Nothing of me

The actors of the film-serial "Our Gang", America, Hollywood, Photograph, Around 1930She stands in the doorway

The outline of her slim shoulders

The hallway light seems peachy

She is home and without her

Home will be a strange wasteland

Where survivors cling to wreckage

Watching for her shape every night

The smell of her still on tortoiseshell hairbrush

Why didn’t she need it when she left?

How did she choose what to take and what to leave?

The only choice I was certain of

..

I was not under consideration

That need, to not need

Suffocating on duty and then

Deciding to toss it into wastebin

Along with other chains

I have carried as my own brand of perfume

She who gave me life, wanted life without me

Always did, from the first day they placed me in her arms

And she thought … oh no

It isn’t her fault

Love never arrived

But I am left alive

Yerning to matter, knowing I never will

It is a bigger part of me than I care to usually admit

A voice in the dark always crying for Mommy

I thought I’d grow up and get over it

But wherever you go, there you are

In my case, a kid whose mom didn’t want

I’m still looking at doorways

Watching for her tread

In other’s faces, a memory yet

Even as I grow older than she was

When she squeezed her heart

And despite the shared DNA

Found it held

Nothing of me

Mental Health Month “Inferiority”

The next time you come across someone who has a mental illness, consider the following…

We poke fun at people calling them mentally ill (Trump) without really considering the effect such labeling may have on someone who IS mentally ill. In poking fun we are looking to someone we do not respect and saying ‘they’re mentally ill’ by implication, someone we do not respect is mentally ill – this is all bad.

Just like saying ‘he’s so gay’ or ‘that’s so gay’ you may mean nothing by it, (good grief who hasn’t said it at least once?) but it is implying a negative connotion.

White people cannot and rightfully so, use the N word, but black people can because they own the rights to that word over anyone else. Likewise if you are gay, you could say to another gay person ‘you are so gay’ and it wouldn’t be offensive because it’s about who is saying it to who. So the same applies to derogatory statements about mental health. If two people are sitting in a psych ward and say “Trump is mentally ill” that doesn’t have the same emotional fall out as if someone who is not mentally ill makes the claim.

That may be hard to undesrtand but it’s about sensisitivity and it’s just like any category of people. A Native American can make jokes about Native Americans but an Anglo person cannot. Is that Political Correctness run amock? Not really, when you consider the history behind this.

Much as I have heard some awful sexist jokes and the only person who could tell them should be a woman, and not even then. Bottom line; Don’t go there, it’s not worth it.

I would argue, black people are better off NOT using the N word, and the same applies to any group who may use derogatory jokes/statements about their group in jest, it’s probably not very funny. If that’s too PC then so be it, I don’t see it as a detriment to world humor if we reduce how many off-color jokes we tell.

Ultimately what we relate things to says a lot about what we think of them. If we compare mentally ill people to someone they know we despise, then it’s a criticism whether wrapped up in a joke or not. Next time you are tempted to joke about mental illness consider whether it’s really worth the punch line and the laughs, and whether it’s really funny or just a means of exploiting an already stigmatized group of people. If that seems too serious, so be it, mental illness IS serious just like racism is, sexism is, prejudice is.

What does the mentally ill person feel when they hear jokes and put downs related to mental illness? Inferior.

One may say, a person who suffers from a mental illness is already subject to feeling of inferiority and this is probably the case, therefore they are vulnerable to begin with, and every subsequent insult and attack adds to that feeling.

Again, I have heard people lament the ‘weakness’ and over-sensitivity, of mentally ill people. The typical taunt being; “Why do you have to be SO over-sensitive?”

I would argue, what does it take to be a little sensitive around someone you know is going through a hard time? What does it actually TAKE?

There are many people who identify or are HSP (Highly Sensitive People) and this is not always related to mental illness but the two have a relationship because of the difficulty  of being an HSP in a world of mostly harder-nosed types, proud of their ability to not be sensitive, who see any sensitivity as a weakness and are not afraid of saying so.

I’m not going to labor the point about the value of having sensitivity or the obvious detriment to compassion if we do not have any, because I know there are two sides to this, and with such extremes it is unlikely they will agree. I would only ask that less judgement and condemnation exist, permitting those who are sensitive to go about their lives unmolested.

If you are a HSP and have a mental illness, your struggle is often magnified by the accute awareness of your situation and others reactions and responses to you. If someone makes a joke at your expense that wounds you on a deeper level than those who are able to shrug it off. For some, sensitivity is perceived as a weakness of character and their attitude is one of a bully who takes pleasure in seeing the sensitive person react. If you know someone like that, maybe now is the time to call them on that.

The TV show Thirteen Reasons Why may not be a good example of mental illness, and is lacking in many ways, but one truism is the development of hurt in the main character by the insensitivity around her. This can be a determining factor that leads to the taking of your own life, as in her case. I would argue that she also hurt others, and this was not explored in the show sufficiently, nor was mental illness really examined which it should have been. But irrespective, it highlights the progression of hurt to someone with presumably a pre-existing mental condition, that acts as a trigger to take her own life.

We can be part of a reason why someone is crushed. We may not realize we have that power, and maybe knowing we do, will make us a worse tormenter, but if we want to avoid hurting others, which I hope most of you do, then considering what our words do to those who are more sensitive, doesn’t take very long, doesn’t cost anything and can literally make such a difference. It can stop someone who already is feeling inferior from feeling so inferior that they see no purpose in going on.

Everyone is equal. Nobody is inferior to someone else until they act badly and show their true colors.

 

Mental Health Month “The Workplace”

Ask many people with mental illness, how’s the workplace? Many will describe the frustrations of trying to work alongside people who either do not know or do not understand the struggles they are going through, the high rates of unemployment, underemployment and patchy employment relating to mental health.

We hear how many working days are lost to mental health, we know this, but as a society we do nothing to improve the resources for those experiencing mental health challenges. Again, for those who have not experienced any mental health issues, they may wonder, what could be so bad as to take people out of the work place?

Where to start? Panic attacks can make going to work feel like a torture. Anxiety can cause reduced career opportunities because of fear, phobias including agrophobia may make it hard to actually venture beyond the house to a place of work, depression may keep a sufferer in bed on days when they are most needed at the office, bipolar can cause a worker to shift from highly productive to shut down over night. Without a full understanding of the complexities of mental disease, your boss is likely as not, ill equipped to handle these things and that is why so many people with mental illness struggle in the work place.

But what are we doing about it?

In recent years, bullying in the workplace has been a topic of discussion and highlights that we have not progressed as far from the playground as we may think. Typically people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be the object of bullying both in the school yard and work place. We hear about work place violence and assume some ‘crazy person’ came and gunned down some innocents, and whilst there is no justification for work place violence, is there any excuse for work place bullying?

It is worth considering this if you work with someone who is being bullied. Stand up for them, let someone know it’s happening, don’t let those tensions get out of hand, and then wonder what you could have done about it after it’s too late and that person commits suicide or brings a gun to work. Equally, if someone is mentally ill and they’re making it hard in the work place let your boss know, so that they (whose job it is) can do their best to resolve the issue.

Let’s look at an example;

One

Jemima is a closeted lesbian who suffers from anxiety. Her work colleague grows suspicious of her ‘life style’ and watches her type in her password, when Jemima is out at lunch, her work colleague ‘hacks’ her email account bringing up private emails of Jemima’s to her girlfriend. The work colleague prints them out and everyone in the office giggles over their content, unbeknown to Jemima. One person in the office feels this is wrong but doesn’t know what to do. What should they do?

This is a true story. The outcome was, nobody did anything, and Jemima ended up leaving her job, feeling that she had no choice after she found out what had happened and experienced severe anxiety and feelings of shame and bullying. Some would blame her for being in the closet, whilst others would understand, sometimes it has to be that way. But what could have changed to prevent this? If one person had stood up and told Jemima’s boss, then thanks to legal changes protecting people’s private-lives, her boss, whether approving of Jemima’s ‘life style’ or not, would be legally bound to act. If they did not act then this could be protested. Additionally, Jemima’s colleague who objected to this hacking, could have told Jemima and urged her to go to HR and report this as a violation. By doing nothing, nothing gets better.

Sometimes when you stand up. You make a difference. It really can take one person to do it, think of Rosa Parks.

Case Two

Jose is Bipolar but feels if he tells anyone at work he will be fired because that’s happened in two previous jobs so he says nothing. When he gets insurance through his job he does not go to see a psychiatrist because he fears his disease being part of his permanent record and worries this will stigmatize him in the future. Consequently he pays for private care and spends a lot of money on medication.

One week he does not have any medication left and doesn’t have the money to replace them. He begins to get the side-effects of not being on his medication including being unable to sleep at night, paranoid thoughts, inability to concentrate and feelings of mania. He is not able to tell anyone what is going on, tries to do his work at home but because of not being well doesn’t do a complete job.

When he returns to work after getting paid and getting more medication his boss tells him he has to let him go because of poor performance. Jose loses his job and now does not have the money for his medication or any health insurance.

What could have been different here?

The American laws concerning healthcare protect us somewhat from workplace discrimination. This is not inclusive and it’s fallible because people can and do make up other reasons for firing their employees. If in doubt speak to the workplace commission in your state about what your rights are, knowing your rights is half the battle. Likewise, Jose’s boss would be breaking the law if he chose to disclose Jose’s health status to anyone else at his work place, so in this sense, choosing to speak to his boss about what was going on, protects Jose more than staying quiet.

The reality is however, that until stigma around mental health is gone, there are always ways to subvert someone based upon prejudice. If your boss is predisposed to thinking ‘everyone with bipolar is a nut-job’ they may circumvent the law and find a way to get rid of you despite your best efforts. Having anyone else on your side improves your chances, as well as letting the proper legal channels know. Ultimately however, not enough is done to self-guard those with mental illness in the work place and this is one failing that needs serious remedy. After all, we need an income to afford health care one way or another, if we cannot get a job, how are we expected to get treated?

The reality of mental illness is many people are in the closet about it, for a plethora of reasons, and until we reduce the stigma and judgement as a society, they have no incentive to come out. Mental illness does not mean you cannot be an asset to any job, but a level playing field means a fair one, where there is no condemnation or presupposition based upon a mental illness diagnosis.

For a GREAT example of mental illness at work – watch the TV series HOMELAND with Claire Danes. It’s one of the most realistic (as far as anything on TV goes) portrayals of the struggle against the system by a young woman with Bipolar 1.

 

Female friendship

Before I answer the question of what I value most in friendship let me make a few points about the nature of female based friendships that I have noticed.

Madonna wasn’t wrong to say women hate other women. She wasn’t wrong to say the greatest pain in her life has been betrayal by her own gender, or that Hillary Clinton’s defeat (I wouldn’t have wished her to win anymore than the man who did) was in part owing to women hating other women. She also said that as a woman if you make a mistake you pay a higher price, and other women are the first to turn on you.

Madonna said the way she survived was to believe in herself, without this she would have not been able to. My entire life I have struggled with self-belief and confidence, mostly for the obvious reasons (highly critical family, no emotional support, lots of negatives blah blah) and much as I’m of an age where childhood things should NOT still influence me today, they do.

I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with some wonderful friendships throughout my life. Equally male and female though most of my closest have been with women. Yes I’m a feminist but no man hater, and yes I find it hard being a feminist when so much of the bad things that happen to women are sanctioned or caused by other women. Have I envied men and their simpler lives? Hell yeah. They seem to be more trustworthy as friends, more stable emotionally and more loyal (in friendships) and they play fewer games. That’s my take on things thus far.

Whether you hate or love Madonna she has a point. We screw ourselves.

Many women I talk to say the same thing, “I don’t have many female friends” and when explaining why they point to games, bad experiences and competition as leading causes.

As a woman who believes in championing other women for no other reason than because I believe it helps them, I am dismayed that there is truth to this trait of not being able to lean upon other women as much as we should be able to.

The friend who told me to go to hell the other week, she wasn’t a real friend, more of an acquaintance, but one whom foolishly I had told a few of my vulnerabilities to. Thinking that she would never use them against me as I would never dream of doing this to someone else. She did use them against me, stating “the reason you have lost so many friends is your fault it’s something in YOU” This was said deliberately to undermine my faith in my ability to have good friendships. Briefly it worked. Then I realized that all of what she said came from her own sadness and insecurity and jealousy. Despite knowing this I felt sad that anyone would attempt to treat another person this way.

Call me naive but I believe in treating people well. It is true I have had a few lost and broken friendships along the way like most of us. The woman in question implied my quota was beyond ‘normal’ and it is this stigmatizing and finger-pointing that erodes female’s faith in themselves (this can apply to all genders actually and does). I know she didn’t even mean what she said as days before she was showering me with over-the-top praise, so this was more a mercurial lashing-out as much about her as about anything else.

Despite this the harm was done and whilst I can rationalize it, feel sorry for her and move on perhaps happier to know someone capable of that is no longer in my life, it lingers like a hang-nail in my subconscious. Just as she hoped it would.

That level of deliberate infliction of hurt, is something I have noticed women do especially well, hence the term ‘a woman scorned’ is the most fierce. In the instance of this situation, the girl may have had emotional reasons for her over-reaction, and as I look at all my ‘lost’ friendships they have that in common.

A friend told me shortly after it happened, that I needed to trust my gut more. I couldn’t agree more strongly on this. I had a gut instinct this person was messed up emotionally and being someone who believes in giving second-chances and caring about those who are not always neatly well and normal, I ignored that and the possibility she’d eventually turn it on me. Unfortunately as with the other two women who did similar things, mental problems can turn on those who are caring. It is the price an empathic person pays for not putting up guards or protecting themselves.

That said, I would not wish to stop caring about those people because at times I need help and am not always in perfect shape and I would hate to think someone would side-step me on that basis. So how to care for someone without being burned? Listening to your gut is crucial. I felt in my gut she was playing games and I dismissed that. In hindsight I should have walked away. Cold? Maybe? Self-preserving? You betcha.

I have learned from this. I feel glad to have learned from this. I have turned it into a positive and I feel a relief for the toxic removal of someone who wishes to hurt others. But how as women can we stop being this way? I would say that we need to stop competing with each other. Stop treating every other woman as a possible rival, stop thinking someone who is prettier, richer, more intelligent, etc, is someone we should resent and hate.

In my last job two women joined who were really beautiful. Immediately they were ignored and hated by the other women in the job. I see people as people, I liked them because they were nice people. Shortly afterward I heard rumors circulated that ‘Candy probably fancies them’ which was a pathetic way the haters explained why I was not intimidated or hateful to the new girls. I didn’t fancy them, any more than you fancy every single person you come into contact with, life doesn’t work that way, and it saddened me that this was the extent of their comprehension.

I don’t hate another woman for ANY reason. I dislike a woman if she is cruel or malicious. Other than that, I admire, appreciate and respect women. I truly believe if we all tried harder not to resent other women as females, we’d have a MUCH better world and some really terrific friendships. That does not obviate the value of men by any means, but we’re stronger TOGETHER and hate? Hate is always going to poison the hater the most. We ought to stop treating men as being ‘better’ than we are, or a valuable commodity and treat everyone equally. That means, if a woman you meet wants to be friends and you are suspicious, ask yourself why, rather than wondering why she would wish to be your friend.

So what do I value most in a friendship?

Honesty.

Integrity.

Loyalty.

Soap-box, over and out 😉