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Monday, September 23, 2013

You're Not Mentally Ill. And the Sky is Hot Pink. Because I say so.

This article is likely going to piss a lot of people off. That’s just too damn bad. These are my truths, my opinions, my thoughts, my healing. I’m entitled to this and so I’ll go ahead and write it.

It’s hard to know where to start. When I was in my late teens, I was diagnosed with a mental illness. I’ve been in and out of therapy for years, on and off various medications. I’ve made more mistakes than I’d care to admit to, but at the end of the day I’m pretty satisfied with where I’ve ended up. MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR MY BAD BEHAVIOR. Should I repeat it another thousand times? Perhaps.


Ok please don’t make me repeat that again. So moving on…

I’ve led a colorful life. I’ve been victimized, and I’ve victimized others. If you’ve never done the latter, then good for you. I admire you but unfortunately, most of us cannot say that. There are different levels of victimization (of course), but for now can we just leave it at that? Simply put, I’m not a saint, but I am a woman with a heart of gold and good intentions. Like many other human beings, I’m multi-dimensional. I struggle, and I screw up, and I do positive things, and sometimes I try my best. Sometimes I don’t. If you’re a person who’s never made a single mistake, never hurt another human, never acted selfishly, never lied…stop reading. Go and get sainted & leave us common folk alone. We’ll probably have more fun without you. (Ha.)

There are times when I’ve done crappy things to those that I love. Here’s the thing about hurting people- they always want an explanation. People always say “but why? How could you?” Fair enough. I’ve asked that question of many who have hurt me. I’ve screamed it, yelled it through tears, written it. I’ve begged for the answer. Part of asking for an answer is accepting the answer that’s given to you. It’s usually not enough to satisfy, and it usually falls short. Sometimes the person gives a bullshit answer. What should we expect? Perhaps we should stop asking.

Mental illness and/or drug addiction ARE part of the reason that people act out and hurt others. Can anyone deny that? Once again, IT IS NOT AN EXCUSE. Please don’t make me type that another 8 times. People need to stop conflating “explanation” with “excuse.” Mental illness IS a source of poor behavior, a partial explanation, a possible cause. It is not an excuse, and when somebody mentions their mental illness when discussing their poor choices, please stop telling them that it’s not an excuse. Unless somebody says “I did these awful things but I can’t be held responsible. It’s not my fault, I’m ill,” they don’t deserve to be told that they’re “using mental illness as an excuse.”

The problem is that as a society, we don’t know how to talk about mental illness, and we sure as hell don’t know how to discuss abusers who are mentally ill. When we hear of things such as abuse, torture, harassment, rape, etc, our blood turns hot. We become (rightfully) angry, and unfortunately, along with that rightful reaction comes a tendency to ignore reason. We want answers, but we won’t accept the answers. We’re out for blood. So, what can the abuser do, other than go 6 feet under? What is the acceptable way for an abuser to return to society? I’m sincerely curious as to what people have to say about this. I don’t have an answer. However, I do not believe that telling someone (even if they are an abuser) to “Shut up. Go away. Die. Disappear. Stay off of social media. Stay off of life!”  It may be our gut reaction, but is it reasonable? For those of you that say yes, think about this- do you believe in the death penalty? Why or why not? My guess is that anyone reading this is fairly liberal, and likely to reject the death penalty. I’m against the death penalty because I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye,” and I believe in rehabilitation. I believe that the death penalty is hypocritical. Okay, I know it’s a far stretch to compare shunning somebody to the death penalty, but does anyone see the point that I’m trying to make? We’re always quick to be liberals when the person in question isn’t somebody who has personally abused us. But what about when they have? Then what? How do we deal with them? How do we deal with our boiling blood, our rage, our pain? How is the person in our life supposed to answer us? What would satisfy us? Should they just go 6 feet under?

I feel myself straying from my original point because honestly, I’m tired and I didn’t plan to write anything tonight. I’m feeling slightly triggered by all of the social media posts floating around out there tonight. As someone who has mental illness and who has also worked as a therapist treating mental illness, I’m disappointed by the attitudes that surround me. People whom I regard as intelligent are saying things such as “that person is using mental illness as a privilege!” No, he’s not. He’s simply answering your questions, and to pretend that mental illness wasn’t at least a slight contributor to those actions is foolish. As I’ve written in earlier posts, it IS possible for a person to be a manipulative abusive fraudulent POS and also be mentally ill. I’ve noticed that people don’t like to realize that simple fact, but it’s the truth. C’mon folks- THINK IN DIALECTICS! Let me repeat this- To pretend that mental illness wasn’t at least a slight contributor to those actions is foolish. That’s part 1. Part 2 is this: it doesn’t mean you have to forgive that person. You don’t have to feel sympathy for that person, but to deny that mental illness played a role is silly.

So, why is it that people don’t want to believe that an abuser is mentally ill? Well, perhaps because mental illness usually garners sympathy. We usually feel sorry for sick people, right? And, nobody wants to feel sorry for an abuser. Newsflash- we don’t have to. We don’t need to feel sympathy for the mentally ill. We can be just as fucking angry at them.

I can already hear people saying “but what about the victims?! You’re an apologist!” No, I’m not. I’m simply capable of holding multiple uncomfortable truths in my mind, all at once. It would probably be easier and less painful to be less insightful, but that’s not my style.

Facing these uncomfortable issues head on has made me think of the abuse that I’ve faced throughout my life. It dawned on me that since I’m running around lecturing people about facing uncomfortable truths, I should try to face my own. So, I decided to think about my ex, and how I would feel if this controversy were surrounding him. I immediately felt angry. I’d want people to write him off, to scream at him, to tell him to go away. But, is that okay? No, it’s really not. As much of a piece of crap as he is, he’s still a human, and there are reasons behind his horrid behavior. One of the main reasons that he was so abusive (in my opinion) is his severe problem with anger. He’s got one of the worst tempers I’ve ever had the displeasure of being around. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and would be happy to never see anything like it again. So, it would be safe to say that he abused me partly due to his anger problem, correct? Is that excusing him? No, of course not.  It’s just the truth. It is what it is; nothing more and nothing less. In my opinion, he’s also mentally ill and that’s also part of the explanation for his horrendous actions towards me. That’s also not an excuse. I don’t have to like him and I don’t have to forgive him, and I never will. I also don’t have the right to demand that he disappear from the public sphere, that he stop living his life. That’s not an easy thing to admit because trust me, there are days that I wish he would disappear. BUT that’s not my call to make, and it’s not reasonable.

So what do we do with abusers? Do we pretend like they’re not mentally ill because it suits us to believe they’re in perfect mental health (even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are- HELLO FOLKS! THAT IS A CLEAR AXIS II PRESENTATION IF I’VE EVER SEEN ONE!)
Do we banish them? Kill them? Treat them like a child & take away their social media accounts? Demand that they never see the light of day again? When we ask them for an explanation, do we continue to tell them that it’s not good enough? If so, why do we keep asking for one?

Seriously, what do we do? I’m seeking an answer for that. Please keep in mind that it’s almost midnight and that I’m tired. I’m not sure if everything in this post made sense…but I am trying to stir up some reasonable discourse. I’ve been thinking about these issues for quite some time, and now I’m sharing them with others. Thank you for reading.


For background on these issues, click here:


  1. Bella weighs in...I totally get that people with mental health issues some times do shitty things, just as addicts do, and I also agree that this doesn't excuse their behavior nor does it take away the pain from those they have hurt. I also believe anyone can redeem themselves, heck I did after a 20 year love affair with cocaine, We can all sit and just ASSUME what another persons motives are but in reality the only only one that knows our true intentions is ourselves and GOD.. LOL

    I can also understand when someone keeps themselves in the mainstream media (probably because they have the need for attention) that it becomes a TRIGGER for those effected by it or those that feel let down or betrayed by the person. Yes I think the person has the right to be on social media but I don't think its unrealistic that he just assumes everyone will forgive him right away. One thing I learned in recovery is that you can be clean a long time before people trust you again, and if you relapse people take it personal, as they don't seem to get that it isn't about them.

    I also know that many people are falsely diagnosed and many hide behind this as an excuse for their bad behavior. especially someone who is educated, and many of us know what to say to a doctor to get whatever medications we want, so misdiagnosis is common. We can't diagnosis this person ourselves just because we relate to some of their behaviors, and we can't just trust their word that they have really been diagnosed with anything at all, or that it isn't a misdiagnosis by a manipulative, crafty person.
    Being manipulative is not just a sign of mental illness, its also a character defect, and if one is working on the issues, than that is great. But do we have the right to judge this person, well I say NO but I totally get NEVER TRUSTING THIS PERSON AGAIN, and I totally get that those who have been hurt by may not ever want to hear from this person again. My concerns is that if this person really wants to change, why are they still keeping this going, knowing that every keystroke they type, hurts his wife over and over again. How much humiliations is the wive supposed to endure, and I doubt seriously this man could EVER TEACH US anything, because nobody is ever going to listen to 1 word he says. So enclosing, mental health issues is not a free pass to hurt others or act out, and just because one has a mental illness does not mean that they do not have to be responsible for their own behavior. The worst thing we can do is enable the persons bad behavior, especially when the behavior is still on going. But I also don't think anyone has the right to hate on this man, if they can't get over what he has done, I would suggest they don't bother to read what he writes. He has the same freedom of speech as the rest of us, and if we don't like what he has to say, he can simply ignore it. However there will always he haters and those who like to abuse the abuser, we have no control over what these people say or do. Putting ourselves out on social media allows us to become the victims of hatred and mean spirited people and its the price we pay to use social media.

  2. My problem with Hugo has little to do with his mental illness or with wanting him to be a villain and not a victim. I think you hit the point square on the head: one can be mentally ill and still be an asshole. The one doesn't exclude the other.

    But Hugo's problem is complicated by a non-pychological sphere: politics. Hugo was in the business of telling men how to behave and he was fairly absolutist about it in his definitions of wrong and right.

    I think that Hugo needs to take a looooooooooooong break from the internet and public writing on sex and gender not because he's mentally ill and not because he's been an asshole to many people, including yourself. I think he needs to take a break because he's shown himself to be a world-class hypocrite and liar who's made a fool out of everyone whoever went to bat for him in a debate.

    What does Hugo Schwyzer stand for? I used to think it was a fairly vanilla, marxist-prostestant sort of "men bad, women good" feminism. A sort of feminism I find laughable, but certainly nothing to get riled up over. Now I can't help but agree with the meme that's floating around that says Hugo's "that guy" who "takes women's studies courses because he thinks it'll get him so much pussy." It really doesn't seem that there's any other political definition to the man.

    Of course, he always pissed of the MRAs and certain feminists as well, that's pretty much inevitable if one is male and talking about feminism. One's comments will be parsed and reparsed, taken out of context and re-editied to make one look like a puppy molestor.

    So I, like many other people, used to say things like "Yeah, Hugo can be a jerk, but that's no call to accuse him of unethical behavior, like sleeping with his students, unless you have proof."

    MANY people took this line regarding him, for years. Now we find out that those totally unsubstantiated rumors about him were true after all. At one stroke, he's made ever male feminist look like a predator in disguise. He's given body and proof to the worst stereotypes one can imagine regarding straight men who discuss sex and gender issues.

    The political damage Hugo has done here is immense and goes far beyond his need to express himself or whatever mental health issues he might have. This whole thing is NOT ABOUT Hugo. One would think that the guy would realize that, take his own advice seriously and shut up.

    I don't think Hugo should die or be arrested or anything else. I do think, however, he needs to put a zip on it, deal with his mental health issues for a few years and then see what the world looks like.

    That said, AFAIK, the only thing the guy's writing about these days is the death of his rabbi. So big deal.

  3. One comment regarding your detour in the middle of the page about "How should we respond to our abusers?" I think the answer is, in fact, "forgiveness." You stated that you would never forgive, but I think that might be due to a different understanding/definition of the word than what I have. I believe forgiveness is letting go of bitterness and the desire for revenge. However, forgiveness is NOT the same as telling someone that what they did was "ok" or being involved in that person's life again. I believe that you can remain confident that you were wronged and forgive someone at the same time, which is more about letting go of it inside yourself than about somehow justifying what they did. I also do not believe forgiveness is a single action, but rather, a process of coming to peace in our own hearts.