Firstly, let me say in advance that I know this post will piss some people off. I’m writing it whilst in the middle of a bpd funk, having being riled by someone else’s musings on mental illness. So I guess I’m just passing those feelings along lol.
So, there are plenty of different mental illnesses. Or rather, plenty of different diagnosis. One in four people will experience mental distress sometime in their lives. That’s a fact. It can range from grief induced depression, postnatal depression, an eating disorder etc, to psychosis, bi polar, schizophrenia etc. And there’s the bit which has made me angry.
We, all of us have had to endure discrimination from the general public. Whether it be a job we haven’t got, or not being invited to a party. A relative who tells us to grow up and cheer up, or a doctor who blames our moodswings on being fat. You’d think though, that within our mad community, we’d be able to get along. But no. Because my mental illness is worse than yours. So there! Or maybe yours is worse than mine? I used to have a diagnosis of depression. Then it was BPD. Now it’s BPD with psychosis. Does that mean I’ve moved a few rungs up the ladder? Do I now look down to mock the depressives? And should I look up and feel jealous of the schizophrenics?
When I was an inpatient I noticed a definate heirarchy in the smoking room. You received kudos for having multiple stays. Total respect was offered to those who’d spent time upstairs on the infamous Ward 3 (plastic cutlery and no matches allowed). Superficial self harm injuries were laughed at. Cigarette burns were oohed and aahed over. You didn’t say no when the person who’d thumped a nurse asked you for a cigarette. Gossip about diagnosis was rife. The schizophrenics were special. Cool people. Ours had a guitar and nipped outside to buy dope whenever he was allowed off the ward. Then came the manic depressives. After that the depressives, although they generally stayed in bed all day and didn’t make it to the smoking room. Bottom of the pile were the personality disordered. It was almost considered an insult to whisper that another patient just had a pd. Perhaps the patients picked up on the negative vibes from the staff? We were definately regarded as taking up a bed which didn’t belong to us that’s for sure.
I spend quite a lot of time over on the Rethink forum. Rethink used to be a charity specifically for people with schizophrenia. It has since modernised and now campaigns for the rights of all people suffering from a severe mental illness. But the forum is still mostly run by the schizophrenics. And boy do they like to hammer it in that they are the most poorly, the most discriminated against, the most misunderstood. I don’t think that does them any favours. This perceived longing to be special, to be held up there as completely different to any other mental illness. Yes I don’t doubt that schizophrenia is a hellish illness. But so is bpd. So is bi polar. So is post natal depression. So is any mental health condition which causes you severe distress. Why do we get so hung up on diagnosis? Surely we should concentrate instead on how the symptoms make us feel? How they affect our ability to function? Whether recovery is possible and to what extent. Yes it’s true that the general public still mistakenly associate schizophrenia with violence, but having said that, the general public still mistake a diagnosis of mental illness as meaning the same as schizophrenia. I’ve been called a variety of things over the years. Schizo, mong, nutter, wacko, retard,fuckwit (i quite like that one), weirdo, madcow. We’re all lumped together so perhaps we should all stick up for each other and stop this infighting.
Yes there is a massive difference between a short lived, one off spell of depression, and a life long condition like Sz, bi polar or a pd. But the majority of the public won’t experience the latter. The closest they can come to understanding what it is like to be us is when they themselves experience depression or a relative or colleague does. The ad campaign called Time To Change is currently trying to change people’s perceptions of mental illness. I applaud them for doing so. Yet they are criticised this week by The Times, who’s columnist is angry that their ad does not include schizophrenia and is too positive, focussing as it does on recovery. In my mind this ad campaign is long overdue. There are still generations who’s understanding of the mentally ill is that we are all loons who used to be locked up for life but are now roaming the streets like rabid dogs. Anything which changes that view is a good thing.
So please, schizophrenics, stop putting yourself on a pedestal just because your condition has an organic cause.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/sathnam_sanghera/article5663115.ece Times column on schizophrenia and Time To Change
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64EWjvxqbYg Time to Change Ad