I’m confused about the stigma.

I’m confused about the stigma of mental illness. I agree that people shouldn’t be stigmatized for being mentally ill, but all too often, there’s overlap with other issues.

First of all, people who are grossly immature are written off as being mentally ill. This is problematic because:

  • people shouldn’t dismissively be called mentally ill, and
  • immaturity has nothing to do with mental illness.

Someone will act all immature and childish, and someone else will say, “I’d stay away from him/her. Something must be wrong with him/her,” in hushed tones. Yeah, there’s something wrong. Immaturity!

Mental illness isn’t connected to immaturity in any way that I know, but I’m sure there’s some overlap. It’s like that episode of The Golden Girls when Blanche realizes that a man in a wheelchair can still be a jerk. (She was under the false assumption that his handicap made him nicer somehow.)

So I guess it’s possible for someone to be both mentally ill and immature. But what I’m saying is that the two factors need to be weeded apart from each other.

Mental illness:

  • Difficulty functioning
  • Inner distress of an emotional and/or perceptual nature
  • Paranoia, depression, mood swings, anxiety, et al.

(I’m just brainstorming here.)

Immaturity:

  • Stubborn refusal to take ownership for misbehavior
  • A sick, twisted enjoyment in upsetting people on a regular/consistent basis
  • A tendency toward gross insensitivity and unawareness of others’ feelings

And here’s the overlap! It’s coming up…

Mental illness AND immaturity:

  • Bad behavior

Here’s the thing. Everyone will misbehave. If they value the relationship, they’ll apologize. If they regret their behavior, they’ll apologize. If they want to improve, they’ll try to prevent a recurrence of whatever they did wrong. If, however, they’re stuck in perpetual victim mode, they probably won’t apologize or be sorry.

We’ve got to hold people as accountable as they can be held. If someone’s misbehaving because they’re psychotic, manic, hormonal, anxious, etc., then we should make allowances. Especially if we know they’ll regret it once sanity has been restored. If someone’s misbehaving due to immaturity, that’s not mental illness. It’s immaturity!

I’m not sure what has sent me on this rant, but the concept of mental illness versus maturity has been on my mind for a few years. Advice columnists would have bad behavior described to them and write, “It sounds like your neighbor [or whoever] is mentally ill.” UGGGGH. It seems more likely that their regular late-night partying is due to immaturity.

I can’t think of any specific examples right now of what I’m trying to convey, but here’s another point: mentally ill people often want to grow and become better people. Often, we got a bad start at life. Maybe we were abused, and/or maybe we hit puberty and became bipolar overnight. Maybe we were shunned by our classmates. It’s hard to grow up mentally ill. But the best mentally ill people strive to overcome adversity, and they take pride in it. The worst mentally ill people wallow in their diagnosis and wear it like a badge. “You can’t touch me! I’m [insert mental illness here]. Nothing in life could be worse! I should be pitied, and I flat-out refuse to improve myself.”

I don’t like people like that, and I’ve encountered a handful. There are two types of people on this earth:

  1. People who strive toward personal betterment, and
  2. People who wallow in self-pity.

I get self-pity. My motto is, “What the hell? Let yourself dwell.” What I don’t get is perpetual self-pity that lasts day in and day out, and that includes the strong belief that, “Whatever’s wrong with me, other people can deal with it.”

Like, I knew a guy once who was badly passive-aggressive. He flat-out refused to work on his passive-aggressive tendencies. He forced me to accept his passive-aggression or to leave the relationship.

I knew another guy who was perpetually self-absorbed. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, and believe me, I tried. Spittle would form at the corners of his mouth as he’d talk. And talk. And talk. Same with him–I was forced to tolerate it or leave the friendship. I made the wrong choice, actually. I chose to tolerate it. And it bit me, hard.

Maybe I’ve just known a lot of immature people.

But I’m sure we all have. That one quality that makes some of us better is that we try to overcome things. We might not succeed, we might not act perfectly all the freakin’ time, but heaven above, we’re committed to self-improvement at any cost.

I seek that quality out in people. I always have.

For someone to get the Meg Seal of Approval, the person must value insight and personal growth. No one else need apply. I’m disgusted and sick and fed up with people who want constant sympathy over a diagnosis and/or act all victimized over the time they scraped their knee in Kindergarten. That’s not trauma!

Some people say that anything you couldn’t cope with counts as trauma. No, no, no, no, no. If you stub your toe or lose a dollar bill or buy a bad apple, you have not freakin’ been traumatized, so get over it. Yeah, you can whine and complain. Day-to-day life happens. But then let it go and move on. Don’t still be on it twenty years later, unless you’re telling the story as a joke. It wasn’t traumatic.

To anyone who has bonafide flashbacks, I don’t mean anything I just said. To anyone who clings to bad memories because it fills them with comforting self-pity like a warm blanket, I’m talking to you. Move on! Reach for a better reality!

Mentally ill people shouldn’t be stigmatized. We should be judged not on what we can’t control, but on our actions and our values.

That said, if I see a mentally ill person who’s begging everyone around her to feed her self-pity party, I darned will stigmatize her. But not because she’s mentally ill. (I understand that life gets depressing sometimes. I want to be clear here that I’m talking about people who cling to their victimhood as a badge of honor.)

I hope this hasn’t offended anyone!

14 thoughts on “I’m confused about the stigma.

  1. I agree that mental illness and immaturity are different things that shouldn’t be confused for one another.

    Personally, I don’t think the world is as black and white as everyone falling into either 1) People who strive toward personal betterment, and 2) People who wallow in self-pity. I also don’t think any of us are in a position to pass judgement on whether or not someone else’s experience was traumatic or not, aside from perhaps the person’s therapist, who’s been able to explore the full story. It’s easy to judge, but it’s a lot harder to get it right.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, but the fact that we’re not in a position to pass judgment is what they use against us! “Oh, you have to feel sorry for me.” And it’s like, “why?” And they say, “Oh, I’ve had such a sad, sad life.” And you say, “How so?” And they say, “Oh, I’ve just had horrible problems. I should be pitied.” UGH. But I see what you mean. For my own sanity, though, I just can’t cope with such people. I have a finely tuned BS meter, and when it goes off like a teakettle, I’m through.

      I see what you mean, though! What confuses me is when the person lays claim to having been traumatized by something that doesn’t even sound traumatic. Or by something that was inconveniencing, but not horrific. It angers me. I don’t know. I should probably try to relax! I’ve got weird stuff on my mind!! 😀

      I definitely do see it as black-and-white “people who try to be good” versus “people who are too self-absorbed or self-pitying to lay claim to any amount of virtue.” Often when I try to see gray, I get kicked really hard because the person’s in the latter group and I didn’t want to see it. Great comments!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Regardless of whether the person has a trauma history of not, if they’re trying to manipulate you into feeling a certain way or treating them a certain way, saying sayonara is probably the best way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just had a thought, that may or may not be correct. What if sometimes people are gray, but you’ve categorized them as trying to be good, and then you realize they’re not trying to be good, so they get knocked down to self-pitying. That would be a major shift for you to deal with, when the other person has stayed where they were along.

        That was something I had a hard time understanding with the D. situation. They had stayed in the exact same low self-esteem, strong self-critic place that they’d been all along, but for you there seemed to have been a drastic shift from good to no virtue. What had puzzxled me at the time was that there was no corresponding shift in who they were or how they acted; there’d been no change the whole time I’d known them.

        Maybe what I’m trying to suggest isn’t so much to see fewer people as self-pitying, but rather to put fewer people firmly in the trying to be good category in order to avoid disappointment. I think a lot of people are too busy just trying to get through each day to be in the trying to be good camp all of the time, even if they are good people.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Still thinking about this, but what might end up being more effective than treating it as a try-to-be-good vs self-pitying issue could be to treat it as a boundaries issue.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You’re so insightful! Thanks! But I’m not sure what you mean by “boundaries issue”. I think the concept of that confuses me, too!

        But yeah, with the D case, I thought he wanted to be lifted up, but he didn’t. And indeed, he didn’t change. My awareness of the situation sure did! I still think he lacks virtue! Although I’d be openminded if he wanted to come along and show some virtue! Anyone can change! You’re so right that when I’m getting to know someone I have no ability to see them plainly. Instead, I go into “categorization mode” and usually misfire in my assessment. That is so insightful. Wow! You ought to be a therapist or something. “There’d been no change the whole time I’d known him.” To me, that says it. He doesn’t want to change. He wants to wallow in the sadness of his own life. (There’s no chance he’s reading this, is there? I’m not still at a point of wanting to making him feel hurt over who he is.)

        Thank you for your thoughts! You’re a genius. Please feel free to expand upon the boundaries concept. Or it would even make an interesting blog post. I don’t think I have a good knack for boundaries at all.

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  2. It’s so awful when people classify any bad behaviour as mental illness, almost automatically, as if socially unacceptable behaviour was a synonym of mental illness.
    I can understand this way you see people as falling into those two categories, especially that I often have had tendency to classify people in similar ways too, but I can’t say you are right, I am sure there are lots of people who are in between.
    And I absolutely can’t agree with you on that it’s up to other people to judge whether someone has been traumatised or not, whether they’ve had an “easy” or “difficult” life. I hate the word trauma being overused because it ends up either sounding pathetic or awfully invalidating to those who have experienced real bad trauma, and that’s why I really avoid and don’t like using the word trauma or traumatic for example when talking about some of my own experiences even though some people have told me they probably are, because I know people who have it far, far worse both from my subjective perspective and objectively. But I hate when people invalidate others’ trauma without ever having seen the whole picture. You don’t know what is going on in a person’s brain. You don’t know the details. A lot of trauma may seem very minor at a first glance when there’s some heavy abuse or toxicity involved for example and the abusers don’t want it to be seen for outsiders. Trauma is hard enough for individuals themselves to figure out, let alone when someone else chimes in and makes a decision for them whether their trauma was real or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s insightful, and I’ve been there with people discrediting my trauma. But I just don’t agree. I’m convinced there are trauma posers out there. [Shrugs.] I don’t mean it to disparage anyone with genuine trauma. That’s why I said what I did about flashbacks. But I have to decide on my own when I know someone how full of [bleep] the person is, because until I get a reading on that, I’m vulnerable to being hurt by the person’s pathological sense of entitlement. I try to be shrewd about it like Judge Judy. Of course, I’m sure I fail by a longshot.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There certainly are trauma posers out there, and I understand where you’re coming from with the need to decide for yourself whether someone is or is not, it makes sense in a way even though it doesn’t sit right with my brain. And I guess on some level we all make such judgments about people, just everyone handles them in a different way, though it’s just my assumption. Perhaps the way it works for you is a result of your own trauma, a protective mechanism that you’ve developed because of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Possibly!! I had a friend in high school named Bennett (the self-absorbed guy), and he was always having the same sort of meltdown that I’d have–with tears and sadness and feelings of alienation. We’d comfort each other, and that sort of thing. I assumed he must’ve been as messed up as I was, that he’d suffered horrific childhood atrocities. Nope. It turns out, he just sort of fed on being self-absorbed. His childhood was ideal. (He told me that.) He just felt sorry for himself because he felt different and special from everyone else in a way that he couldn’t reconcile, despite his hundreds of friends (not much of an exaggeration). I turned to him for help during a very difficult point in my life and he blew me off for a very silly, self-absorbed reason. (Even that took me years to uncover, and in the meantime, I blamed myself.) I sort of hate that guy now and see him as being completely beneath me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post my friend. It’s always a good thing to take and accept people where they’re at. Mostly what others stigmatize in people is something they don’t accept about themselves. It’s a refusal to send from another’s perspective, put themselves in their shoes and fear. I have seen tremendous fear play out in my own life as you know and it is ugly. Very. Making decisions based in it and reacting to it does no good and is so damaging. I believe that is one of the benefits of this time we are living through. To truly see others, feel them, listen to them and appreciate them. Th ber ex but for the grace of God go I. I have told you my thoughts on passing judgement upon others. What you put into life, you get out of it. I chose to work on me. God will be the judge in the end and sees all. So much love and blessings to you and your family Meg😊✌❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! YAY! Yeah, I struggle with judgment. I used to pathologically give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and one day I woke up and realized that so many people were phoning it in: pretending to be traumatized, pretending to be victimized, when in reality, they were clinging to the role of victim in order to justify their own pathetic lack of personal insight/growth. It was very hard for me to see that and acknowledge it, but ever since I did, I’m now sort of stuck in the position of seeing it often. Oh well. Life is weird!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sure is. I’ve learned it’s about balance. Finding that somewhere in the middle spot. Forgiveness is huge, monumental. Mostly of self and being able to see the truth in ourselves and in doing so it’s easier to forgive others. It all starts with ourselves. Once we can make peace internally with these issues it’s so much easier to forgive, observe where others are and not judge but feel compassion for where they are in their own journey. It’s really all an illusion anyways based upon our own experiences😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah!! That’s why I’ve been focusing on discernment. I’m trying to see people clearly as they are, rather than as however I want to see them or hope they are. That way, I can use clear information to determine if the person should be in my life. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mastered walking away from someone without judging them! That should be on the agenda, yeah?

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