Is Mental Illness an Excuse for Bad Behavior?

Monday, July 23 2012 Natasha Tracy

Some mental illness symptoms can hurt others, but is mental illness an excuse for bad behavior? More at Breaking Bipolar blog.

Recently a commenter talked about how she felt taken advantage of by a loved one who had schizoaffective disorder. This particular individual seemed to take a lot from his family and gave nothing in return. He refused to shower, help out around the house, pay for anything and would eat out at restaurants with no money and then insist his family come down to the restaurant and pay for him.

The person with schizoaffective disorder was being medically treated and the loved one felt that he was just manipulating the people around him.

Now, I can’t say what the motivation was in this scenario, but certainly, this commenter is not the only one to have found herself in that situation. So the question is, is mental illness an excuse for bad behaviour?

Yes, Mental Illness Can Cause Bad Behavior

“Bad,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but yes, mental illness can cause behaviour that hurts others. Certainly when a person is paranoid and screams at you that you are from the government sent to spy on them, or when a person is manic and has an affair, or a person is so depressed that they miss their child’s birthday party, one could say that their mental illness has caused that behavior. And it’s behavior that one could certainly characterize as “bad” under ordinary circumstances. But leeway needs to be given to people who are experiencing acute episodes of illness and simply cannot control what is going on.

Mental Illness is Not an Excuse for Everything

Of course, that being said, I don’t get to just run around hurting people because I have a mental illness. I can’t expect people to accept just any old behavior at any old time because I have a diagnosis. That isn’t right and it isn’t reasonable.

Some Things Can be Accepted, Others Not

So when it comes down to it, it’s really about an individual relationship. Maybe your partner could never get over the fact that you slept with someone else, even though you were manic. Maybe your sister can forgive you for screaming at her because you were delusional. Maybe your children will grow up with the understanding that sometimes you missed important life events because of an illness you couldn’t control.

Or maybe not.

I would like to think that people could find compassion in their hearts for those of us who try our very best but still find the disease gets the better of us now and then. But that being said, no one should have to put up with being walked all over on a daily basis. So there’s a line between when symptoms become manipulation or abuse or just nastiness. And that line differs for everyone.

For me, I know I’m responsible for what I do, symptom or not, and I need to take ownership of that, and I simply try to make things as right as I can when I slip up. But this would be true regardless of the label of a diagnosis.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.

View all posts by Natasha Tracy.

Is Mental Illness an Excuse for Bad Behavior?

Barb Long
says:
July, 24 2012 at 7:46 am

Natasha,
Thank you for the refreshing and balanced view of responsibility. While acknowledging that any diagnosis affects how one acts and responds, others likewise have the right to choose how to respond. Sometimes the most loving thing to do, even when one opts to stay in a relationship is to set clear boundaries, step away when they are violated, and come back later.
Thank you for your openess that brings blessing to so many by uncovering myths of mental illness.

Carole
says:
July, 24 2012 at 3:34 pm

The examples you gave of man with schizoaffective disorder may not be part of his mental illness but manipulation, such as eating out without money and then calling family to come pay for him. That would stop if they just said no. Other unpleasant behaviors like not showering are known to be possible symptoms of mental illness. Taking advantage of others should not be allowed.... don't be co-dependent.

Barb
says:
September, 5 2012 at 6:45 am

I liked this article - thanks for the input. Again, as I've posted before - my husband has MDD and can be VERY hurtful. I constantly wonder if he has any control over the hurtful way he behaves? He says he hates himself - I believe he does. Does he have any control over the hurtful way he speaks to me and our daughter? He seems to be jealous of the people in his life (& even strangers) who are not mentally ill and of people who have more than he does (money, things, etc) sigh.... I love him despite his illness but it can be difficult.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

John
says:
March, 24 2017 at 10:48 am

Your husband got very unlucky, but he can take control of his actions. If you haven't seen a psychiatric therapist I recommend it. You can also check in to a psychiatric ward. It might not sound great but I have lived my life with ADHD, OCD, and mood disorder. Trust me, it really will help.

David
says:
November, 13 2012 at 4:39 pm

I have had an on and off relationship with a woman that has bipolar, very severe at times and quite scary when manic. I have been very proactive in her treatment went to doctor visits and counseling. I have help her out financially with her medication and transportation issues many times. She has ranted on me, called me horrid names and accused me of bizarre things. I deeply cared for her, however it was taking an emotional toll on me and we broke it off for a couple of months. She recently reached out and told me how much she missed me and wanted things to workout and promised to control he temper and rage. She has been going through intensive therapy and did talk the good talk. This lasted a week and she lashed out and I politely told her it was over for good, of course she said she was joking and was sorry....I drew a line she crossed it and that was it.....I feel somewhat remorseful that I should have given her "one more chance" but when is enough a enough?

Mighty555
says:
December, 31 2012 at 6:34 pm

I really appreciate all of the shared stories and advice that everyone has posted here. I've been dating a cop for over a year now, and I really love him. He is extremely depressed, and says that he has been for a good portion of his life. He has been married twice, and both wives left him and remarried shortly after. I probably should have taken these facts as "red flags," however, continued to date him.

One of his favorite hobbies is "gaming," which divides his attention from me and I think it's too soon for that in only a year. He can sit at the computer for 14 hours to play without any hesitation, and he does this frequently because it's his depression/stress outlet. Whenever I bring up gaming (which has come up several times), he loses control and calls me horrible names, throws things at me, and even last night punched me in the face. He threatens to throw me out of windows. He threatens to "lost his job" to make me pay for disrespecting him. Of course, more than gaming has come up as issues for us. Reasonable conversations are never possible.

He has never been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but a lot of these stories feel very close to home for me. He hates the idea of taking medication for his mental health, especially since it might affect his career, but I would really like to be able to give him advice or guidance on how to approach taking medication (what I think he may benefit from). He took anti-depressants for over 6 weeks and said that sometimes he felt "worse" because of them. Even more evidence to bipolar? I don't know, I'm looking for any help here.

Whenever I mention that I'll move out to give him space and for both of us to move on with our lives (and attempt happiness elsewhere) he bursts into tears and is an emotional wreck. He apologizes, sometimes tells me to leave... I can never predict the outcome of the hour but it always comes around to "I love you more than anything and I want you to stay in my life."

Thanks again everyone.

Chris
says:
April, 14 2013 at 7:05 am

My heart goes out to everyone who has had to deal with abusive behavior from mentally ill partners and friends. I honestly have to say that if a person, mentally ill or not consistantly verbally or physically threatens / abuses you or close family members, you need to disengage from the ralationship. As much as I feel for the mentally ill individual, when it comes to personal safety (and preservation of ones self-esteem) your well being is the most important.

Sheena
says:
June, 7 2013 at 8:07 am

I on-and-off was in a long-distance relationship with a man with BP for five years and, despite being in other relationships since, have floated into and out of each other's lives for the last seven years. Seven!

We both have had an extraordinarily hard time letting go of the other person. I many times have thought he was my soul mate but then was too emotionally exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed with his behavior and would cut off contact for a time, thinking no matter what I could not be in any kind of relationship with this person.

Twice now in the last year he has professed deep love for me, said he was stable, and wanted to try our relationship again, in a real way (aka not long-distance this time, actually live together). I wouldn't say much during these conversations. I've learned to be very cautious. Not long after these declarations, he'd have a manic break b/c at some point he had taken drugs. I know he's used weed, alcohol, even psychedelics and even meth once, I believe!

I can accept and love the BP - I think it's a blessing and a curse, when treated right. But he's been diagnosed for almost a decade (he's almost 29) and he still uses drugs, knowing full well how badly they affect him.

I feel like a fool for opening this Pandora's Box over and over again. BP or not, this drug use (and weed is maybe one thing, but meth frightens me) is unacceptable. It's pulled my emotions to such extremes that I feel codependent, like I'm losing what clarity/stability I have.

This was the final straw for me, his recent manic break where he told me he loved me but it won't work out and he was going on a date w/ someone else. This happened this week. I should've drawn and stuck to this line a long time ago, b/c it's been the same damn cycle again and again.

It's not the BP, it's the damn addictions.

Joanna
says:
July, 24 2013 at 12:41 pm

I had to work with two people who have worse disorders than I have. One was a compulsive liar, the other had a lot of repression that caused him to act out a lot during work. Yet the supervisors would turn the other way and their so-called friends would laugh behind their back. I asked the supervisors why these two were never talked to about their behavior, and I was accused of "judging" them. So they think my concern over their mental state wasn't real? That they could at least help them stop these bad behaviors? Or were they making it worse because they were more concerned with not paying them enough?

Things like that are disheartening. I no longer work for that company or go to that location, but it's truly saddening that the company claimed to have respect for the individual, but couldn't see that letting them get worse is the biggest form of disrespect you can show a person who needs help.

Julia
says:
August, 14 2013 at 5:24 pm

AMEN to that! Beautifully (well, maybe 'candidly' instead) and succinctly written. EXCELLENT!

Susan
says:
July, 29 2014 at 5:16 pm

As a community health worker, I work with many clients who are striving for health, and work very hard to reach positive goals. Most of my clients are struggling with other issues such as low incomes, traumatic family relationships, and physical ailments as well, which makes managing their mental health very difficult. I am occasionally faced with the person who is manipulative, deceitful, and so uncaring of others that I use the one and only true response to make certain this person will not eat up my time and resources that are designated for my clients. I say NO. I say NO to clients who call me demanding unreasonable requests at all hours. I say NO to clients who insist on lying about their symptoms, for example, they proclaim they are incapable of calling to make their appointments when they can call me to demand a ride to the gas station two blocks away to get their cigarettes. I say NO to these clients who will happily dismiss other client's needs by insisting that they "need" to have their personal whims satisfied immediately when I am with another client who has real needs. The majority of my clients are working hard to attain some level of independence and productivity. There is that minority of people who will use the system to drain resources away from those who can benefit from our support, and these few are the ones who hear a firm and resounding NO!

Jennifer
says:
October, 15 2014 at 1:13 am

I have Bipolar II, so I am no stranger to mental illness. My close friend is schizoaffective, and I notice that she consistently asks for loans, and hints that she wants me and others around her to buy her things, clothes, meals, etc. She is able to work, spends all she earns, then has nothing, and expects others to rescue her. I used to do this, and I have money troubles myself. She is a nice person, but is also very jealous and annoying. I wonder if manipulative behavior is part of schizophrenia or just her way of getting whatever she wants because she feels she has been screwed in life.

Pearl
says:
June, 5 2015 at 12:43 pm

I struggle to find balance between bad behavior and mental illness. My bf's mother is bipolar and she is manipulative, sneaky, dishonest, and verbally abusive towards her own son and myself. I try very hard to be compassionate, understanding and patient, but there are days when I just can't give any more. I have to keep a distance from her on days where she is looking to fight. Boundaries seem to never work, she violates our trust, our privacy, and she does everything she can do to sabotage my relationship with her son. I've had enough and wish that my bf could see how much damage she is causing him and our relationship. I know he loves his mom, but boundaries and limits need to be placed in order to move forward. I suppose it's easier said than done.

Phyllis
says:
December, 10 2015 at 2:32 pm

I grew up with mental illness in my family. Both parents were loving but my father's war ptsd turned into severe ocd with psychosis which turned him from loving to a monster - restricting and controlling every aspect of our lives. My depressed mother was helpless to protect us and I developed complex ptsd which has lasted my whole life. I loved both my parents deeply (I still caretake for my mom) but if their mental illnesses had been treated or even addressed (which was hard to do in the 1960's and 70's), I doubt I would be writing this entry. We need to educate children and teachers how to respond to mentally ill parents so they don't suffer in silence. Talk helps erase the stigma and the shame.

Lisa Ramos
says:
July, 7 2016 at 2:11 pm

I am a 50 year old woman managing with my own problems including clinical depression. Because we lost our home, my husband, children, and I came to live with my mom and schizoaffective brother. It's like I'm 12 years old again, living in fear of my older brother. I try to be as understanding as my mom, but I simply have a hard time being verbally abused by him. He is selfish and just doesn't have a clue what an affect he has on our living environment. No matter how nice and caring a person is to him, he still disrespects you. We are oppressed by his anger. He believes we owe it to him to do housework for him, while all he does is listen to music and surf the internet. He becomes irritated if the house is out of order. For the past two years I have taken care of my elderly mother and done the household chores, but I began to have an issue with my meds and became severely depressed which meant I couldn't take care of things well enough. This angered him and he would yell at all of us. This gave me panic attacks but he still had no compassion. His house wasn't clean. You see he believes he owns everything my mom owns. He is the lord of the manor in his mind. We have to ask his permission to use my mom's car or else he throws a tantrum. he often slams doors and breaks them. He never apologizes for degrading you, insulting you, making you miserable because of course he's ill and he knows it. We are moving out soon when we get money for renting a home but it won't be soon enough. I have just become Tired of my mom excusing him for the pain he causes. To a certain degree he deserves compassion, but my mom has spoiled him. Nobody else's feelings count to him but his because of course he is mentally ill and he knows it.

arjun zaware
says:
August, 22 2016 at 2:39 am

i am a very emmotionaly at every time

Jen
says:
October, 29 2016 at 3:06 am

I'm in a bit of a crisis but in the dark, because my daughter is 18 and therefore, her counselor no longer speaks to me.
Here's the situation. At 16, her counselor (a different one, who had to quit) stated that my daughter was one of only two "true bipolars" she had ever seen in children. So yes, I've considered that part of her. Further, I was told she'd probably need to live with us forever, so we should get adult guardianship. However, she constantly spoke of wanting to live with us forever, and since she never had friends, let alone dated, I thought nothing of this. Then she turned 18, and TWO WEEKS after meeting an older boy online, said she wants to move out. (She spent a weekend with him soon after, and came home, calling me "overbearing," a word I'd NEVER heard her say about ANYbody. Obviously, whatever she was saying over there got them to respond that way.) She has no job, and we're still in the application process of trying to get her SSI, with the intention to still get her an education so she could at least get a part time job.
All that said, I get so frustrated with her behaviors. I have NEVER known her to take ownership of her own behaviors, but maybe twice. However, she is GREAT at taking everyone else's inventory. Someone say, "May I help you?" is perceived rude to her. Today, I restarted the computer, and it made a SINGLE, very loud noise. She started screaming at me and then justified that behavior. BUT when I simply CALLED her and didn't hear her reply, so I got loud so she could hear me, she said she got "p.o.'ed" at me for screaming at her, as if I were mad at her.
I've heard others say she just doesn't make connections. She really doesn't SEEM to, but for that amount of bullying and manipulating, what else could it be?
If the others are right, what type condition prevents someone from making those connections? I don't have a clue how she's going to survive on her own, even with a boyfriend, if she can't distinguish between someone calling her loudly because they can't hear her being okay, and shouting a whole lecture over a single noise NOT being okay.
I've thought about getting adult guardianship, to prevent others from taking advantage of her, but not sure if it's smart or not. Being she's 18, I don't even know who to consult.
I'd LOVE to know what others think about this whole situation.

Derekikan r
says:
November, 14 2016 at 4:20 pm

We have a caregiver who has a fake wife and cats. He even shows us pictures of his cats and wife...yet they are Stock fotos off Net. Wtf r we dealing with hete? He talks to himself, too, but is a great caregiver..do w schizo affective..yet also takes on dx of his patients/clients..ease help..we r we seeing here..

Sel
says:
December, 25 2016 at 11:12 pm

@jan I know this is coming a couple months late, so I hope things have gotten better for you and your daughter. And while I don't feel my sharing with you my experience will give you the answers you are looking for, I'm hoping it will help somehow.

First off, I'd like to comend you for your obvious love of your daughter and the efforts you're making to support her. Not all of us receive this and I know it would have meant the world to me. Even though I have the suspicion that at that age, I'm 33 now, I may have responded very similar to her.

I had an early onset of bipolar at 13, I also suffer from ptsd from multiple traumas I've experienced throughout my life beginning at 3. Needless to say I've been a mess most of my life. The thing about bipolar is, unfortunately, it's different for all of us. Oh we share the same inability to physicaly regulate our moods and thus the cycling within the vast spectrum of human emotion, but because expression of emotions does have it's own uniqueness to the individual, no matter how many bipolar sufferers you speak with, you'll realize that your daughter will always have her specifics you'll need to watch out and adjust for.

That being said, I can sympathize with her "bad behavior" you describe. My mania was at its worst ages 13-18. I was unmedicated and had mostly absentee parents. I ran the streets and any attempt to reign me in, even though I knew it came from a good place, just blew up in the innocent parties face. That doesn't mean whoever it was handled or approached me perfectly, but even those that did, as close as humanly possible anyway, suffered.

I was defensive and irritable and got to points where emotionally I felt nothing, which was the worst because at those moments I could cut and hurt the ones I loved so bad. And only after that disconnect passed did all the hurt I caused mean something, which then spiraled me into a self-loathing depression. Being manic is like a motor running with no gas in it, it runs so hard for so long and then it siezes, leading to a crash.

I made so many bad decisions, got myself into so many bad situations I could easily be dead right now. And I honestly don't think anyone could have stopped me, as much as I wish they had.

I thought I had it down, that I could handle anything, could do anything. For me that was part of the grandiose symptom some of us suffer from. I later realized I only felt that way, one because of the disease, and two, because at those times I had a relationship I felt supported in, usually a boyfriend.

However, they were supportive because what I told them was specifically geared to elicit that response. I, like others I've spoken with, crave that attention, especially with someone new, hence why adultery can be an issue for bipolar sufferers.

My inclination is that your daughters boyfriend is satisfying that craving. Unfortunately though, you'll be able to count on people leaving her side as quickly as they joined it. Some of us can be quite charming drawing others to us almost immediately, but as soon as the crazy starts to show, and it will, they flee, like we're lepers. And to some extent, emotionally we are. So know that she will be back and she will need you so desperately then.

Other than being there to love and support her especially in those times of need, to a point that is healthy for you mind you, I don't know that I would suggest anything else for you to do. Applying for guardianship, if it was me, would be met with the strongest resistance, possibly inciting me to sever that connection. It would be wrong on my part to respond that way, but it would happen all the same. But do not let that solidify your decision, you will know what is best for YOUR family.

The choice for people like us to get better is exactly that, a choice. But let me clarify, that does not mean cured, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. But just like with any other disease, diabetes, cancer, we can take steps to mange it. To live the best life we can in spite of it.

I make this choice everyday twice a day when I take my medicine. When I see my psychologist and tell him everything, the good and the bad because I know that honesty will lead to real help. When I catch myself expressing a symptom that hurts others and employ the tools I've developed to stop reacting and show myself the space to ride it out. That last fails quite a bit, but I do rejoice in the victory when it doesn't.

It has taken me 20 years to get to this level of awareness. And my genuine commitment to that didn't happen until I had my first daughter at 20. I often say she saved my life. It's been a long hard road with so much heartache along the way and I have so much further to go, but I have hope.

As much as you can handle it healthily, please don't give up hope on her. Encourage her to take responsibility for her own well being, don't push and ensure her that you're there to support her through it, if you really mean it.

Another sufferer said "stability is a place bipolar people visit, none of us actually live there". This has helped me keep a realistic view of the disease and thus keep my expectations reasonable. For nothing can be so defeating and demoralizing as feeling like a failure because we expect more than we're really capable of.

My one real piece of advice is take all advice with a grain of salt. Some things that work for others will also work for you and some won't, but that does not reflect negatively on you or her.

I apologize for the length in my response but hope that you are able to glean something that brings you comfort if nothing else.

If you're interested, in regards to medication I take, lamotrigene (lamictal) is an anticonvulsant. There have been studies that have found synaptically manic episodes are similar to seizures. I have had only one episode in 6 years. I am currently scheduled to meet with a psychiatrist to start treating the depression.

Your family is in my prayers <3

Susan
says:
March, 10 2017 at 7:02 pm

To all of you who have posted on this page, these comments are exactly what I needed to read at this moment. Sel, your post is so intelligent and insightful. Ond of the best discussions I've read on this subject.

I was diagnosed with BPII 21 years ago after my older son was born. Now his brother, my son who is 16, is showing signs and his behavior is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to manage. Thank God I have my own experience to understand, and hopefully help, him. He has his first appointed with a psychiatrist in a few weeks. I hope it goes well and that he will be receptive to taking mediation. He is so angry at me now. It really is hard to take, but I understand what he is experiencing and his anguish about it.

Courtney T.
says:
May, 26 2017 at 10:15 am

One of the safest and best ways to deal with some mentally ill people is to always have two people present especially if that person is passive aggressive. Having a would-be witness helps signal the mentally ill person that he/she needs to try to be responsible for behaviors. Try. I said. I have, e.g., a mentally ill in-law who used to rant and scream at family gatherings, a lot, I sense, because siblings had grown up and "moved on", and this was his way of trying to pull they dynamic back to an earlier stage and to get the attention. This person said to me once as an excuse for the screaming, "I am mentally ill."
I said, "Yes, but you have learned to use it and your siblings don't want to be around you" and carry reactive behaviors, caused by pain back into their own lives. After that, the person starting controlling himself much better. The other thing is when conversations start heading into "Woe is me" and you are the appointed counsellor of the moment, just say, "It's best you talk with your therapist. Then add that we all, mentally ill or not, have to interpret life with the glass half empty metaphor OR the glass half full. Tell the person to make a list of "what's good" in their lives and to CHOOSE to focus on those thoughts when the bad and/or irrational ones come up.

Perpetuating "sick" family dynamics by caving in to the ill person controlling the situation does not a. help the person and b. has the potential for making others sick. Be authoritative and loving, but do set up boundaries. They help the ill person and they help YOU.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Armando
says:
November, 20 2017 at 10:23 am

I agree on your take with the brother. I have horrible behavioral disorders and it can be frustrating to condition myself to factor what is considerate to others with my impulses. I want to talk over others and push my opinion like a willful child.. but allowing myself or others allowing me isn't good. I've been around others who don't restrain themselves and litterally gloat that they're being an asshole.. and when someone gets upset with them, they eagerly and loudly say they have a behavior condition. It's very much like a person with the "terrible two's or rebellious teenager issues". I'm not saying it's the fault of others who humor the person with the condition.. At my worst I can barely control myself.. in an inpatient facility I was terrorizing the staff, other patients, and even myself. I still knew that I had to try to help the staff help me. I also seen other patients act up purposely. I got on this site because I'm curious on ill behavior vs. being "bad". I think the difference is when someone knowingly and deliberately acts up beyond what their illness provokes them to do.

Erin
says:
May, 14 2018 at 7:14 am

It's always strange how they can Say horrificmthings to you and be kind to others. I've been told I was disgusting to look at, was a s---, was a b----. But the worst is simply that I am a horrible person. These people come out of left field with their vicious words. Theynsense weakness is in their prey. I don't care what they have or don't have. They did a number on me and no, I don't forgive them.

el612
says:
May, 25 2018 at 4:00 am

I've had some terrible experiences with someone else's mental health issues. Firstly, my dad is Bipolar and hasn't worked for 13 years. He isn't such a horrible and potentially dangerous character like I know some people with bp are, I mean he was never violent or used drugs or anything. He is just so lazy and self-centred. He uses bp as an excuse to do anything productive for someone else, yet whenever it came to something he wants to do, bp can never hold him back. He becomes massively unpopular in everything he was involved in, it's so embarrassing. He used to spend his benefits and my mum's earnings uncontrollably, it must've been so stressful for my mum. My parents eventually divorced because of this, and he moved 200 miles away, so I barely have any contact with him anymore. He is always going to the doctor, and self help groups, and isn't embarrassed to talk about his condition. But I've noticed, he keeps to the people who support his behaviour, if a psychologist ever challenges him he takes this as criticism and refused to se them anymore. If he wants to get better, then surely he would accept the criticism. I often wonder if he actually likes this lifestyle - no job, no responsibility, benefit money, nice chat with a psychologist who doesn't challenge him? Honestly, it was like living with another teenager, he wasn't really a father to us.

Two years ago, I got a job in the same place as my best friend. On the day I told her we were going to be working together, she was quite clearly disappointed. Up until that day we did so much together and we always used to say how we'd still be friends when we were 80. It hurt so much when she turned on me.

I didn't have a car at the time, so being as we live so near each other I asked if I could travel with her, she agreed but I always felt like an inconvenience. She was so horrible to me in the car when we were alone, but would be perfectly nice to everyone else when we were in work and she barely bothered with me socially again. I felt I couldn't tell anyone because they wouldn't believe me, she was so nice and "normal" with everyone else, why would they believe she could be so horrible when we were alone. I was under so much stress keeping this from everyone, I didn't know what to do for the best. I thought so many times about refusing to be alone with her, but that would make things awkward for everyone else.

After about 3 months of suffering in silence, I told her how she was making me feel. She was defensive and dismissive and made me feel like I was just being pathetic. Eventually, after giving several examples of her behaviour, she admitted she does it because she has anxiety. If anxiety was making her do this, then how could she be perfectly nice to everyone else, why was it just to me? As soon as we went back to work, she was even worse, as if I'd angered her even more because I'd challenged her. After another 3 months, she refused to let me travel with her anymore because "I was the one so unbearable to travel with". This is what she had told our colleagues. She turned the whole situation to be my fault, and no matter how hard I tried to tell the truth about what happened, everyone just thought we had just had a silly argument. When I told my boss how awful the past 6 months had been, she just dismissed it with "well she's got problems, and if she doesn't want help, then we can't make her". Surely your boss can make you get help if you're causing massive problems for others in the workplace, but my boss just wasn't interested, probably because it didn't affect her.

From the day it all came out in the open, and everyone else was aware of our situation, she would go out of her way to be excessively nice to me, it was so fake. If she really wanted to make things better, she would've apologised and told everyone the truth. I couldn't bare to even look at her, let alone talk to her.

I eventually left that job, and I've only seen her about 3 times in the past year, only because we still had mutual friends. At first, these friends were supportive of me, they agreed that she was the one in the wrong, but somehow she's managed to convince them that we just don't get along anymore and we've just drifted apart. This couldn't have been further from the truth, she bullied me for months and changed over night when I got the job. She also managed to win their sympathy with how bad her anxiety is. It's like they think she was allowed to do what she did because she has anxiety.

I try to explain to my friends how bad it was, but they don't seem to quite believe me, it's like they just can't imagine it, because she is of course perfectly nice to them. They think this all ended when I left the job last year, and they wonder why I still talk about it. But they can't (or won't) quite grasp how she is a bully, and how she never even apologised for it. They won't try to talk to her about it because they don't want to offend her.

I have been so stressed these past 2 years, I've even had to seek counselling myself, because I'm struggling to cope with the situation she has left me in. I do have other friends, and I'm always keen to make new ones, but finding new friends takes time so I'm just not quite there yet.

Basically what I'm trying to say is, was she really suffering with anxiety, if she was only horrible to me? I think it was more like jealousy because I got the job, but obviously she doesn't want to admit this. Also, the taboo around mental health has made a complete U turn. It's shifted from people with the mental health issues can say and do whatever they want because they are "ill", and for the rest of us who are on the receiving end of their behaviour, we have to suffer in silence. My dad was diagnosed in 2008, but my "friend" has never had a diagnosis, she just says she has anxiety. We don't even need a diagnosis anymore, we can just decide what mental health issue we have then we've got a get out of jail card for anything bad we do. Absolute nonsense!

Sophia
says:
June, 9 2018 at 3:54 am

"Bad,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder"

I don't agree. There are things that simply are bad and cannot be excused, no matter. One has to bear the consequences, just like everybody else. Most of the bad things in the world are because of mentally ill and personality disordered folks.

Sel
says:
June, 11 2018 at 12:39 pm

Sophia, everyone is entitled to their opinion and unfortunately yours is one I hear too often, perpetuating the myth that people with mental illnesses are able to control it which does nothing but attach shame and guilt to someone who doesn't deserve it. I would highly suggest reading medical articles based on tested science. Our brain is an organ that functions like any other part of our body, when there is a malfunction as it were, there are symptoms. The brain regulates out emotions, decision making skills, etc. So the "bad behavior" you see is just that, a symptom, not a disregard for the well being of others. Granted, it is not an excuse to not seek treatment. Just like someone with cancer, a heart disease or otherwise, we are responsible for our management. But a person with cancer isn't made out to be a bad person when they lay bed instead of getting up, when they withdraw because of the pain, neither should people with mental illnesses. The lack of compassion shown by people who blame people with mental illnesses for "most of the bad things in this world" is short sighted and is one of the major problems that cause the majority of bad things in world. I think it's important to educate yourself on these matters before pointing the finger.

el612
says:
June, 21 2018 at 4:41 pm

"a person with cancer isn't made out to be a bad person when they lay in bed instead of getting up"- I completely agree, but what if a person with cancer always lay in bed but somehow managed to get up every time it was convenient for them? A person with cancer would be a bad person if they would never work, help around the house, take care of their family ect, but always managed to get up for that new series on TV, or go to the party they wanted to go to, or go out on that shopping spree. There are some people who use mental illness as an excuse to do what they want, and that does make them a bad person.

J
says:
June, 15 2018 at 5:38 am

Don't push most of the bad things that occur in the world on the mentally ill or those with personality disorders. They are people too. I'm sure you've done your share of bad things too, we all have.

el612
says:
June, 19 2018 at 4:52 pm

There are mentally ill people who are perfectly nice and do good things and live normal lives, which suggests that bad behaviour comes from personality traits not a malfunction of the brain. If it were, then every bad person would be mentally ill and every good person would be mentally stable, which we all know isn't the case. I just feel like, just because someone says they're mentally ill, it doesn't mean they actually are. These are the people I struggle so much with, because society has learnt that if we're ever challenged on our bad behaviour, all we need to do is say we're mentally ill and the challenger must stop and let us carry on.

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