Your Mental Illness Makes A Really Shitty Shield

Yes, that’s right. For the first Fighting Friday “argticle,” we’re going to be insensitive about one of the most delicate topics out there.  At first I was going to get in to the idea of faking a mental disorder for attention, but that becomes too broad and anecdotal. While this discussion is still broad and riddled with more anecdotal evidence than empirical, I feel that narrowing down the discussion a bit will help us stay on track. Before I get in to why I think shielding yourself behind mental illness is a shitty and destructive behavior, let’s outline the assumptions we must make for this discussion.

1.) You (figurative) have been truly and legitimately diagnosed with a mental disorder by a qualified professional, and are not just dick-riding a tumblr post that is “me af.”

2.) You are using this diagnosis to mask or lessen the impact(s) of societally unacceptable thoughts or behaviors.

3.) You have no true desire to cease such behavior.

Now, with that out of the way, the meat: You’re being an asshole to not only everyone around you, but to yourself. Hiding behind the shield of “being damaged” is an incredibly disruptive and destructive force to bring in to a life, and in my opinion it’s got to fucking stop. If you allow it to take over your life – to define you – it can be very difficult to recover from. For example, take a look at this excerpt from a post from the Experience Project:

“As victims of depression, we often feel that we have the ‘right’ to feel sorry for ourselves. We have a disease that makes us feel bad, why can’t everyone understand that? It is a wonderful validation of what our disease is telling us…and it is the path to self-destruction. When you suffer from depression, you are never cured. The disease, like cancer, may go in to remission for weeks or months or even years, but it remains deep within us, a pit of unholy darkness that pervades every action we take, every word that crosses our lips, every breath we draw. For those that require medication, it can be a battle to swallow that pill every morning knowing what the side effects can be. For those that require therapy, the effort required to get there can be crippling. And yet, for those of us that truly want to be free of this disease, we continue to put forth effort required to achieve that state.”

Notice that last line. It’s really, really important. The ultimate goal for any negative mental state should be to shake it off, not to let it embrace and overpower you. I know it’s hard. Believe me, I know – been attempting to help my fiancée with her MDD for years. Still, it’s time to cut the bullshit. Thought Catalog does a fantastic job of outlining what I find “the bullshit” to be here. In a nutshell, it’s any time you wear the “cape” of your illness to manipulate and influence others or to cast yourself in a lighter light in a negative experience.

Don’t think I’m only here to pick on depression. PTSD is a true motherfucker, too, especially among our veterans. The men and women who fight for us go through some really fucked-up shit in some of the worst places on the whole damn planet, and for what? To never shake the things they’ve done? The things they’ve seen? They don’t get the help they need, so it’s only logical that they’ll eventually snap, right? Well, no. No it fucking isn’t. Post-traumatic stress is a real motherfucker, and it can take us to truly dark places. However, I’m with Scott Faith of The Havok Journal when it comes to the thought that it has become a “cover-all” for some really shitty behavior. “Exceptions, not the rule,” but…

“Plagiarized your War College thesis? PTSD! Like to get drunk and pick fights with civilian women? PTSD! Murdered a police officer? PTSD! Drug smuggling, kidnapping, spousal abuse, sexual assault? PTSD! Made really, really bad life choices? PTSD! Want to get paid, get attention, or get sympathy? PTSD, PTSD, PTSD!!!”

Know what makes me a true asshole here? I think this scenario is applicable to civilian “PTSD sufferers,” too. Maybe you were shot, maybe you were robbed, maybe far worse. Why in the holy monkey fuck are you walking around thinking you’re so incredibly damaged that you’ll have to walk through life looking for “trigger warnings?” Are you truly fucked up, or are you just too stubborn to let go? I get it. It’s not easy, and I sympathize, but it doesn’t mean I accept the thought of being so damaged by a particular stimulus that you can never get used to it again in your entire life.

“Well, Spooder, you’re just being mean.” After all, it’s hard to get out of bed sometimes. It’s hard to get dressed, put on clothes, and fake niceties all day. Moreso if your “triggers” are out there waiting for you. I agree with you one hundred freakin’ percent. I know how hard it can be, but I also have a pretty good idea as to how hard you’re making it for yourself. Why? What do you have to gain? What is the benefit of “Oh, I’m sick, pity and forgive me” versus “Hey, I’m not doing well. Help me work on that?” There are so, so many of us out here that will love the fuck out of you, flaws and all, but we can’t if you’re going to constantly lose to your own inner demons. Eventually there’ll be nothing left where the person once stood – you’ll be a walking DSM-V diagnosis.

Is that what you want? No, I didn’t think so. Sorry, but I don’t have “the” answer, but I do indeed have a solution from an unexpected source: Frank Herbert’s Dune. Fantastic fucking book, by the way, but most importantly we can learn a lot from the Bene Gesserit.

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

That’s right, folks. Geek philosophy. Fear is a construct of our mind, as are many mental disorders – even ones we think we can correct through chemistry. For this reason, the Litany holds up as a way to get you from behind that stupid shield of yours. Do not sit around thinking in terms of only your depression. Do not excuse every over-reactionary behavior on your PTSD (especially violent ones). Do not allow yourself to think in terms of “being psycho” because of your bipolar disorder. That’s when you become the asshole nobody likes: when you’re run by your mental illness willingly instead of fighting it. Your mental disorder is part of you and probably always will be, but dammit, push past it.

You are so much more than the shield you have chosen to hide behind. Stop waving it around, stop leaning in to its misleading embrace, and do something about your problem(s). Get. Help. Am I “victim shaming?” FUCK NO! You are not a victim. You are not “broken beyond repair.” You’re so much stronger than that. You are a living, breathing, lovable little mess. Love yourself and allow the love of others to come shining through to that dark place inside you. All you have to do is drop your shield.

Side note: Please, please for the love of fucking God, get some help. I’m mad at you – I’m ranting – but I love you. Yes, you. Here‘s a number I pulled out of the Google hat that may help. Please, please fucking use it if you need it.

Lifeline – Free, 24/7 help. Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Suicide Prevention…fucking call them.

Phone conversations not your thing?  Text ANSWER to 839863.
Are you a veteran? Press “1,” or text 838255.

You have people who will do their damnedest to help you. Let them.


5 thoughts on “Your Mental Illness Makes A Really Shitty Shield

  1. I don’t think you understand mental health at all. It is not a choice, plain and simple. The major problem you have is that you think people are thinking their way into illness, and that is significantly not the case. In the same way you can’t think yourself in or out of tonsilitis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, but see, this is where we will continue to disagree. You are correct in that mental illness is not a choice, but the surrender to it absolutely is. Were this not the case, we would not have therapy. Should we simply cast aside our suffering siblings and treat them as though they’re damaged forever, rather than offering them even the slight smattering of help?

      I’m not trying to say “hey, your mental illness is all in your head.” Not at all. What I’m saying is that complete surrender to its control IS an option, and as such it can be pushed back on. Much like, since you went there for some non-analogous reason, removing your tonsils is an option rather than dying of infection.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think you are right – we will disagree 😛 Although I do think there is some value in your points. Although removing mental illness is not as straight forward as removing your tonsilitis. It is always difficult to have this discussion because it is impossible to know exactly what is going on in someone else head – so to confidently state they can do something, when we cannot know it to be true is a dangerous game.

        Liked by 1 person

      • All too true. It’s a very risky approach that I propose. Confrontation of one’s controlling factors can sometimes make things a lot worse, and you’re right in the implication that I should have gone in to that thought a bit more. Still, I’m naive enough to think that those who want to get better can and will eventually. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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