I’m sitting here looking at the sensitive world around me, considering, as the considerate person that I try to be, the hurt feelings of a shitillion of people that I don’t know, and of those I do know, and of my own, and thinking about how sensitivity doesn’t always work.
Where I grew up, it was more or less okay to offend people because of their religion, how they look, or what sexual orientation they are. It was even kind of “cool” to do so. Made you a member of the more confident majority. A majority confident in their “right” to offend others.
I got angry. Hearing the derisive, and sometimes even aggressive comments directed at people they didn’t even know, I got angry even at my family and friends. Their attitude was like, “I’m gonna sling mud at those people because I can, and because everyone does it. Sure I don’t know them. So what?”
Then when I moved out and started studying at a university, I began to meet more sensitive and tolerant people who don’t get the pleasure from offending others. The result being simply, and wonderfully, that I hear less shit now.
I also feel somewhat freer myself here than I felt back there because no one makes an issue of why I don’t go to church, or why I don’t want to “look more feminine”. But most importantly, I am less angry.
Still, it sometimes happens that I do get angry, and one such instance was the reason for me to write this post in the first place.
Because in this sensitive world, where you should always talk safe in order not to offend anyone, it looks like there are people who apparently don’t exist in a full enough measure to be respected. They’re hidden where you can’t see them: in mental institutions, in their houses, behind the walls of their expressionless faces.
The mentally ill. People who, very often, have lost touch with reality, and can’t act the way you expect them to. Instead, they act crazy, so it’s easy to laugh. So easy.
And I get angry. When I hear someone make derisive comments about people who need psychiatric help; when I meet with all kinds of intimations that mental illness is something to be ashamed of; when I hear people say shitty (supposedly funny) things like “Oh I’m talking to myself again: it must be schizophrenia!”, I want to cry with anger.
Because I have needed psychiatric help once in my life; because I have relatives who are mentally ill; because I have seen schizophrenics lose touch with reality, and none of it has been fun. And I’ll take no derision, no shame, no ridicule, and no more shitty comments.
I’m writing this because a teacher that I otherwise adore has been making such comments continually during the course of this semester. She’s intelligent, funny, attractive, extremely language-conscious (which I actually find attractive, too), and I loved going to her classes, but every time she abused the mentally ill as an object of ridicule, I just wanted to get up and throw it in her face:
Who the fuck gave you a job at the university if you’re capable of being so stupid?
Yes, that’s right: I am being offensive now. Because it’s not like I never offend anyone and feel entitled to demand from everyone to follow my super-politically-and-otherwise-correct example. I have probably been offensive towards more people than I imagine in my life without even being always aware of it.
Anyhow, I’d like to make it clear to everyone who chances to read it: mental illness isn’t funny. It affects people all around this pretty, sensitive world, and it is the reason of a lot of suffering. It may affect people you work with, or who you meet socially; it may affect their families. And most of the time, you wouldn’t know because they wouldn’t tell you.
And I guess I don’t have to explain why they wouldn’t. It’s the laughter, the shitty comments, the suggestion that one should be ashamed. It’s the stigma.
So please. Don’t make it worse. Don’t treat mental illness like it’s laughable, and a reason to be ashamed. Just don’t.
With my best regards,
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