There is so much misinformation about mental illness out there that it often leads to horrible assumptions on the part of the so-called normal people. It was just this situation that led me to write the Mental Illness Constitution last week. Out of frustration over the #BellLetsTalk day, I began to do what Bell was missing the point about; I wrote about what we mental illness sufferers wanted out of life. I, for one, was very tired of hearing other people talk about me and pretend to give a shit just so they could rack up social media brownie points. That, though, was talking about what I felt should be basic rights to those who suffer from mental illness should be given. Today I’d like to address the “you can’t” myth that blankets us crazies by those in the “normal” world. If last week was our Constitution, then this week is our Declaration of Independence.

  1. Crazy means lazy. Let’s get this out of the way. There is this thought that if someone has mental illness, they’re lazy. It’s not hard to see where it comes from. It’s hard to get out of bed some days when you’re fighting your inner dragons let alone hold down a job, clean the house, make supper or any of the other thousand things people do in a day. However, contrary to what people see, that’s not lazy. Those with mental illness work just as hard to achieve their hopes and dreams as anyone else. Actually, those with mental illness work twice as hard as the so-called normal people. Not only are we cleaning the house or getting that project done, we’re also doing battle with whatever dragon has come for tea that day.
  2. Crazy don’t mean dumb. I was told, by a lady at the Alberta AISH office, that I couldn’t have a disability; I was too intelligent. Now, putting aside the levels of wrong on that statement for a moment, it does reveal a problem in how those with mental illness are perceived. There is a belief that those with mental illness are stupid and unable to make decisions on our own. WRONG. Just because you saw a movie with a kid playing a banjo who obviously had some developmental issues, does not mean we can be painted with that brush. Those with mental illness run the gamut of intelligence just like “normal” people.
  3. Crazy don’t mean dangerous. Thank you, Hollywood for this one. Hannibal Lecter, Freddy Kreuger, Jason and a whole host of others. Here’s the truth; we’re a simple folk that just want to be safe. Most of the time that means doing small things to keep the dragons chained up. For me, it’s wearing my headphones when I’m on the bus. For others, it means washing their hands a certain number of times. Whatever it is, it helps us. We only get upset when you interfere with that ritual. Those dragons are mean and we have to live with them, not you. Please leave us our rituals and we’re completely happy.

This is a small example of myths those with mental illness have to deal with on a daily basis. When I tell people I have anxiety, I get the same reaction as if I had told them I carry baby corpses in my bag. A mixture of horror and fascination. Please throw out your assumptions about mental illness and assume you know nothing. That’s a starting point we crazies can work with.

If you have your own stories about misconceptions you’ve had to deal with concerning mental illness, I invite you to tell your story in the comments.