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Friday, November 9, 2007

Stigma


I've mentioned a little bit about how I try to hide DH's illness. There are a million reasons for this, I'll try to explain some of them--if you are dealing with a mentally ill person, you might have some of the same thoughts and feelings.

First, DH wasn't always like this. Three years ago, he was a regular guy who went to work every day, did lots of chores around the house, fixed things, was very romantic, very responsible, very conscientious. So the part of me that hopes says "So what's to say that he won't be that way again???"

If that is the case, if he does recover back to the point of being a responsible human being again, I don't want people to judge him for what has been happening with his mental illness. Say, for example, the bills he has rung up in town. I know DH's therapist doesn't want me to "fix" them, but its really hard, because not only did DH "used to be" responsible, but I hope with all my heart that he will be again "someday", and I don't want people to think that he is anything but that. I mean, I don't want them to say to themselves, "there goes Carol's DH, he had some mental problems,". And have that color their opinions of him. Or when he doesn't follow through on things he used to do with great joy, I don't want people to say, "he's got some mental problems"--I'd much rather have them say "he didn't get around to it"....somehow in my mind, he can redeem himself for "not getting around to it", but he can't fix the "mental problems" stigma.

And along those lines, I'd also rather have them think that we are lazy (our lawn hasn't been cut all summer) than to tell people that "DH has been ill and I've been working 2 jobs and there just hasn't been time to do stuff like that".

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really very afraid of being known as the "woman with the mentally ill DH". (Being honest with myself, though, maybe I am a little.) There are a lot of times I really wish I could tell everyone that "my DH is having mental problems and I'm having a tough time handling it all, so please forgive me." It would be so nice to have someone say (or think) "well no wonder things don't seem quite right over there" or whatever. Or "do you need any help?" But it's just not right for me to do that, of course. I feel strongly that if the people in our town knew what was going on with DH, he would be labeled for life, and I would do anything to avoid that.

It's a very tough place to be in. If he had cancer, or a heart attack, people would be having benefits for him to help pay the bills and to show their support.

Come to think of it, you never do see "Benefit" posters that say something like this: "In October, John Doe was diagnosed with bipolar illness. He has been rendered unable to work and faces several months of therapy. The bills related to this illness are piling up, and his wife can't keep up. Please join us for a spaghetti dinner to help out." It's almost funny, isn't it?

1 comments:

Pann said...

you are right... stigma around mental illness is really unfair.

I am very careful whom I tell about my own issues but I have been surprised by how kind and understanding friends have been.

Your blog is interesting, thanks for sharing.