Total Pageviews

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: