – my more positive aspects outweighing the stigma of mental illness.
We are also such extremely socially structured creatures and this can escape people with mental illness. I think this is one of the hardest things to deal with when concerning people with mental illness. The Homeless Guy is a glaring example of this. He is completely dependent upon others for his well being and he very clearly has a mental illness. He is also brilliant. No one has received more derision than he as far as a blogger goes. It has almost made him stop writing publicly. And I believe it’s because he just doesn’t grasp the socially acceptable norms of life – of working, of raising a family, of being responsible, of social etiquette. This scares and confuses people. The very tenants of the fabric of our society are not being met by one of our own. So what do we do? We kick him when he’s down, not helping to lift him up. We laugh. We cajole. We write disparaging anonymous comments on his blog telling him what a lout he is. We show our true selves and thus lose part of our humanity in the process.