Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Crack In The Foundation (Part V in a series on mental illness in the family)

It's been a while since I have written about this subject. Mainly it's because I forgot I had started a series on this (I'll post archives later so you can catch up) but I think it is something that definitely needs to be discussed and put under a spotlight because it's hard enough to have schizophrenia and it's hard enough to be a compassionate caregiver trying to do right by your loved one with a mental illness without also having to deal with bad attitudes from the outside.

As you will see from my archives I post later, it seems that I pick on my husband a lot. The thing about that is, it's not so much that I pick on him, it's more that he brings to light with his comments a pervasive attitude in society concerning mental illness. My husband doesn't speak from a place of education by a long shot and forms opinions based on what he thinks he sees happening around him mainly with myself, Thomas and another family member of mine. What you will need to keep in mind is that very thing because I think that is a lot of reason why a large part of society has the way of thinking that they do about mental illness.

Now, this is not the first time I have heard this come out of his mouth but today on our walk, it came up in conjunction with myself and (more importantly to me) about Thomas. Just one example from recent history was something I told him about Thomas. I try very hard to educate my husband on schizophrenia and try to help him understand Thomas' (and mine too) experiences so I share examples of things that happen so that he can have a real life experience to add to the standard, clinical information I also share. What I had told him a couple of weeks ago was that I had asked Thomas if he misses his voices (I did this based on hearing that other people with schizophrenia sometimes miss their voices when they're gone) and he said that he did. There was nothing much to the conversation other than that but it must have stuck in my husband's brain to be brought out on days like today when he's mad for some reason that he has a family full of mental illness.

His attitude and his words come down to this:

"Mentally ill people, when they start to get better, seem to find reasons to become sick again because they just can't seem to enjoy their happiness and better mental health."

So, I interpret that to mean that we somehow decide that because we are feeling better, we drum up some reason to make ourselves sick again because we'd rather be sick than well.

Um yeah...

No.

His argument for this was that Thomas missing his voices means he can't be happy with being well so he finds reasons to be sick again. What he seems to miss is the crux of schizophrenia (in my opinion). Voices are a fixture of schizophrenia. Left untreated (and even sometimes treated) they run along in your brain all the time. Often they are cruel and abusive but sometimes, like Thomas' they are neutral and even amicable. Essentially a kind of skewed perception of this is that they "keep him company." So, if they are gone, his "friends" are gone. At least that's how I see it. He wouldn't miss them if they were cruel and abusive. So, I ask you, how is that a bad thing? How is that "wanting to be mentally ill"? Thomas is not looking to find his voices in any way, he was just answering a question I had asked him. He is not CHOOSING this at all.

At any rate, he went on to tell me that in the past, I have started to get better and when I did "my brain couldn't handle the quiet so it had to create reasons to be sick again." Again, so I CHOSE to "make myself sick" because I MISS being mentally ill?

Uh yeah...

No.

The conversation went on and on like this with me arguing the absurdity of his line of thinking mostly just to defend Thomas and in the end he backed down mostly because he's not a fighter nor is he as quick on his feet as I am. I have years of academic education behind me not to mention years of personal experience so if you're going to get in the ring with me with your misinformed, uneducated way of thinking, I am lacing up my gloves, putting in my mouth guard and I'm going to come out swinging.

The problem here in my little family with my husband's way of thinking is that I think that this story is just one of millions out there like it. What gets me, and I pretty much believe this, isn't it also a form of "insanity" in and of itself to think like he does? I don't know. Perhaps my mother bear is out right now and I'm still smoldering about our earlier conversation.

In the end though, it's attitudes like this, spoken words like this, arguments like we had this morning that mirror what's happening in society as a whole. If my "average, ordinary, Joe" husband thinks like this and he LIVES with us, in my opinion it stands to reason that there are many more out there like him. Needless to say, in this family it upsets the balance. The understanding that both Thomas and I so desperately need is absent from our family and we find ourselves, in our own little microcosm, fighting a battle that so many people fight around the world in an attempt to help others understand the experience of mental illness. Undoubtedly I love my husband. We have been together 14 years but it's his attitude about mental illness that causes problems for us. In my home, in a place where Thomas and I should feel safe, we live with what society as a whole lives with and it makes for some unrest every now and then. I'll keep up my education process with him but changing such a pervasive attitude won't be easy.

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