Proving unseen illness in order to survive.

I have to open myself up again, for the powers that be.
I have to retell it, relive it all.
I have to prove my illnesses and disabilities, whilst fitting in the predetermined boxes – designed for some of us to slip through.
I have fallen through the lines, the pages, told “there is nothing we can do for people like you”.
“You’re too ill”.
Jumping through hoops, running up hills – against the torrential down pour of sociatal expectations.
All this is done whilst the 1%, the bourgeoisie, the privileged watch on, as they stuff their faces with our human rights.
The media uses us as scapegoats, for the ‘outraged’ to demonise us, with the misinformation they are brainwashed by – we, the ones at the “bottom”, we bring it on ourselves.
Illness is equated with laziness, disability is questioned as being unmotivated.
The seen, the unseen and no details in between.
My work is unpaid and thankless, the sick leading the sick.
I don’t want this feeling of being less than, for being unable to fit into an imaginary “type”, conjured up by able, privileged puppet masters, pulling strings, herding the “deserving” humans into their boxes, and the undeserving to their coffins.

Halloween and the stigmatisation of mental illness

It is that time of year again – All Hallows’ Eve.

Halloween is upon us and has been all weekend, it is a celebration, a ritual and a chance to party with friends, adorning costumes and different personas for one night. With the nights drawing in and winter fast approaching it reminds us of the dark and in turn the dead.

However Halloween has become a mass capitalised practice, with shops and establishments enticing you with their decorations and latest gimmicks from the beginning of October. Making plans for this one night affair becomes about popularity and with the addition of social media – a costume contest is held with hashtags and a one-upmanship mentality.

Although this is not the scariest thing about Halloween, in fact the most frighting of attitudes and beliefs come out to play during this festivity and that is the representation of mental illness and the mentally ill. With depictions in horror films, on TV and in literature – as well as costumes depicting “psychiatric patients” or the idea of insanity being cool or glamorised.

As some one who has sever psychiatric conditions and who has had these since being a child, my thoughts on this subject are something I wish to be heard on, hoping that listening to someone who is actually mentally ill, who has been hospitalised in genuine Victorian asylum buildings in the UK, as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward, that in hearing me you will understand that my suffering, trauma, illnesses and identity is not something you get to “have fun with”. You don’t get to put it on for the night and then take it off without hearing me tell you that this is causing me and people like me to be demonised, you continue our persecution and discrimination. Whimsically you step into a piece of clothing which represents people who have been killed for their disabilities, locked away and forgotten about due to their illnesses, and tortured or experimented on because they behave and think differently to the perceived average person.

Having been stigmatised and labelled as dangerous to others, as a person who is violent or unstable – a person to be feared, a monster. I myself, have believed these things to be true, having allowed myself to be shamed into submission, thinking that in fact I am a scary, crazy villain. So I hid from it, allowed myself to be silenced, accepted family and friends stigmatising me with their fancy dress and in their language when watching horror films. Listening to people discuss my situation as frightening, something which scares them so much they can’t watch.

In the depictions of mental illness within horror films and on TV sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself, in a girl who is screaming manically and bashing her head against walls, or rocking herself in a corner or strapped down sedated in a hospital bead. I have lived these experiences, I still do sometimes. The rocking myself is a self soothing, allowing me to keep myself safe.

Yes I have done this in the dark, on a psychiatric ward – yes it was scary.

But not for you! For me!

When experiencing psychotic episodes I have smashed my head repeatedly against walls, on tables anywhere I could. As I rarely remember my psychosis or at least only fragments of it, I can not tell you exactly what I was thinking – but I can guess with almost complete certainty that it was to stop the intrusive images, the voices, the flashbacks, the pain… It was not because I was possessed or dangerous to others it was because of my neurological damage due to early childhood trauma. Which again is not scary in the spooky horror sense when explained, it is in fact a medical condition and symptoms.

Being in a psychiatric hospital is not a horror fest or a sensationalised attraction to experience. It is like any other medical facility, it is there to treat people with illnesses in a focused in-patient manner. Yes the Victorian buildings were scary and yes me and my in-patient friends would tell ghost stories and scare ourselves whilst walking through the abandoned buildings and grounds – but we didn’t think we were the monsters, we knew we were thought of this way by the outside world.

(West Park Hospital in Epsom is where I was an in-patient for 6 months in 1999)

However we had seen real horror, most of us having survived childhood molestation, violence, and emotional abuse. We knew we were only really a danger to ourselves, hacking away at our own flesh daily, burning ourselves with lighters, putting ourselves in danger as vulnerable people, not eating, taking substances to excess and attempting to kill ourselves often. We were the scariest thing around – to ourselves, but are we really people to be feared? No – we are people who have been vilified in order to hide the realities of true horror, which happens everyday in plain sight, by people you know, people you forgive and people who you look up to. Our ideas disturb the status quo and our sadness gets in the way of the idealistic idea of living a happy life. We make you uncomfortable – because deep down you know we are not different, that you could become ill or have a breakdown. Your neurology is not bullet-proof. We are not made of weaker stuff.

So I ask you to think about the depiction of mentally ill people at Halloween, I ask you to challenge your thoughts on what we look like, act like, or are capable of. Think of the backstory of a character and realise just how un-scary someones emotional distress, neurological condition or neuro-divergent ideas are in context. Think how you may make someone you know feel – who has mental illness, when you dress up as a deranged “psychopath”. Don’t contribute to this stereotype and the discrimination it allows to continue.

(These images are of graffiti myself and other in patients did in abandoned rooms during our stay at Woodside adolescent unit at West Park Hospital in Epsom, England in the summer of 1999 – during art therapy sessions. These photographs have been taken by people who site these as disturbing images of “crazy”impatient scribbling. I see them and remember letting out our pain, me and my best friend Jenny (who took her own life years later), of us together – expressing ourselves through art, this is NOT a horror movie scene or anything sinister.)

I ask you to remember this when you next use a label associated with mental illness

As an activist and campaigner I fight everyday to end stigma against the mentally ill and do this as a person who has been stigmatised since being a child – for my disability due to neurological damage from trauma and my genetic neurodiversity.
When there are mass shootings, murders and acts of terrorism the common labels are thrown about. Now I can not stop people from using words which stigmatise the mentally ill in everyday life, as this would be impossible, the words which come out are often misguided or just common place. However this does not mean they do not have an affect on me, and our community.  In challenging these reactions and the usual rhetoric we must first admit that there is an issue, that words are not just words – they have impact and consequences. We must look at labelling, stereotyping, cognitive separating, emotional reactions, status loss, and discrimination. As we must do with all the diversity in the world.
As someone who is married to a Muslim, my husband and I often sit there and see which one of us will get the blame when a news report states a mass murder or a shooting/stabbing/beheading, more often than not, both of us do. A mentally ill, Islamic terrorist is normally the go to. However if the individual is white – then no religion or political persuasion is highlighted, but mental illness as a label and cause remains. None of these factors are relevant in the end, as the criminal was a murderer – a killer of humanity at its essence. Hate has no religion, disability, sexuality, gender, race – hate is hate.
However I am speaking as a mentally ill person so this is my voice and focus.

Here are some facts on Violence & mental health (from Time To Change)

Over a third of the public think people with a mental health problem are likely to be violent – in fact people with severe mental illnesses are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators, of violent crime

The Facts

  • The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems.
  • People with mental health problems are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others: 90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress.
  • In 2009, the total population in England and Wales was just over 43 million. It is estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time (more than 7 million people). Given this number and the 50–70 cases of homicide a year involving people known to have a mental health problem at the time of the murder, clearly the statistics data do not support the sensationalised media coverage about the danger that people with mental health problems present to the community.
  • According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only 1 per centof victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the incidence of homicide committed by people diagnosed with mental health problems has stayed at a fairly constant level since the 1990s
  • Substance abuse appears to play a role: The prevalence of violence is higher among people who have symptoms of substance abuse (including discharged psychiatric patients and non-patients).

Reporting stories featuring violence and mental health problems

  • stick to the facts – don’t speculate about someone’s mental health being a factor unless the facts are clear
  • consider including contextualising facts about how very few people with mental health problems are violent
  • seek comment from a mental health charity such as Mind or Rethink Mental Illness
  • speak to the perpetrator’s family – often they are victims too with compelling stories to tell

So I ask you to remember this when you next go to use a label associated with mental illness / disability / neurodiversity:
When YOU use the words: nut-job, psycho, maniac, crazy, insane, psychopath, nutter… to describe criminals and their actions YOU put us back in the dark ages.
When YOU associate mass murder with mental illness you demonise us.
You put me and others in danger.
You isolate the already isolated.
You cause further illness to us.
You criminalise us, which we have been fighting to end since the asylums closed.
You excuse hate and name it “mental illness”.
You echo the rhetoric of the far right, the fascists, the eugenicists, the people who have robbed us of our humanity and freedom, the people who want us destroyed.
You take away our civil rights.
You hand us the knife, the noose, the pill bottle.
You are part of the problem and YOU need to STOP!
Also:
Could non disabled / neuro-divergent / mentally ill people
STOP speaking for us!
Stop pushing us down with your privilege!
Stop telling people how “we” feel.
Be our allies – support us, just DON’T speak for us.

neurodiversity
Charlotte Farhan Quote

I Treat my Mental Illness as I Would my Diabetes

 

mental health quote

When I tell some people l treat my mental illness as I would my diabetes, the look I get and the comments I get make me realise we have so much more work to do! mental illness is from the mind, which is of the brain. which is of the body!

“Definition of mind in English:
noun

The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought”

But even with this definition in our language we still have those who think that the “mind” is either not real or impenetrable, leaving it to be an “imagined” illness.

#stigma #mentalhealth #mentalillness