I used to be so ignorant about mental health issues. I knew little bits about different disorders, like depression, OCD, schizophrenia, and the ones you actually do hear about, a little, in the media. But I really didn’t understand what they actually were.
My Own Ignorance
I was thinking about one of my friends the other day and how she had told me, a few years ago, that she had an eating disorder, and I realized that the way I responded, would have totally offended me, if it was me, now, if someone was to say it to me.
She’s one of the few friends over kept in touch with from public (elementary) school. When she told me about her eating disorder, it was after I had moved back home to Alberta from college, so I was further away again. When I was at school, we were about 2.5 hours away from each other, but she didn’t drive, so the only time we actually saw each other was when I drove out to see her, so I didn’t see her for more than a day at a time, so it really isn’t shocking that I wasn’t able to see that she was struggling. At the same time, I feel terrible that I didn’t see it. Especially now. I haven’t talked to her in a while, so I haven’t had a chance to say talk to her about this (because the last time I talked her was before I found out I had a mental illness).
Anyway, after moving back to Alberta after college, we still texted a bit. One weekend, she texted me and told me that she has anorexia and bulimia and that she was going into an inpatient treatment program.
Once I got over my initial shock, I responded with something along the lines of, “I can see you having one of them, but not the other.”
Like holy freaking shit, how ignorant can you get?! I’m surprised she didn’t totally chew me or for that. Geez.
I’m not even going to explain my thought process behind that comment because it is just so completely ignorant, it is embarrassing. The main thing was that I totally didn’t understand how you can have both, although there was more to it than that.
She explained a bit about how you can have both, and that since we didn’t see each other that often, it was easier to hide it from me.
I know now how absolutely stupid I sounded, and I feel terrible for it. But its proof of how ignorant anyone can be.
I knew, in the logical part of my brain, at the time that I had been struggling with depression, for a long time, even if I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself, but I feel like that should have helped me to understand what she was telling me, but it didn’t. I don’t think I even knew, at the time, that eating disorders were mental illnesses just like depression. Again, I know this now.
Since being diagnosed with mental illness myself, I have done a lot of research into the various types of mental illness. Although there is still a lot for me to learn, I do have a much better understanding of eating disorders now, than I did even a a few months ago.
Ignorance of People Around me
Since my diagnosis, and the research I’ve been doing, I’ve found that I am getting more easily offended by things other people say, even things I have said in the past and heard others say. And the ignorance and stigma around mental illness is everywhere and it’s awful!
I’ll hear people talking about how so-and-so is “a little off,” or is mentally ill but those people don’t know what is actually going on with them, and just the way they say it upsets me.
There have been times where I’ve wanted to just scream to shut them up and be like, “hey, I’m mentally ill. Do you talk about me like this behind my back?” But I don’t. It’s an anxiety thing. I worry about what their response will be, as well as what my reaction to talking about it will be. I know I’ll probably burst into tears, and I don’t want to deal with that. I know I should. It’s just so hard!
I know I should speak up more, but I’m still struggling to speak about my own issues, let alone someone else’s. But I’m working on it.