The unneccessary heirarchy amongst the mentally ill.

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

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10 Responses to “The unneccessary heirarchy amongst the mentally ill.”

  1. Madsadgirl Says:

    An excellent post; I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s bad enough that we suffer the discrimination and stigma associated with mental illness without one group trying to make out that they are better (or do I mean worse) than the rest of us. Most schizophrenics if they take their medication as prescribed can lead fairly normal lives much of the time. Unfortunately many of us with depression, for example, cannot say the same. I have been on many different anti-depressants over the last 10 years and have never really found one that makes any difference to my depression. But I don’t see that as making me any ‘better’ than anyone else; it just upsets me that depression has caused me to have to give up a job that I loved and thereby lose my career, which was all that I had left after my husband died.
    It is the discrimination that is the hardest thing to bear and I have suffered from it in spades. Any campaign that does something to help the situation and show those that don’t have mental illness that we are ordinary people too, is good in my book.

  2. Alison Says:

    A good post I agree with you whole heartily! I am friends with a Schizophrenic in the TC and I’d bet money on the fact her dx is incorrect. I always had a perceived mind of how Schizophrenics were, even less than two years I found out the possibility of one moving next to me and I was terrified they would kill me because of those voices… they never did move in someone else did… I was relieved!

    Now knowing one personally I am different. I don’t fully think they are a Schizophrenic, perhaps the multiple personality disorder is correct but then I am yet to witness a change in personality and they are supposed to have 13! I would say they had an anti-social personality going off past history and they are trying to change that but Schizophrenic no, maybe the meds control it but I just don’t think the DX is right for them.

    The again maybe I am wrong…

  3. Mental Nurse · This Week in Mentalists (66) Says:

    […] from the Sofa notices hierarchies of mental illness. When I was an inpatient I noticed a definate heirarchy in the smoking room. You received kudos for […]

  4. DeeDee Ramona Says:

    Hi, I surfed over here from mental nurse. I found that the best thing to do when in hospital is to avoid the smoking room entirely. I don’t smoke, so that was easy. If you do smoke, I recommend that you show up there just to have your fags, look spooked if anyone talks to you, shift from foot to foot and have a vacant stare, and leave as soon as you’re done. If anyone has a go or talks to you, say something like “oh, I’m feeling really uneasy, the walls are closing in” or “I just can’t stay still” and wander off.

    I used the above technique when in the TV room and someone I did not want to be around came in (usually the annoying bloke who was uber-manic and kept chatting up all the women, me included). Works a treat.

    I’m only taking the piss a little, btw. Best to avoid the smoking room crap as much as humanly possible. Your diagnosis is none of the other patients’ business.

  5. bippidee Says:

    lol i remember the day a rather manic pensioner was admitted. she draped herself all over me on the sofa whilst the nurses looked on and laughed. Eventually i managed to get away but she followed me to my room where i had to shut the door in her face. She was friendly but insisted i was her lover.

  6. Karita Says:

    Excellent post!

  7. Alison Says:

    Hope your okay x

  8. Mike Says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

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  9. metalchickfromhell Says:

    Hey, i would just like to say I totally agree with yr post. as someone who has been diognosed BPD since I was in high school, I found that I alienated all of my old friends years ago, and now I can’t make new ones. The reason( besides the fact that I was pretty bad to be around): the mental health system. Simply put: I pretty much have recovered from borderline but I was downright awful for years and years from my senior year of high school on. I spent years being forcefed into the system, and being so young I think I might have had pride in cutting, yelling, and being in mental wards. I did not ( or would not) care. Then I got tired of it, and dealing with schizophrenics and other ” crazy” people. ‘ I am not like them” I thought… I understand what I am doing wrong.( even somewhat when I am having symptoms) These people do not know at all… no clue.

    Now I just want to be friends with people who aren’t mental. I mean they can be mental, but just somewhat aware that’s all, but my old friends turned their back on me because of my BPD, and now that I am 27 I cannot think of where to start to find new friends, or people who will accept the fact that I was in the system… they hear the word ” BPD” and scream running from the room. I AM NOT CRAZY!!! It seems like the system made me hate myself more. Being called crazy= worse then I really am.

    When I hung around schizos and BI polars ( the only people who still try to call me … I won’t take their calls) they even put me down… !!! Their illness will last forever and mine is not going to… I will keep learning and get better as most BP’s do… I don’t mean to be mean, but having friends who are crazy, but not in the same way you are does nothing to ” help” … the system encourges it. Like we are all the same… we are not… and those ” freindships” make life worse..

    Well now I realize those people are just really, really sick. I have to understand that or otherwise that is sick too… but I am human ( flawed ) and it still bugs me sort of til this day. I wish the system would try to understand and help borderlines too and i wish I known better sooner.

  10. Maggie Maguire Says:

    I have had pretty well every major manifestation of mental illness except BPD and disassociative disorder. Out of all the others depression is the absolute worst. OCD and anxiety are also pretty bad but with depression, you live in a world of utter misery.

    Interestingly enough my experience of serious delusions and psychosis was really rather fun. I had friendly helpful voices and my delusions involved all sorts of engaging games. However in the end the voices did become accusing. Seeing things that weren’t there was not a horrifying experience either. However other people with schizophrenia experience totally negative voices and have not much fun at all. My diagnosis in the end is bipolar schizoid affective.

    I know people with BPD who do experience psychotic events and I think it may all be up to chemistry after all. When I had bad PMT (which is all about chemistry) I was seriously unhinged not to mention seriously disordered personality wise and should have been locked up most of the time.

    I am blogging on issues in mental illness at http://stopthrashingaround.wordpress.com/. I’d love to have y’all visit.

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