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Thu Feb 23, 2012, 06:08 PM

A lot of us are in the closet about our illness.

That's a harsh reality that no one really dares to talk about. There are reasons for it, and it can but doesn't always relate to stereotypes. The social stigma attached that damages so many peoples lives.

Reason #1 You know that as well as I do. You say something about it, and you instantly get that...look. Sometimes it varies. Surprise, worry, or the 'get away from me' gesture. They treat you differently. Not 100% of the time, but they do. Then you just get sick to your stomach about it, and just stop saying it to people altogether. It's too hurtful to get that look.

Reason #2 is because you're denying your own illness. You don't want to be one of them. You think you're perfectly fine. "Look, I'm smiling! Leave me alone!" You really don't want to take pills because you're afraid of what they'll do to your brain. Plus, only crazy people take pills. "I haven't been crazy thus far, and I'm not starting now!" You think to yourself. You deny your own illness, and you become even sicker.

Reason #3 is the cruelest one of all. Most of you know exactly what I'm talking about, and that's the sad part of this. Someone finds out this information, and uses it against you in the worst possible way that they can. Blackmail, threats to commit you, using the information to emotionally abuse you, using the information to shun you from your community, family members using the information to control what happens to you medically (or worse), using that information to smear your name, or maybe even to mess with your pills. There are too many reasons why people do not stand up for themselves to say that they have this or that mental illness. Also, it doesn't help that too many people with mental illness are all ready kicked down to the ground and stomped on emotionally. A lot of us are defenseless, pure and simple.

I do not hide, and anyone that posts in this group doesn't either. Are we crazy? Are we insane? (pun intended) Of course you need to hide it! There's too much risk, too much going against you! Well... I want to help foster a greater understanding and acceptance of what mental illness is. Yep, that about covers it. That reason pushes aside everything else. I wish more could say the same.

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply A lot of us are in the closet about our illness. (Original post)
Neoma Feb 2012 OP
mdmc Feb 2012 #1
hunter Feb 2012 #2
fizzgig Feb 2012 #3
pipi_k Feb 2012 #14
Neoma Feb 2012 #4
EFerrari Feb 2012 #8
Tobin S. Feb 2012 #5
Neoma Feb 2012 #6
Tobin S. Feb 2012 #7
Odin2005 Feb 2012 #10
Tobin S. Feb 2012 #11
Odin2005 Feb 2012 #9
Neoma Feb 2012 #12
pipi_k Feb 2012 #13
easttexaslefty Mar 2012 #15

Response to Neoma (Original post)

Thu Feb 23, 2012, 07:42 PM

1. thanks for the OP

 

the more the merrier

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Response to Neoma (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 01:13 PM

2. Another big reason: You'll never get a job.

Lot's of people in my family could hold it together for forty hours a week, only to fall apart at home. Their illness was hidden first so they could get a job and then so they could hold it.

One of my grandmas was insane, but she had a simple job and could keep up appearances at work. She was a valuable employee, just a bit eccentric. But her home life was an endless catastrophe, a living hell. When she retired there was nothing, no scheduled times of normalcy. She became a recluse, a hoarder, and a danger to herself and others. Eventually she had to be removed from her home. She was dragged out by the paramedics, kicking, biting, cursing and clawing all the way.

She was the only person in her world who didn't know she was crazy.

When I think about it, sometimes it's not denial so much as the loss of some biochemical ability to monitor one's own mental state. In many sorts of mental illnesses the feedback loop that tells a mentally healthy person, "Hey, this is CRAZY!" simply vanishes. I know that's how it works with me. Furthermore, calling it "denial" also tends to aggravate the very destructive cycles of guilt and shame some people suffer.

I picture myself as a young man, it's two o'clock in the morning and I'm cheerfully running down the street with bare bloody feet. The police know me as a harmless nut so they stop to chat, we joke around, and they take me home. And not for a single instant is there anything in my head saying "STOP! THIS IS CRAZY!"

I was asked to leave university twice, both times it was by "gentlemans agreement." I was simply asked to "take some time off" because they didn't want to expell me. I remember conversations with the deans very clearly -- they were very careful to avoid the stigma of mental illness, but it was made very clear to me and without saying so explicitly that I would be expelled if I did not agree to the break.

I think our society is more up front and open about mental illness today (maybe because there are better meds) but we still have a long way to go.

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Response to hunter (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 01:49 PM

3. you raise a very good point in your fourth paragraph

i have to think on that for a bit

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Response to fizzgig (Reply #3)

Mon Feb 27, 2012, 10:42 PM

14. I agree...

about the fourth paragraph.

Sometimes I'm in a depression bad enough for me to tell I'm there.

Sometimes I'm not, but when my therapist tells me I'm depressed I think she's wrong because I don't feel bad, but the problem there is I've been chronically depressed for so long that it feels "normal" and it takes something way worse for me to be able to recognize it.

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Response to hunter (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 02:37 PM

4. For some people it is denial though.

Was for me at first, and once and awhile it comes back in the thought of, "I wonder what I'm like off my pills." and, "It can't last forever."

Plus I remember a new patient in the hospital saying, "No offense, but I'm just not like you people." Great way to introduce yourself, gotta say.

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Response to hunter (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 09:16 PM

8. Yes, calling it "denial" is punitive

because some folks don't have awareness persistent enough to affirm or to deny their condition.

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Response to Neoma (Original post)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 06:08 PM

5. I don't hide that information about myself

but I don't volunteer it either unless it is very important that I do.

The response that I get the most when I tell the average, normal person that I have bipolar disorder is fear. I think that's what the social stigma of mental illness has its roots in. People hear bad stuff about people who have mental illnesses on the tv and from misinformed people. They come to the conclusion that all people who have mental illnesses do bad things. We know the stats on the issue but most people don't look that stuff up. So they are ignorant about mental illnesses and that feeds the fear.

I don't care much about what people think about me outside of my friends and relatives, but it is important that I keep my job and I'm afraid I might lose it if my disorder were to become common knowledge at work. That's just the way things are there. If I decided to try to be a hero about this, I'd quickly become a martyr. And it's not just me I have to think about. I have people who are depending on me.

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Response to Tobin S. (Reply #5)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 07:48 PM

6. Hey, I'd like to see those stats, haven't seen them.

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Response to Neoma (Reply #6)

Fri Feb 24, 2012, 09:02 PM

7. Okay, here we go.

HereSince1628 put together a really good post on crime and the mentally ill, but he has vacated the group and taken all of his posts with him. I'll see about trying to re-create it here. The conclusion that he came to was that mentally ill people are far more likely to be victims of crimes rather than perpetrators.

Here's a fact sheet about mental illness and homicide in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK:

"It is a myth that offenders with a mental illness are more likely to kill a stranger than offenders without a mental illness."
http://www.forlagetamalie.dk/pdf/factsheet2.pdf


Lots of good info on this site about mental illness, stigmatization, and crime, including:

"According to a study by Northwestern University, nearly 3 million people in the US, who are severely mentally ill become victims; one-fourth are victims of violent crimes, 11 times higher than the general population. People with mental illness are 8 times more likely to be robbed, 15 times more likely to be assaulted and 23 times more likely to be raped. Theft of property from persons, rare in the general population (0.2 %) happens to 21% of the mentally ill. A minor theft increases their anxiety and worsens psychiatric symptoms."

and

"Research shows people in treatment for a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than the the general population. In Sensationalizing Murder and Mental Health John M. Grohol, Psy.D. states, " ... there is virtually no correlation between increased violence risk and mental illness (except in the case of substance abusers)." (Psych Central)"
http://karisable.com/crmh.htm#stigma


Interestingly, in my search I ran across a site proclaiming "Nearly 1 in 5 who commit violent crimes are mentally ill." I'm sure you can see the slant. It turns out that about 26% of the population suffers from some form of mental illness. So, proportionately, less mentally ill people commit violent crimes than sane people.


Another study on the victimization of mentally ill people. The contrast is stark.

RESULTS:

More than one quarter of persons with SMI had been victims of a violent crime in the past year, a rate more than 11 times higher than the general population rates even after controlling for demographic differences between the 2 samples (P<.001). The annual incidence of violent crime in the SMI sample (168.2 incidents per 1000 persons) is more than 4 times higher than the general population rates (39.9 incidents per 1000 persons) (P<.001). Depending on the type of violent crime (rape/sexual assault, robbery, assault, and their subcategories), prevalence was 6 to 23 times greater among persons with SMI than among the general population.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16061769

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Response to Tobin S. (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 26, 2012, 07:54 PM

10. I can get what you mean on the stigma part, Tobin.

Several years ago I was physically assaulted by a bipolar co-worker and so I get an intense, reflexive fear when a guy (not a woman, thought) says he is bipolar and I feel really guilty about it.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #10)

Sun Feb 26, 2012, 08:37 PM

11. I understand, Odin

No need to feel guilty, though. It's just a bias that has been reinforced or developed by a bad experience. I don't blame you. But, statistically speaking, you are about 80% more likely to be assaulted by a person who is totally sane.

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Response to Neoma (Original post)

Sun Feb 26, 2012, 07:49 PM

9. I almost never tell people I get SSI because of my Asperger's.

I "look normal" so people easily assume I'm a "lazy welfare cheat".

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #9)

Mon Feb 27, 2012, 02:58 PM

12. Ha, looking normal never has had anything to do with it.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #9)

Mon Feb 27, 2012, 10:37 PM

13. Same here...

for a whole host of anxiety disorders, agoraphobia, depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and who knows what else my therapist hasn't told me about.

sometimes I suspect a tiny touch of Asperger's but she says no, so I have to believe her.

Anyway, people look at me and can't tell from the outside the hell that's going on in the inside.

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Response to Neoma (Original post)

Thu Mar 1, 2012, 07:41 PM

15. I can understand why someone would be in the closet

but I refuse to be. I have don't have to worry about a job because I'm to ill to work. Showering is an effort. A job would be impossible. So I can scratch that concern off that list.
As far as people avoiding me because they know, fuck um. I mean really, fuck um. If that's how they think, I don't want them in my life, anyway.

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