“I firmly agree with critics that are claiming the stigma of mental illness, and it’s treatment, are passed down through generations.”
To imagine my grandparents talking about mental health in a positive way, or ever actually treating themselves with therapy, is almost laughable.
• My 2 sets of grandparents differ greatly in age. I’m going to call them the older set and the younger set. The older ones would relate – nerves, bad nerves, just nerves – to mental health. The younger ones would be more likely to say that someone who had a breakdown was a nut job.
In the oldests’ household, mental health was never talked about, but never was anything else, so it’s not a big surprise. There were just people with ‘bad nerves’. Get over it and toughen up right?
In the youngest’s household, there were very, very close relatives that were struggling mentally, and yet no one held back on their awful words. Schizos, wack jobs, psychos, and crazies. These were all acceptable words to them when describing people with mental illness.
In the oldest’s home, it could be well-known fact that someone takes medication, goes to therapy, and/or has been diagnosed with a mental illness, but it would still be represented with pure denial. To be hidden away in some little shameful corner, where you either got patted on the head or just denied of any acknowledgement.
In the youngest’s home, if any of those above facts were known, they’d be met with massive eye rolls and vibes of annoyance. They’re now labelled as the crazy one, the loony one, the one that’s officially left behind.
“As you continue down the line of generations, the next stop is the one just above me.”
• He never does, and just never has, talked about it much, but the thought of mental illness seemingly irritated him. She, on the other hand, has always kind of been on the fence about it. She knows the scientific facts about chemical imbalance because she is an intelligent person. But that never did stop her from joining in on the jokes, annoyance and disregard of mental illness.
As I was diagnosed with having bipolar disorder with OCD tendencies (and eventually fibromyalgia and diabetes), I officially became a nuisance. My words not theirs! My life was so high or so low for years, until I quit staying out late at night, got healthier and my medications were stabilized. So I sincerely understand that I was not an easy person to deal with through all of that and not very much fun to be around. (Thank you Sheldon for being you!) But that does not mean that a person deserves any less support or respect.
Until a stage in her life required attention to her (temporary) mental illness, I don’t think they truly realized how quickly shit gets real. This is major stuff!
They still rarely talk about any healing that may be happening… theirs or anyone else’s. Whether it’s about mental or physical health, medication, education or diagnoses. If you’re in a room alone, they may be understanding and even sound like they have been paying attention to what you’ve had to say. Then during your next visit, you’re just having an all around (NORMAL) crappy day and they’ll literally tell you to go take another happy pill. Which is so baseless because everyone is allowed to have bad days!
“Some people only need medication through a rough patch, and although I wish that was me, I will unfortunately be taking medicine, in some form, for the rest of my life.”
• I’ve come to terms with that. (Even part-time) therapy will also help me for the rest of my life. Thank goodness for my diagnosis and all of the amazing education and literature there is out there about mental health!
The education makes it easier to help my daughters understand mental health. I have been honest with them since I knew that they old/mature enough to hear it. They’ve asked what certain pills are for, what bipolar disorder is, and even if my therapist is nice! Which she is, thank goodness!
I explained, in a somewhat forced situation – they caught me off guard! – to some girls that knew what diabetes was, that diabetics don’t get enough insulin from the right organs, so they replace it with medicine. I then said that it was the same for bipolar disorder. Your organ doesn’t make the serotonin it needs, so we replace it with medicine. Both are illnesses, both are organs not working properly, and both can be regulated with modern-day medicine.
“Their reaction? “Ok, Cool!” It was easier to explain to, and get no judgement from, children than it is to most adults.”
• Hopefully having conversations like that will help our generation, but especially, the generation coming up behind us. They could literally be the ones to end the stigma! Everyone could be honest and understanding about everyone’s mental health.
Let’s do it guys! Let’s challenge ourselves to be 2 generations of empathetic, kind, & smart people. Imagine it. We CAN do it!