Just a few months ago, I was writing about how I had unconsciously let my illness become my identity, and how damaging it was. Having had anxiety and depression throughout the ages whereby humans develop their identity, it got to the point whereby I was apprehensive about working towards recovery because I had no idea who I was without illness.
Imagine my horror when I chanced upon this screenshot on reddit one day.
This individual has let anxiety become an identity that is “only to be used by people with anxiety disorders” – essentially, identifying as Anxiety. Not only has that person built an identity around the illness, the person has essentially become the illness. This is most likely going to hinder the individual’s healing process, if it doesn’t just bring it to a complete halt.
Your identity isn’t something you work towards recovering from, but anxiety can be. Note that I’m not saying cure, but recover. It’s possible, but I highly doubt it is if you have deliberately fused yourself and anxiety together as such.
— Relevant reads —
I had my first C2C class as a trainer today, and I’ve already gained something from it – a new perspective on the declaration of mental illness to employers. A member of the support group brought up the issue of ticking the ‘yes’ checkbox on employment forms when asked about mental health history. Of course, the stigma is there. Many employers are almost repulsed by the thought of hiring someone with a mental illness. There are two things I’d like to bring up:
- Can we really blame them for it?
- Declaring it could, in a way, protect ourselves.
Let’s not ignore the fact that employing someone with mental illness brings about certain risks. In fact, employing anyone who has an illness, or something that could impair his/her functioning, is a risk. Should the individual relapse, it might affect the organisation’s profit and reputation. Like I wrote in a previous post of mine, they are simply protecting themselves. There is the issue of physical safety. The stigma is real – “all mentally ill people are dangerous and scary”. Considering how media portrays mental illness, and how a lot of people still misunderstand mental illness, perhaps we shouldn’t blame people for having this misconception. Stigma aside, there’s also the fear of employing someone who might cause bodily harm to those around them. Again, let’s not ignore the fact that some people with mental illness are violent*. Employers don’t know who is violent, at flight risk, etc. They have the responsibility of protecting their staff, and taking the risk to employ someone who may be dangerous is something not everyone is willing to do.
From the very first day with CAL, even as just a student in C2C, they knew about my condition. Nonetheless, they let me volunteer with them, which has been a brilliant experience. They have also been extremely supportive. I am told to take a break if I feel the need to, and the counsellor in charge of the class checks in on me during the break when she sees that I may not be ‘okay’. This has made my time with CAL a lot less stressful than it could have been. If I had hidden my illness, however, they wouldn’t be able to support me like this. They may think that I’m just “slacking off”. I would not have even given them the chance to support me as such. Of course, not all organisations are as understanding as CAL. It is, afterall, an organisation that works closely with the caregivers of persons with mental illnesses.
Declaring illness may have a lower chance of employment – but if you don’t, you risk the employer not understanding why you may be, at times, less productive. What, then, should we do? Do leave a comment, or drop me a message or email, because I’d really like to hear more thoughts on this (especially the perspective of employers and HR management).
*People without mental illness can be violent and dangerous, too. If employers could sift through applicants and remove those people, they probably would. But this is, I suppose, the closest they can get to doing so. Apart from criminal records, that is, but people can grow, learn, and change, so even a criminal record may not be a good judge.
My first reaction upon seeing this post last week was that yes, it is absolutely true, and I was rather peeved about it. However, after thinking about it for awhile, I wonder if people’s reaction to such symptoms are justified.
When those with mental illnesses are relatively “normal”and able to function (more or less), displaying only the more “passive” symptoms, people are usually fine around them. They treat them like just another person, knowing full well (s)he has a condition.
However, once other symptoms show themselves, be it panic attacks, breakdowns, psychotic episodes, or anything that seems to be getting out of hand, those people are left alone and avoided, because they are one of the Crazies now.
I wonder if we can really blame them for reacting as such. People’s fear of mental illness is, more often than not, attributed to the media and ignorance. Stigma of mental illness in television has been an issue addressed by researchers from as early as 1989 (maybe earlier). This issue of the twisted portrayal of mental illness in media has only been getting more rampant, which I shall not discuss in this post.
However, what just dawned upon me (yeah it took me awhile to think of this) is that these people may be protecting themselves. Granted, not all those who are mentally ill are dangerous. However, some really are, and people do not know who are dangerous and who aren’t. The same way not everyone on the Internet wants to murder/rob/stalk you, it makes good sense not to publish your house address online.
Should we, then, really blame people for avoiding and excluding the mentally ill when they’re only trying to protect themselves?
Gerry and Hillary of P.S: I Love You; Augustus and Hazel of The Fault in Our Stars; Jamie and Shane of A Walk to Remember. Beautiful, tear-jerking romance novels and films that I admit I enjoyed. However, I realise one thing – the love portrayed in such stories are extremely romanticised. Even in songs such as The Way She Feels by Between The Trees portray love to be something that can save you or magically cure all your hurts.
Looking through the Internet, it seems that youths have a warped perception of love and relationships. For instance, a good relationship to them is one that encounters no pitfalls. A good relationship has no arguments (or arguments that are resolved with a romantic gesture). When this doesn’t happen, the couple falls apart, leaving both parties hurt and damaged. What irks me the most, however, is the portrayal of love which miraculously saves you.
People end up waiting for someone to come along and rescue them, be it from family issues, depression, etc. The sense of responsibility over one’s own issues is gone, and is shoved to whoever says “I love you” or “I’m here for you”. What’s even worse is the romanticing of illness.
Youths are presented with more and more love stories that end with one individual saving his/her partner:
He leans down to comfort her
She is weeping and he
Wraps his arms around
And around and around and…
She opened her eyes
And found relief in his life
And put down her knives
-Between The Trees
Yes, having someone there with you could make things better, but nobody can save you. You have to save yourself because nobody else can do it for you, even if they wanted to. The illusion of being rescued will not last. That said, you cannot save someone else. You can assist the person and prevent suicides and self-harm, but you can never magically fix the person.
Your partner is not a project. While recovery should not be neglected in a relationship, it shouldn’t be the end goal of the relationship either. The end goal is, well, a strong relationship and a life together.
In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this month, gender equality group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) called for a repeal of Chapter 16, Section 309 of the penal code, which makes attempting suicide a seizable offence in Singapore.
Suicide is becoming less and less of a taboo in Singapore. Yet, it is still greatly misunderstood. Today, it is still against the law to commit suicide. According to Aware’s report Distress is Not a Crime: Repeal Section 309, the police are required to arrest suspects, and it is mandatory for third parties to report attempts and intentions to the police. I read a few articles about Section 309. A lot of them talk about how it discourages people from seeking help, sometimes even encouraging them to attempt again with stronger determination. They miss out something else that Section 309 does – the effects it has on survivors.
Here is one of the effects:
Potential employees like to ask about run-ins with the law. If a survivor chooses to be honest and tells him/her about previous suicide attempt(s), there is a high chance that, during the job interview, the survivor is already being looked at through tinted glasses; there is already a giant sign above the survivor’s head that exclaims “DON’T HIRE THIS PERSON”. In essence, it lowers one’s chances of getting a job. Knowing that a failed attempt is a contributing factor to failing a job interview might bring about feelings of bitterness and regret. Not just regret over attempting suicide, but regret over failing to commit suicide.
This criminalisation of suicide does more harm than good. Granted, it acts as a deterrent for some people. For others, however, it acts a motivator. As for survivors, it forces them to live in the shadow of their suicide attempts. Read more
This question haunted me about one and a half years ago.
I posted my then-boyfriend that question, and he told me that it would always be the parents’ fault. The answer was far from satisfactory, and it showed an extreme lack of responsibility, but I did not care enough to pursue the matter.
Today, I still do not have an exact answer to the question. A child’s upbringing will definitely influence his/her behaviour, motivated by values instilled into him/her. But when do you say somebody “did not know any better”, and when do you say somebody “should have known better”?
I have met people who, at 20, blame their parents for their bad habits and poor behaviour. But I have also met people who, by the time they hit 20, take full responsibility of their actions and refuse to attribute values and behaviour – whether good or bad – to upbringing, because they know better, and they know that they get to choose what kind of person they want to be.
Perhaps it could have something to do with locus of control. Perhaps it could be neurobiological. Perhaps it’s a person’s maturity level and emotional intelligence. Most likely, it’s all of these (and very likely more).
I’d like to hear as many thoughts on the matter as I can, so I suppose posting this here would be a good start.
On Sunday, I went to the mall and did some shopping (toiletries, pet supplies, etc.) on my own. I then took the bus back home, on my own. This is something I have not done in months, and I’d like to share a little more about it.
As the loyal readers of my blog would know *waves excitedly at Ms. Addie*, anxiety relapsed last year. Since then, my anxiety has been fluctuating, probably because of the meds, some of which made it worse. I was just put on Valium last week. It helps anxiety just a smidgen (only because it leaves me feeling a little… “out of it”. I’m not too sure how to describe the feeling; for some reason, I want to use the non-word wumzy) at the cost of weariness for the whole day, and a some impaired cognition in the night after taking it1.
Anyway, I went to the mall on Sunday. The over-stimulation was horrid. Every moment was excruciating, especially when it was time to approach the cashier. What I’m most proud of, however, is talking to one of the cashiers when I didn’t actually have to. I was at Uniqlo when I noticed the cashier had scars on her arms (I have developed a tendency to take notice of people’s arms; sometimes thighs and ankles, too 2). After she bagged my stuff, I walked to the side and pretended check my receipt when actually, I was gathering the courage to talk to her. When I finally walked up to her, the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, uh, I saw the cuts on your arm.
Her: You want to cut the tag?
Me: No, I meant the cutting scars.
Her: You want scissors?
Me: No. The scars. *I showed her mine, and pointed to them*
Her: *silence for about two seconds* Oh.
Me: Just wanted to know that you’re not alone. *proceeds to walk away with my heart pounding, but a sense of achievement*
I used to be able to go up to strangers upon seeing self-harm scars with no problem. I’d tell them to stay strong, or that they’re not alone. If they had company, I’d write it on a slip of paper and pass it to them, or discreetly slide it into their bag or pocket. I was surprised by how difficult it was to go up to someone this time. But, I did it.
The entire one and a half hours seemed to last much longer. I was constantly sweating (and worrying about pit-stains did not make it any better), I was breathless, and I felt a little bit faint. I got back exhausted, and immediately went to take a nap. It was, essentially, an anxiety training session for me. Perhaps I should make it a weekly thing. I already have a less intensive and nerve wrecking anxiety training session every week – one of my lecturers have a booming voice, and the particular students of the class are extremely noisy during the break.
Well, that’s about it for this post. I just wanted to share my experience. Feel free to let me know your thoughts (:
1 Could someone explain to me why the tiredness lasts all day, but the impaired cognition lasts to, at most, late morning?
2 I’m starting to think that this is a universal cutter thing; you’re constantly looking for, and wondering, if the person you’re interacting with has ever cut.
The bird was hatched upon a tree;
a bird with a broken wing unfixable.
All he wanted was to be free;
but for that he needed to fly.
He wanted to get higher up the tree,
but he knew that he was unfixable;
he knew he needed help to be free;
he knew he needed help to fly.
There was a weak branch on the tree;
a weakening branch that was unfixable.
The branch soon broke free,
and the bird, still alone, could not fly.
The bird fell from the tree;
his faith in friends now unfixable.
He knew now he’d never be free –
nobody would help him fly.
He watched his friends on the tree,
who had dismissed him as unfixable.
They left him; they wanted to be free.
They didn’t care that he couldn’t fly.
He stares at the empty tree now,
his shattered heart and bones unfixable.
Through Death’s mercy, he is now free.
So off, and off, he sings as he can finally fly.