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Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say

I feel, sometimes, that I am at war with the mentally-well world. This isn’t to say that many of them aren’t lovely or that I have a desire to harm anyone, but I do feel embroiled. And it’s mostly because the well population just doesn’t understand what it is to be unwell. They demonstrate this heartily by repeatedly saying the worst things possible to a person with a mental illness.

Worst Things to Say to a Person With a Mental Illness

Some people say the worst things possible to a person with mental illness and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.Here are some of my favorite worst things to say to a depressed person or really anyone with a mental illness.

  1. Snap out of it
  2. There are a lot of people worse off than you
  3. You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?
  4. You’d feel better if you got off all those pills
  5. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
  6. Go out and have some fun
  7. I know how you feel
  8. So you’re depressed, aren’t you always?
  9. This too shall pass
  10. We all have our crosses to bear

And as a bonus, my personal favorite: We create our own reality.

Ugh. (I’m not the only one thinking about this, check out the worst things to say to anxious people.)

Why These are Stupid Things to Say

Any of those statements shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about. You fundamentally do not understand the concept of a mental illness if you think any one of these are appropriate. I suggest trying it with other physical health problems and see how you feel:

Hey, diabetic, snap out of it.
Hey, epileptic, I know how you feel.
Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, isn’t that always the case?
Hey, person with multiple sclerosis, we create our own reality.

You get the idea. No one would think that is reasonable, and it’s no more reasonable just because you can’t see the illness because it’s in my brain.

These Are Hurtful Things to Say

And perhaps worse than showing ignorance, these things even inflict pain on the person you’re trying to “help”. You are saying that:

  1. They could choose not to be sick if they really wanted
  2. Their illness is not serious
  3. They have no “reason” to be ill
  4. Their treatment is wrong
  5. They’ll be better off from it
  6. They would be fine if they would just “go out”
  7. Their illness is minimal
  8. Their pain doesn’t matter
  9. They should just wait for the pain to end
  10. Their illness is just like anyone else’s problem
  11. They choose to be sick

Again, I dare you to tell a person with any other illness any of those things.

And lest we forget, the mentally ill person in front of you is already probably feeling very bad about themselves, and you have chosen to go and make it worse.

Let’s Not Forget, People Die From Mental Illness

Here are the worst things to say to a person with mental illness. Isn't it time you stop minimizing mental illness?The idea that mental illness is serious isn’t something that I made up, it is a fact. Estimates are 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder commit suicide and 1 in 2 people (yes, that’s half) attempt it. And, of course, there are hospitalizations, work absences, destroyed families, having to go on disability, and so on. This is serious stuff people. It is not a runny nose.

Why Do People with Mental Illness Have to Justify Themselves?

Why is it that just because I see a psychiatrist and you see a neurologist your disease is real and mine is not? Why is it you assume I can will my disease away while you can’t? Why is it that you can expect me to bring you chicken soup when you get the flu but when I get sick I can’t even expect that you’ll stick around?

I do understand that people don’t know they are being hurtful. People are trying to help. I get it. But here’s the thing, my illness is just as real as anyone else’s. Please stop forcing me to convince you.

Update: Check out the best things to say to someone with a mental illness.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

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238 Responses to Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say

  1. Renita says:

    While it may be insensitive to say some of these things when someone is really struggling with a mental illness or whatever else in life for that matter, you also have to admit that with some of these sayings there’s also a ring of truth to them, such as with

    There are a lot of people worst off than you… It’s true there are. You may not appreciate hearing that but that’s a fact. It doesn’t help to focus on your problems 24/7. There other people in the world who are are also struggling to survive in varying degrees

    We all have out crosses to bear. It’s true we do, of course not all the same type of crosses and the weight of those crosses is different for everyone.

    You have so many things to be thankful for… Think about it. Is there nothing in your life that you’re thankful for?

    This too shall pass. While not true for all people, some people do end up in remission. And while it may take a long time to find relief in the right cocktail of medications, many do. It’s important to not lose hope

    I know how you feel… As evidenced through shared experiences here some of us actually do know how you feel, at least in part. There are millions and millions of people all over the world who struggle with mental illness. Some of us are a little more private about it than others

    While some of the things that people say can be perceived as thoughtless or even mean spirited I also think that some people really do care and truly think that they are helping when they say some of these things. I also think that many people simply don’t know what to say to someone who is ill, so they speak from their own experience which may not be your own.

  2. Renita says:

    If you want people/care givers to stick around geesh, give them a break. It’s no wonder they feel like they are walking on eggshells around us… We are not the only people who suffer

  3. Renita says:

    I know that it’s hard sometimes when I’m really sick to remember that it’s not only me that suffers and try’s to get my needs met but also my friends, family and coworkers too. It’s human nature to be selfish. Relationships are hard to maintain when they are unevenly balanced. That’s a sure breeding ground for anger, frustration and resentment to set in. Nobody’s perfect but I do try to keep things in perspective.
    I try to give back where and when I can but sometimes I’m just so damn exhausted that either the fight or flight response kicks in

  4. Renita says:

    I also happen to agree with the line that “we also create our own reality” at least in part. That’s true for just about everyone. Shit happens to all of us but we also have a choice in how we deal with it. Like the Serenity Prayer says accept the things you can not change and change the things you can. You are never completely powerless even though it may seem that way. You have some choices in how you shape your life.

  5. Renita says:

    While it may seem like I’m trying to minimize mental illness really I’m not, well at least that’s not my intention. I’m just trying to put things into perspective. And to be quite honest I’ve heard a lot worse things mentioned before

    My mother always used to say to me… There will always be people worse off than you and there will always be people better off than you in the world. (This holds true even in the relm of mental illness itself). In my deepest depths of bipolar 1 manic depression and despair I realized this was true and it gave me hope. All you have to do is watch the TV news to know your life could be considerably worse.

    When I struggled with an eating disorder I understood on some level what it must be like for the people I’d see on TV literally starving to death in Africa and it made me have more compassion for the poor or homeless who were needy and hungry enough to have to use the services of a soup kitchen or food bank. Although my experience was vastly different from theirs I felt an odd kinship. It’s hard to explain

    When I was molested by a relative as a kid I had some understanding of what it was like to be a prostitute. Again our experiences are quite different but at the same time simular too

    And when people say to me now, I know how you feel, I understand its all about degrees and individual life experiences. Any person that has ever experienced sadness, grief, unipolar depression or bipolar depression has at least some idea of how I am feeling when I say I’m depressed. Or anyone who has ever drank pots and pots of caffinated coffee, suffered from hypomania as in bipolar 2 or mania as in bipolar 1 has at least a clue of what it’s kind like to be manic.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that I don’t usually let these type of comments bother me, I’m pretty thick skinned but of course that’s just me. I use it as an opportunity to educate others about how I’m truly feeling instead of staying wrapped up in my own little world. People aren’t mind readers

    Things are constantly changing in life whether we like it or not so in this regard there is some credence in the saying that ‘this too shall pass

    When I’m feeling particularly depressed, expecially about finances, sometimes I make myself a gratitude list. It can be so easy for me to get caught up in that poor me mentality… Nobody really understands what I’m going through

    As you can tell I’ve been feeling rather manic these past few days. Sorry about all my ramblings. I promise to make this my last post for a while…

  6. Matthew Hyde says:

    Im unsure if some of the replys truly understand mental health injurys. Depression from bad things happening is just feeling sad(mostly). When Im severely depressed, you could give me £100000 and I would still be unable to get out of bed.

  7. Renita says:

    I understand ‘mental health injuries’ just fine, but I don’t let the so called ‘worse things to say to a mentally ill person’ bother me too much because I realize most people in my life are generally well meaning. I also realize that they will never fully understand this illness because they don’t live with it like I do so I don’t hold their feet to the fire because of it

    I’ve always been a very independent person, I never wanted to have to rely on anybody for anything, but this illness has definately taken it’s toll. I’m fortunate that I’ve still managed to get by even after 3 involuntary hospitalizations. I’m considered high functioning which is both a blessing and a curse because more is expected from me. I’m very good at hiding the negative symtoms most of the time. Family members, friends and even co-workers have seen me at my worst and they have also seen me fight my way back to some semblance of health again. I’m fortunate that where I work there is an employee assistance program I also have an aunt who is a psych nurse and a very compassion best friend who has spent years looking after a mentally ill mother. I’ve learned the hard way not to burn them out with my neediness because they also have commitments of their own

    I don’t have kids or a husband to rely on and because of my unbridled manic spending sprees pre-diagnosis/medication I have been unable to afford my own place or even a car after working 33 years for the same agency

    Just the other day I had the apartment manager slip a note under my door saying he’d need access to my suite the following day. I panicked. I didn’t get it until early evening so I only had a limited amount of time to clean up the HUGE mess in my apartment. I didn’t want to get chewed out by the apartment manager and I was too ashamed of the mess to ask anyone over to help out so I had to find a way to suck it up and do it myself. I was also suffering from a knee injury. After I was finished balling my eyes out wondering how I was ever going to get it done I made myself a very large pot of coffee and went at it cleaning my apartment. I washed 2 or 3 dishes then rested for exactly 15 minutes then forced myself to get up again and vacuum a small patch of floor then rested again for exactly 15 minutes and continued on with this process until early morning when I had to go to work. It wasn’t cleaned to perfection but it passed the test. Then when I got home I immediately crashed on the couch because I didn’t have the energy to make up the bed with sheets. This is just a very small glimmer of what I deal with every day

  8. Amanda says:

    What I find really annoying is
    What about if you did some exorcise, got a little job, changed you diet, do meditation, wheat for a walk
    And any other number of things to try and help.
    I know they are just trying to help but I’m 45 I’ve been diagnosed for 25 years I’m intelligent well read and in relatively good control of my illness. What they are saying is actually really patronising.
    What I want to here is good god well done for surviving that and not only surviving it but making the best of what is undoubtably the shitty end of the stick.followed buy a big sincere hug and a your amazing.

  9. Gail Feliciant says:

    One of the ones that drives me nuts is when someone thinks that they can “fix” me, like I’m “broken” or something. I’m not broken. I am myself. Thanks for this blog!

  10. Jim Buchanan says:

    One of the most hurtful things I’ve been told, by a loved one btw, was, “You really weren’t suicidal, if you had been, you would have succeeded. You just wanted attention”

  11. Sandra Cobban says:

    My sister would say when I was in depressed state why don’t you take a bath?
    Or you live like a mole,open the curtains in here?
    Fucking Pollyanna – type remarks…useless only made things worse

    I’d love to clean up,but no energy_depression.
    I’m a big believer if you’ve not walked in someone’s shoes…no amount of studying…is quite
    the same,now,is it?

    Or let’s go get a cup of tea,lets NOT
    I feel UGLY when sick,sure don’t wanna go out in public w dark circles ratty hair,unclean
    ( not my normal ) uggghhhh.

    I say no,I’m too tired.
    I usually turn my phone off

    Unplug from society…
    Try & sleep…either a lot or not enough……depends…varies.
    As my body changes everyday that question changes as well everyday
    As you age you just gather bits of info,fr Drs,Internet,other Bipolars while in hospital stays,
    social workers,nurses….
    You learn what works ( all different each person) for you on a trigger.
    But,as an addict would say it’s almost like relapse..
    Doesn’t always succeed
    Then comes shitty part,disappointment frustration.
    One of the HARDEST THINGS I DID ( BUT PROUDEST) was shortly after my diagnosis
    By my OWN FREEWILL TO DESTROY MY 4 CREDIT CARDS.
    Sometimes,I miss my Visa,but it’s the disease I’ve no trust for.
    So,I pay cash only.
    Yes I got the fix me part too.
    My sister is still fruitlessly attempting to!!
    Controlling…..
    You are right.
    We aren’t like glass ornaments,broken!
    Interesting articles on the fixer & someone with bipolar sorry lost link but good read…..
    Sandra getting sleepy

  12. heather baker says:

    Mental illness is like physical illness. As a nurse I can tell you, you will not recover from surgery if you don’t get off your butt and move. You will not recover from infection if you don’t take your prescribed medications and do the therapy prescribed. A diabetic must eat differently or they will remain ill. You will not recover from pneumonia if you don’t deep breathe and cough. You will not get over virtually any illness without working at it. Mental illness is the same. Sit and think negative thoughts and don’t do anything and you will remain ill. It is a choice to get better or not whether your illness is physical or mental.

  13. “You put yourself through this muck”
    “Have you taken your meds?”
    “You act like you’re special”

    I’ve had people say things so wrong, I can’t even post them here. I’ve had mental illness since 1986 and I just turned 32 back in June 2015. It’s really upsetting when people treat me like I don’t matter, call me a “B” for being blunt and assume I’m “violent and dangerous” because I have schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder (a landlord refused to rent to me because of this). I’ve never been violent or dangerous, in fact my mother is both because she has mental illness and was never officially diagnosed. I got tired of being mistreated by her so I cut her off. If I told all of you my story I may trigger someone’s symptoms and I cannot allow that to happen. So visit my blog and I will explain things in more detail. Some of those hurtful comments came from people who were also mentally ill :-(

  14. Crystal says:

    I agree with all of this. And while I get what others are saying about giving people around us a break, the point of this list was to show what can be harmful to say to someone with depression. It’s almost like walking up to a person with an invisible illness and saying “but you don’t look sick”, when inside they are dealing with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Cancer and even depression or anxiety.
    Right now, my biggest issue I am dealing with is trying to explain to family that I can hear and see what I am saying and doing, but it feels almost like someone has taken over my body at certain times. I can’t control it. I hear how stupid I sound or how much I have lost myself, but I can’t control it. And what happens when I lose it? I have my whole family ganging up on me. I am 30 years old and I feel like I live at a high school and not at home with my parents. The moment anything happens with me, my mom has to call my grandma and gossip and tell her what happened. So if I call my grandma, just to have someone to talk to… She wont pick up. She will completely ignore me.
    One thing that really pisses me off is that my grandparents tell me all the time I need to change my diet . They don’t see that I eat pretty healthy for the most part. Then they will ask me if my daughter and I want to go with them to McDonalds. It makes me mad that they can sit there and criticize my eating habits and then turn around and take me to McDonalds. It also makes me upset that everyone else gets to go to a nice sit down restaurant when my grandparents take them out, but because I have a child, my choice is McDonalds.
    Another thing that is really hurting me right now is that not only does my mom call my grandma to talk about me, but my mom , dad and brother all sit around and talk about me in front of my daughter.
    And as someone else said , it hurts when people will tell you that if you were really suicidal, you would have already killed yourself and that you are just looking for attention. The reason I say that, is because although it might be true, at the same time, when I tell someone that I am suicidal, I am not looking for the kind of attention they think I am looking for. I am looking for help. Someone to understand how bad things are.

  15. ED says:

    The worst one:
    “You’re seeking attention” (And they ignore you for the rest of your disease until you suicide)

    The worst ones:
    “The real suicidal never say anything, he does it”
    “Why don’t you try psychotherapy”?
    “It’s all in your mind”
    “You’re lazy”

  16. ED says:

    Oh, and by the way, the user “Renita” didn’t get a word written in the article. There is always someone worse than us but that doesn’t mean our disease is not devastating! No schizophrenia suddenly remits, and it certainly is not useful to focus at our problems 24/7… when you are completely free from a disease!!!! When you have a mental disease you spend every second feeling bad someway, maybe from it or maybe from the adverse effects from the medicine, so stop saying that kind of things because that is the same attitude a lot of parents take which leads the ill to suicide!

  17. Renita says:

    Ed

    I have bipolar 1 so I do “get it”. I just try not to focus on it and hold other people’s feet to the fire because they don’t understand it like I do… We are all different is one way or another…

    Renita

  18. Renita says:

    I’ve also known people who are dying of cancer that’ve gone through some really awful treatments but they still try their best to think positive and not lose hope. Those people had little kids who depended on them and they wanted to set an example for their kids. All the while suffering from depression like us!

    Focusing on the bad stuff only intensifies the depression is all I’m trying to say

    And as for the hurtful things that people sometimes say, well they are simply ignorant of what we actually go through, PERIOD! I try my best to brush it off and not let it sink in. But yes it hurts especially from loved ones and even the medical profession who I expect better of…

    People can only get to you if you let them. Stop giving your power away.

  19. Renita says:

    Education is key…

  20. Hannah says:

    want to respond to one comment about how we should be easy on those who say these things as they are not intended that way. I absolutely disagree. Bad things said with good intention is ok for children who do not know any better but not for adults and I am sorry, once you have been told its the worse thing you can say, then do not say it. Mental health is a relatively new topic being discussed and a new area in terms of what we know about it. Why allow for such mistakes and why not correct these things now and immediately. To let these statements and questions to be excused due to their good intent seems ridiculous and would mean a bigger battle later on trying to get rid of them. Why should someone who is sick have to then put in the work to deal with these comments when they have a big enough battle on their hands. The one thing people seem to not be able to get their heads around is the very definition of depression and common in a lot of MH disorders. The constantly feeling of guilt and shame for feeling the way they do when indeed others are worse off. Guilt/ shame for not being able to control it or get rid of it, It’s the biggest fight of all Plus, if you are so mentally sound then surely you can process the fact that these comments do not help (either party) and think of something else to say or maybe even read a little and learn a bit about the latest research on mental health and either come up with something else to say or use one of the things ” Good to say to ..” suggested. These comments do not start conversations they stop them. They do not ask for information or make a person want to give up any information. These comments single-handedly halt any further understanding of what is happening to the person in question and prevent the person who wants to help from learning anything about how they can actually help. The first thing anyone needs to do in order to help, is to ask questions. Questions Questions Questions. Find out about someones particular case. Mental health is the mind, and brain. How different are we all in the world? Why is there or would there be just the one solution? cure? or fix? Plus we are not broken and if we have sought help and have a diagnosis then we are very aware of ourselves and have made a huge effort already to get better. Plus how is it that it is that everyone is a doctor and medical professional when it comes to MH? Seriously everyone is a MH pro. Now thats mental! I personally hate comments about treatment or pills. and have experienced people telling me my doctors are wrong and I am in the worst place and have repeatedly demanded I go seeI Dr. P, , Dr P being the very doctor I keep trying to tell them about! My point is Ask questions, like anything else if you get a rough response, do not take it personally, it might have been a shock, bad timing, or they are not ready just yet. Plus ask questions with the intent and purpose of listening to the answer and be willing to hear an answer different to the one you expect and even a different story and plan of action to that of your friend of a friend who had this and that sorted them out and therefore the cure. We learn in general and instinctively not to repeat things that create negative reactions. However sadly due to the past and present shame associated with MH, reactions have been muted out of fear. That fear as allowed for these comments to be OKed, as meant with good intention. No, rubbish, your good intention becomes null and void if you use any of these, so stop saying these things and manually set yourself a personal reminder not to if needs be!

  21. Lisa May says:

    Renita seems to be reinforcing stigma against herself :(

  22. Shelly says:

    I admit, I do not have a mental illness, but my best friend does. He has major depression and anxiety, and was diagnoses with bipolar disorder. When he takes his medication properly and stays active, he becomes happier. If he stops taking his medication, even for a few days, he becomes unstable. I am finding it difficult to talk to him right now because of the extremely hurtful things he has said to me and about me the past few days. For years he has complained about reasons why his life sucks (not due to his illness, but life in general, such as his relationship to his father who I know cares for his son more than anything in the world), but he does not commit to trying to make his life better. I explained that if he would try to take his medication regularly and talk to family and friends or even a counselor when he is feeling depressed, his life could be better. But he refuses to listen, instead blaming his father and absent mother for all his problems. His father agreed with me, and I guess my friend is starting to… I don’t know. He is back on his meds, but I can’t forget the terrible things he said to me or the threats he made against my boyfriend and I while he was off them. Say what you want, but of you are mentally ill and you don’t take meds properly or seek medical attention when you need it (counselling or otherwise) then quit getting huffy about some things people say. Medication sucks, I get it, but I’d rather take my meds than lose myself. And when people say those things, they usually mean well. Think about that. They aren’t saying it maliciously. They are saying it because they are genuinely concerned about your well being and just want you to be happy.

  23. Renita says:

    Thank you Shelly! I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying. We all need to cut each other a little slack and do our best to be kind and understanding to one another. It’s true that life is a two way street… but nobody is perfect. Life should not just revolve around one person just because they are ill especially when their own behaviour is less than stellar

    Don’t get me wrong I’m not discounting the fact that many people with a mental illness suffer deeply and face a great deal of stigma and maltreatment. But that doesn’t excuse us from doing our part to work on our own mental health and wellness. We need to try our best to rise above our difficulties and surround ourselves with positive supportive people instead of letting others beat us down further

    There will always be people is this world who are meant spirited and will never understand what we go through unless they have the misfortune of having to go through themselves. These are the ones that we are better off avoiding for our own mental health.

    It all boils down to respect for one another which can be difficult sometimes when we feel our own needs are not being met

  24. Shelly says:

    Well said Renita! I try to respect people from all walks of life, with whatever hardships they are enduring, but when someone is not doing anything to try to help themselves, I get annoyed. There’s a difference between feeling like you have a hard life when you’ve tried countless ways to make it better, and feeling like you have a hard life but doing almost nothing to improve yourself or your situation. Its the second type that grinds my gears.

    And I agree that everyone needs to cut each other a little slack and try to understand each other, and that goes for me as well. There is no reason to be upset with a general part of the population if their only crime is naivete or ignorance. Again, most of the time their comments originate from a place of concern or compassion.

    I try to respect others, but I find my respect waning towards those who whine and do nothing to even try to fix the problem, whether they are a stranger or my closest friend.

    And don’t get me wrong, I very well know I am not an expert at mental illness or the like, but I majored in psychology, and my psych teacher wanted to give us the best understanding on how people with mental illnesses felt. We would go to the various mental health clinics around town throughout the semester and speak with the counselors as well as some of the clients if they were comfortable talking with us about their experiences. We also wrote papers relating to biases pertaining to how the general public perceives those with mental illness. Our professor tried to inject as much understanding into our curriculum as she could so those of us who would become therapists or clinicians could go forth into our professions knowing how our clients would generally be feeling, that way we could gain a better client/counselor relationship with them, and in turn help them more than another counselor could. I may not know everything about mental illness, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some understand of what someone may be going through. I chose not to be a counselor, which I think is good because of my bias towards those with mental illness who do nothing to try to help themselves, but I’m happy I can understand why the phrases stated in this article could be interpreted as insulting or condescending, but I want to say that they aren’t (most of them arent , anyway). They are meant to show concern. If you don’t like it, just politely tell the person how you felt about what was said. There is no reason to be offended if the person was well-meaning.

  25. MissyB says:

    Sometimes the best thing to say to someone is “I don’t know exactly what to say, but I care.”

  26. Karen says:

    Renita must “believe” she’s a high functioning BiPolar (therefore better than everyone else). Good for her but, as someone who’s been BiPolar since I was 10 (I’m 58 now), I can tell you – age brings surprises. Stability is not guaranteed and Karma is a Bitch! Mentally ill people in pain, in crisis; hurting don’t want attention – they want RELIEF! Wishing, praying, hoping, pennies in the fountain don’t work. Denial doesn’t work, SHAME & STIGMA only increases their pain. Her arguments reek –
    *No one is “worse” than me in MY body right now because there is ONLY ME in here.
    *I don’t want to focus on my mental state but, my brain does it regardless. And since no one wants to be around me, I’ve got tooooo much time to do it. And, no I don’t have much to be thankful for anymore – you willing to give me something?
    *This too shall pass? Cross to bear? What are you – some religious fanatic? Well, it’s been 48 years and it’s not passing and I’m not carrying a cross for anybody.
    *The phrase “Create my own reality” refers to people calling us LIARS. They are saying our mental illness; hell – all mental illness DOES NOT EXIST! Now, why would they do that? 2 reasons – they don’t like us or they’re scared they’ll get it. So, if they deny it exists – they can’t catch it. Or, they really dislike you – they want you to feel WORSE. Wake up. There’s nothing nice about it.
    You Renita, if you truly want to understand the pain and anger of those of us out here who are greatly insulted by the crappy current state of Mental Health care and sting of Stigma first need to burst your pink unreality bubble and/or [moderated]. But, if you continue to feel you’re soooo much better than us – fine – just stay off websites like this that you have no business being on.

  27. Renita says:

    Karen

    Attacking me personally is uncalled for. No two people are alike. Our experiences are obviously different.
    You’re entitled to share your experience and I am entitled to share mine. It’s a free country.

    BTW my pdoc told me I’m high functioning but that doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone else, just different. Being “high functioning” comes with it’s own set of problems. FYI I am also in my fifty’s…

    I’m sorry you’re having a bad day..

  28. Renita says:

    Karen

    I realize for many of us struggling with a mental illness every day is a bad day. I felt like that for a very long time…

    After all the years you’ve been struggling with this disorder I’m sorry you haven’t got the relief you deserve

  29. M says:

    Karen’s comment

    “And, no I don’t have much to be thankful for anymore – you willing to give me something?”

    My comment

    How about being thankful that you aren’t having to struggle with your mental illness while ALSO being forced to live on the street looking for a safe place to sleep each or having to sleep in some bed bug infested shelter with one eye open all night because somebody might steel what little you do have if you dare close your eyes. Or being on the verge of passing out because you haven’t eating in a while because you can’t afford to. Constantly wondering where your next meal is coming from? Or having to beg on the street for money (which can be both humiliating and humbling) or having to turn to prostitution to support yourself and your kid.

    Life can be a bitch. Instead of looking for what someone else can GIVE YOU stop wining about how shitty your life is and try doing something nice for somebody else every now and then when and where you can. It don’t cost YOU a thing!!! Maybe, just maybe they will respond in kind

    You never know when something as simple as a kind word or gester or even just smiling at a stranger and saying hello will brighten someone’s elses day who has been going through a very difficult time and is on the verge of giving up

    Or you can choose to be the person who one day lashes out at someone else and ends up, metaphorically speaking, being the one who pulls the trigger of their loaded gun…

  30. Nerb says:

    Renita, I will admit that I have only read a little bit of your responses, because what I did read is incredibly offensive to me. You are responding to this article very analytically, when in fact the article is calling for sensitivity. People would never say to somebody with cancer, “I know you are feeling badly, but there are a lot of people suffering out there a lot worse than you.”
    Most of us know we can find somebody worse off than us, but that does not make our pain any less significant and valid. Renita, you seem to have a “suck it up” attitude. What you don’t seem to have is compassion.
    Why are these things offensive to us…

    Snap out of it….if we could, we would. Telling us to snap out of it is equal to telling somebody with cancer to get rid of it.

    There are a lot of people worse off than you….REALLY, I never thought of that. (Sarcasm)! This statement only makes me feel worse. “Apparently the way I feel doesn’t matter because others feel worse.” Equal to…you have a broken leg, but because the guy next to you has two broken legs, you are unimportant, and we are not going to treat you.

    I you have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed? You are right, I do have a lot to be thankful for, unfortunately because I have a MENTAL ILLNESS I don’t see them. I see nothingness.

    You’d feel better if you got off those pills. UGGGGGGHHHHH! I have a hard enough time taking my meds, I don’t need encouragement.

    What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. (My all time favorite, NOT) look up suicidal ideation, and figure out on your own why this is the wrong thing to say!

    I know. How you feel. NO YOU DONT! Unless you can read my mind, and you have lived through every moment of my life, you do not know how I, an individual, feels.

    So you’re depressed, aren’t you always….I always have depression as that is an illness, but I do have times in my life that I experiance great joy and happiness.

    This too shall pass. I want to know when. I have been doing this roller coaster ride for 30 years, when will it pass…how will it pass?

    We all have our crosses to bear….nothing like telling somebody that they are being punished for some perceived wrong doing. “Hey cancer patients, yo deserve to have cancer because it’s your cross to bear.” (Another one of my favorites NOTTTTTTTT)!!!!!!!!

  31. Nerb says:

    Missy B you win for the best answer

  32. Compassion Fatigue says:

    You can focus and ruminate on the negative if you want to. That is certainly your prerogative. Or you can choose to accept that you will never be able to change some people’s attitudes or behaviour. Unfortunately stigma exists in this world. It’s not right, it’s unfair but what can you do?

    For your own sake I suggest you try to surround yourself with kind caring individuals who are open to learning more about your mental illness and are willing to support you

    But also bear in mind that most truly dedicated caregivers are prone to burn out and may at some point as compassion fatigue sets become less compassionate individuals…

  33. Nerb says:

    “When I was molested by a relative as a kid I had some understanding of what it was like to be a prostitute.”

    Could somebody please explain this statement to me? I was molested as a kid, by a relative, but it does not let me know what it’s like to be a prostitute. I was molested, not sold. I am trying to understand the comparison.

    The more I read some of the responses to this article, the more I realize that some people just don’t get it. Renita, I don’t know you, nor do you know me, but for being so high functioning, you really don’t get it, and you are perpetuating the stigma.

  34. Renita says:

    I was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by a parent. I was not shown compassion nor was my experience ever validated especially by the other parent who I expected better of since she had been molested by a stranger as a child on her way home from school one day. I learned the hard way not to expect support from others

    The comparison I’m trying to make is that I was not shown compassion or validated as a victim of child abuse nor was I as a victim of mental illness. It’s not right, it’s not fair but it does no good to dwell on it. You will never change some people’s mind no matter how hard you try.

    To answer your question Nerb, to go from being a victim of child abuse, especially sexual abuse to becoming a prostitute is not as far a stretch as you might think. 85% of prostitutes were sexually abused at home. Why do you think they left home in the first place? And no they don’t like being on the streets either but at least they get paid (sarcastic)

    My private life is very different from my public life as a so called “high functioning bipolar”. I am a good little actress. I have worked hard at honing my survival skills with minimal help from others. But surviving does not necessarily mean thriving. When I get home from work I am no different than most of you

  35. Nerb says:

    I am really trying to see your points, but I don’t understand how you can respond to this article so antilically. We all know dwelling on the negative does not help. The way you responded originally reminded me a lot of somebody who has never experienced any mental illness, telling me to “pull up my boot straps.” It was insulting to me, and I gather from the other responses, I was not alone.

    As for the comparison of being molested to being a prostitute, I still don’t get it. I am sorry I ou lived through such horror, but you have to realize you were abused twice. Your mothers silence was equally abusive to you. I too was molested as a kid. I was threatened not to let anybody know the secret. I found out years later that I was not his only victim. At no point did any of us feel like a prostitute. We all felt powerless and singled out, because we didn’t know the others were getting abused too, and yes we were victims. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Like it or not, we were victims. WERE being the key word.
    My suggestion…is to re-read the article. Try reading it with compassion and try focusing on the intent of the article. I believe the article was intended to let caregivers, loved ones, and even acquaintances know not to say certain things to the mentally ill, because they COULD make it worse. With all your own struggles, you of all people should understand others are at different points of “recovery” and the only thing we really need is compassion….we all know facts…we need compassion.

  36. Medea says:

    What an impressively stupid article.

    “Hey, diabetic, snap out of it.”

    How about, “Hey, type II diabetic, chances are your condition is entirely reversible and curable if you take some freaking responsibility for yourself and lose a substantial amount of weight”?

    “Hey, epileptic, I know how you feel.”

    And what if someone else also has an intractable disease? They might have a VERY good idea of the general problems associated with a chronic disease and disease management while trying to get the best quality of life possible.

    “Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, isn’t that always the case?”

    I’ve never heard anyone use the other “version” of this, either, so I really have no idea what you mean. But if you think they’re saying, “look, if it’s not going to change, you’re going to have to make alterations in your life to be as happy and fulfilled as possible with the hand you were dealt,” um, no kidding.

    “Hey, person with multiple sclerosis, we create our own reality.”

    Hey, person with MS, your functioning is going to be dramatically impacted by your lifestyle choices and your faithfulness to your medication regime. Seriously, stop smoking now if you want to have your best shot at a decent life. If you’ve decided that you’re doomed to a miserable life, it’s going to be true no matter what.

    No matter who you are, realizing that you’re not a special snowflake especially picked out for suffering is a healthy point of view. And you can have that point of view even when struggling with mental illness.

  37. Medea says:

    So, Nerb, your POV is that anything that anyone feels is valid because they feel it?

    What a complete crock.

    My two-year-old FEELS brutally mistreated when I don’t let him stir the boiling pot of water. His feelings are true and yet absurd and invalid, and while I understand that he wants to help and can express sympathy, I’m not going to let him have his way because it wouldn’t just be idiotic but criminally negligent.

    Being a selfish piece of crap is ALWAYS, ALWAYS a choice unless you are in the midst of a psychotic break. I’ve got Bipolar I (and have had rapid cycling and mixed bipolar, too), yet miraculously, I’ve managed to be a better-than-decent parent, I haven’t slept around, and I’ve created a “splurge system” to keep me from bankrupting us and keep our finances on track. I even make money, though not in a 9 to 5 job, and there are months together when I can’t work at all.

    Bipolar symptomology doesn’t just strike out of the sky. By figuring out triggers and ways of blunting the disorder, I’ve learned to blunt most of the cycle. If I’d been a selfish, whiny little brat who decided that I was fine and everyone else was wrong, I’d be divorced and frankly most likely homeless right now.

    Do you not understand the meaning of the word “cross to bear”? A “cross to bear” is an UNDESERVED burden. If someone says this, it’s an expression of sympathy and a recognition that you did nothing to bring this on yourself.

    The smartest doctors now recognize that the mental symptoms of bipolar disorder are a manifestation of chemical irregularities. That means that positive thinking and all that jazz might have very definite relationships to outcomes like whether or not you start screaming at loved ones, it will do nothing to address the root causes, which have to do with the reactions between the clock genes and the environment. Lithium works by altering the expression of the clock gene. Other approaches that address this also help to send bipolar disorder into regression or to blunt the effects of the next episode.

    I have two choices. I can either decide that I’m a victim of my circumstances and do what I want when I’m having an episode and make little to no efforts to reduce the number or severity, or I can try my best to control my behavior during an episode by recognizing that my impulses are not fully rational and I strive to create, thought medication, lifestyle, and whatever other means I have, an environment in which bipolar episodes are going to be shorter, less frequent, and less severe.

    As for people who say, “You’d be better off all those medications,” well, no, duh. There is pretty much no medication except maybe Vitamin D that it wouldn’t be better not to need. But we’re dealing with the world as it is, not as it would be nice to be.

    I have multiple chronic genetic diseases unrelated to my mental illness, yet in all those communities, people are overwhelmingly more determined to make a better go at life, despite conditions that they have absolutely no control over. Heck, the people I know with cystic fibrosis are just plain better human beings than most I know with bipolar. Being bipolar does NOT mean that you have no responsibility for your actions, your beliefs, your responses, or your feelings. But so many people want to use it as a free pass.

    Ready to get your mind blown? I’d rather be ME, with bipolar and my extremely painful genetic conditions, than practically anyone else. Even when I was scared I’d spend most of the rest of my life in a wheelchair, I wanted to be me. And I was determined that that “me” would be a person who was charitable to well-meaning (not bone-selfish) people.

    Yes, people do like to talk about things like diet and exercise. And guess what? Those things actually do make a TREMENDOUS difference. (For you people who are about to say, “But what if it were caaaaaaancer?????”, guess what? Exercise also makes a tremendous difference in your chance of surviving cancer, too. The body isn’t full of isolated systems. Who knew?) They aren’t enough. But they do make a difference. And I’m willing to talk about how hard it is to get or stay lean with a mental disorder as much as I am about how much of a difference it makes–but that also it doesn’t make everything magically go away, either.

    Self-pity is destructive. Full stop. Self-pity is giving in. If you do, you freaking pick yourself up off the ground as soon as you can break out of it and tell yourself you won’t indulge in it again. Because do you know what? There ARE always things to be grateful for. Even if it’s just the fact that you can breathe.

    For actual practical advice you can act on now: If you have non-24 circadian rhythm disorder or another sleep disorder, get diagnosed now. Get treated now. Be a freaking maniac about your sleep cycle. It DOES work to make bipolar much better–not just for me but for everyone with the disorder. Bipolar is inherently tied up in circadian rhythm disorders and it should be properly thought that the sleep disorders cause bipolar rather than the other way around, or that at the very least that there is a third cause that causes the sleep disorder that then causes or worsens the mood symptoms.

    http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/bipolar-disorder/circadian-rhythms-factor-rapid-cycling-bipolar-disorder

    https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/M_Shattell_Ecology_2005.pdf

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25395965

    But, you know, rather than learning about your condition and doing anything to manage it, you can just wallow in self-pity. Do that long enough, and you won’t have to worry about what other people say to you.

  38. Renita says:

    Well put Medea! I agree with you 100%

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