Whether that be via blog, news article, public speaking or video I have often been told by others, “You are so brave to share your story!” I am flattered that people appreciate my openness about my experience with mental health issues and it is a very encouraging gesture for me to continue to do so. But, what does “being brave” mean?
It could mean just that, that I am brave for sharing parts of my life. Not many people feel comfortable doing so especially since people can be extremely judgmental.
As usual, I want to take this a step further and deconstruct “you’re so brave” a little bit more.
I don’t like being called brave. I feel that I have done what I had to do in order to live my life that way I want too. I like to think I’ve done what everyone would do or does do to go about their lives. I think everyone should give themselves credit for living when there are many physical and emotional obstacles that can knock us down.
Brave to me, is also another way of saying, “Oh, you weren’t quite!” As many of my followers are familiar, it can be very isolating and silencing to experience a mental health or addictions issue. We are another community of people society wishes would shut up and disappear. I don’t think many people who call myself or others “brave” realize how loaded that word can be and why would they? They have been not conditioned the same way we have.
Being called “brave” is especially strange because I was never quite about my mental health issues. I was not ashamed to tell people I had depression, I regularly brought it up to guys I met or new friends and I had no issue telling teachers/professors I experienced depressive episodes. If I faced backlash then those people were just assholes. “You’re so brave!” Why should I have been afraid in the first place?
I also end up wondering if my audience has gotten anything out of my story other than I’m screwed in the head.
Still, they all mean well and if “brave” is talking when others wish I would shut up and go back to my place at the bottom then I am brave because I wont do it.
I thought it would be good to compliment my previous post, Freedom of Speech?, with the dictionary definitions of the two major discriminatory names used in society.
The argument is that calling a person these words is bad but using them to describe a non-person is not. I strongly disagree and I feel the definitions show that these words are used to describe mostly negatives that then link back to people (whether we are aware of it or not).
These words were FIRST created to describe people (which was the reason I heard someone would never say nigger, because it was first meant to push a certain population down) therefore we should be careful of using these words.
I know that language evolves but it all comes down to the word first meaning a messed up person and then being applied to a messed up situation.
Thought: A few days ago, while at a training for work, a man from an organization that promotes children’s right to play world wide used the term “underprivileged children” to describe the population the organization works with. I felt a little twinge at the phrase as I have been grappling with how I feel about describing anyone as “underprivileged”. A co-worker (who I do not know) asked if he could instead use the term “financially challenged”. He was very taken back and clearly not comfortable with the term but just left it and when on with his speech. I want to dissect both of these terms but mostly “underprivileged”.
Financially challenged: I hate it. I don’t like how this co-worker demanded that this man, and inadvertently the group, use her preferred term (at least underprivileged is socially accepted). Children technically cannot be financially challenged because they do not make money, their parents or caregivers do. This term makes it sound like making money is a game, a “challenge” and I guess you can start equating it with a disability (ie: mentally challenged, physically challenged). I can’t really explain this one well, I just don’t like it!
Underprivileged: When this term is usually used in regards to any population is it used to describe those that have difficulty with housing, food, income, health, education etc. THESE ARE RIGHTS NOT PRIVILEGES! If anything we should be saying “under-righted children” or “people who are being denied their human rights”. It is a privilege to own a smartphone, it is a right to have a well paying job that gives you the money to buy that smartphone. THIS IS POVERTY!
Also, on a side note, the idea that children have a right to play is very Western. We have given children the “right” to do nothing. Children in other countries know that their role in the family or place where they live is to help contribute. I’m not saying one way is better than the other but we cannot impose our Western views on other countries. I do agree that children and adults should not miss out on an education that would help them improve their income and working abilities ad I do agree that EVERYONE should have fun!!!!!
I believe that we need to remember the adults. They were possibly once the “underprivileged” children we are discussing. If we want to raise children out of poverty we need to help their parents and care givers. We have this obsession with children and we’re forgetting the adults that are being left behind.
Brett Bratten posted yesterday about a hat he saw a man wearing at a diner. The hat said “Half Crazy and Extremely Unstable”. He made an excellent point that if we switched the saying to something else, a more physical and medical issue, then the hat becomes very offensive and no one would ever wear it.
This got me thinking about an incident my friend L had in her poetry class where a fellow student described a poem as being “bipolar”. He meant that the poem was all over the place, jumping around.
As many of us are familiar, “crazy” is overly used to describe things such as music (That’s a crazy beat) or someone we don’t like (That bitch is crazy).
People, like myself, end up looking like humorless assholes when we tell people that using mental health language inappropriately isn’t funny. People have the inappropriate and wrongful use of mental health language completely ingrained in them.
What if I switched it to other terms such as nigger or fag?
Would someone describe a poem as “faggy” because it was written by a man and had a very feminine topic?
Would we wear a hat that said “Half Nigger and Extremely Criminal”?
I feel very confident that the answer would be no! Especially in the case of the term nigger which I feel so uncomfortable writing!
Using language inappropriately also helps promote stereotypes.
To call a poem bipolar because it jumps around implies that persons experiencing bipolar quickly change from manic to depressed. This shows the persons “understanding” of what bipolar is supposed to be but in fact it may not be the reality of many people who experience bipolar. There are also many other ways to describe a poem without using someone’s diagnosis as a descriptor.
To use fag or nigger to describe something is to imply that it is undesirable. While these terms can be used within certain communities as terms of endearment when used outside of those circles one needs to tread carefully because they are extremely loaded words!
All I can say to anyone who wears clothing that involves mental health language is this is not a joke. You may feel funny wearing a shirt that says “Psycho Ward Patient” but let me tell you that being in a psychiatric hospital is no joke. Being a psychiatric patient is no joke. You probably wouldn’t last in there!
I don’t understand why people would think it’s funny to “be crazy”. The emotions and thoughts I’ve experienced are no laughing matter! If you wouldn’t laugh at cancer, at diabetes or even at a cold then do not laugh at me!
(I hate the N word and the F word SO MUCH I’m sorry to have typed them but I really feel if I didn’t use the full terms then I wouldn’t be proving my point correctly. The N word is “the N word”, we whisper that word because it’s become such an offensive term but other offensive terms do not receive this treatment and they should! The fact that I need to explain myself in detail to let everyone know that I mean no offensive says a lot of this language. No one ever apologizes or regrets using “crazy” “freak” “insane” or “psycho”)
Day in the life of a Busy Gal… posted recently about BPD remission. It reminded me about the first time heard the term “remission” used in mental health. It was little less than a year ago when I heard a psychiatrist on TV use “remission” as a way to spread hope to those living with mental health issues. I was turned off by the word. It may not work in my favour that I also don’t like the term recovery either!
Let me explain.
For a long time we lived with the term incurable.
Incurable: adjective, impossible to cure
Is that damning enough for ya? It was the belief that those with mental health issues would forever be ill that kept them chained in asylums. I feel in some cases, we still believe that mental illness is incurable, we just call it by other names. I know I was originally told that my depression was similar to the cancer gene. I always had it, something just needed to activate it. I associate this with being similar to incurable. If it’s in my genes can I really get rid of it?
Remission is a daunting term.
Remission: noun, a state or period during which symptoms of a disease are abated
Will it come back? When will it come back? The constant fear I have felt about falling back into the hole can most times be so overwhelming that I can’t enjoy my life. Remission sounds temporary. I think many of us with mental health issues live in the disbelief that happiness and calm can last for us. We walk on egg shells, hold our breath, afraid that one wrong move will send us crashing. Living in fear of depression returning or having another psychotic episode does not improve our mental health. I don’t feel uplifted.
Recovery is what the mental health profession is aiming for.
Recovery: noun, the act of regaining or returning toward a normal or healthy state
Ugh the definition even has “normal” in it. Of course this is not the mental health definition of recovery, which is more forgiving and holistic, but when I first think of recovery, not taking into account my in-depth mental health background, I think of being “normal”. I think of nothing being wrong with me ever again. I will not fail, I will not experience depression, anger or anything that used to debilitate me ever again! THE PRESSURE! I feel recovery puts a great amount of pressure on me. I feel there is a standard of wellness that comes with recovery that I know I will never meet. Every time I go into a rage I feel like a failure. I’m afraid that if I rage people will think I’m ill. I won’t ever be “recovered” enough.
I actually like the word managing.
Manage: transitive verb, to conduct the management of
Managing gives me room to breath. It acknowledges that my health in general is something that I will always have to work at. We all need to manage our mental health. Nothing stays the same and that’s just how the world works.
This is not the same as incurable which I interpret as living in constant despair, no chance to experience happiness.
This is also not the same as remission which I interpret as being very inactive.
Management gives me a sense of control. There are things in my life that I can do to encourage positive mental health.
The language we use to define where we are at in our mental health journey is unique to us. Many will disagree with how I interpret these terms and that’s fine. I use recovery language since that is what’s hot right now (and what’s right in the grand scheme of things) but I want to reject it when I’m told by those close to me, “You’re not recovered” because I still experience downs.
Managing is a safe term, it is an active term, it works for me. Find what works for you.
I am experiencing something very strange. I have gotten myself so worked up that I feel detached from my body. My chest hurts, I’m so fuzzy and this is just horrible! I’m going to attempt to distract myself!
In Canada it is Mental Health Week! There has been some discussion already on what to call people who have a mental illness. Some prefer to be called mentally ill and other’s want absolutely no associations with medical definitions!
I think it’s great that we have so many words that we can use to describe ourselves! How we label ourselves in regards to mental health is just as personal as the language we use to describe other parts of our self!
This does lead to confusion because I may be okay with calling myself one thing and you may hate it! How do we solve that? By asking! What do you like to be called? That’s the language you should use and it will change depending on who you talk too.
I have my own preferred terms/labels that I will use to talk about myself.
- Mental Health Issue
- Emotionally different
It doesn’t bother me to identify as the actual disorder in the sense of I should not deny an aspect of myself. I call myself a singer because I sing. So I should be free to call myself borderline if that is what I am.
Also how you use these terms/labels makes a huge difference. I prefer to use “with” or “experiencing”.
- “I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.”
- “I am experiencing a mental health issue.”
I am a huge fan of reclaiming language which is why I don’t even mind describing myself as “crazy”, “freak” or “fucked up”. Embracing these terms is a slippery slope since they can easy be used against you.
I try to remember that words only have power over as for as long as we let them. Call me a “chair” enough and I may begin to think “chair” is a degrading word. Directly identifying with the illness we’re usually told is dangerous but I feel what makes it so dangerous is everyone hating that you’ve been diagnosed with it. Identify as “crazy” is bad because we’re told that being “crazy” is undesirable.
It’s stigma’s fault, not mine. I will always be who I want to be regardless of what everyone else thinks. It’s easier that way. It may be painful but I can’t continue to try to be what others want me to be but that is way more painful. It just doesn’t work that way.
“I understand that many people define themselves as “mentally ill,” and accept a medical model. If you do this, that is your choice. However, at this time, the “medical model” is dominant. The medical model has become a a bully in the room. Language that somehow encourages that domination isn’t helpful to the nonviolent revolution in the mental health system we need, a nonviolent revolution of choice, empowerment, self-determination.
What about the many other people who define their problems from a social, psychological, spiritual or other point of view? And what about those who don’t see their differences as problems, just as differences, or even as qualities?”
- David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International
I saw this article yesterday on my Facebook feed and was bothered by the title and continued to be bother by the article and then enraged by the reader comments.
I’m very tired of seeing articles such as this one! Especially when the odd time of year (you know for those awareness weeks) you get articles talking about mental health stigma and what we can do about it and ESPECIALLY when I was apart of one!
I decided to write an email to the editor.
We all know someone who has done something that we cannot fathom. They have done something that makes no sense to us. They have done something that has hurt someone, hurt the community, hurt society. They have done something that makes us believe something truly must be wrong with them.
They have murdered, assaulted, stalked, abused, raped, terrorized and many other things that make us horrified that such humans can exist.
We call them crazy, psycho, freak, insane, nuts, fucked up, monster, messed up and so on.
I have been called these names and more yet I have never done any of the things we usually associate “craziness” with. I have never murdered, I have never abused, I have never intentionally caused anyone pain!
All I had to do to earn these labels was be diagnosed with a mental illness.
I woke up “crazy”.
I went to school a “psycho”.
I hung out with friends as a “freak”.
I watched a movie with my family as “insane”.
I cried as “nuts”.
I laughed as “fucked up”.
I coped as a “monster”.
I tried to live as “messed up”.
That’s not fair!