Magically, and to varying degrees, I either know or have come to know everyone who has thus far commented and discussed on DefineFunctioning (ha ha! even my super-favorite anonymous comment). So, I suspect that this blog post by new forum member Natalie may be of interest to most of us. In it she draws out some of the parallels between Coming Out as Crazy and Coming Out as Queer. If you’d like to take a worthwhile minute and read it, I’ll wait here.
If you decided to rely on the excerpt you know I’m keen on providing, then know that I’m skipping right to the part for our discussion:
“I’ve found that some of my fellow crazies are pretty damn judgmental about 1) just how long you’ve been officially diagnosed as crazy, 2) just how much said craziness is presently wrecking your life, and 3) exactly what you’re doing for said craziness.
And if you’re deemed not crazy enough, not miserable enough, or not medicated enough, well, your viewpoints are often written off as inexperienced and foolish. (Or, ironically, just plain wacko.)”
In light of the last post dedicated to DFW, I’d like to posit that this sort of comparative judgment is both prevalent and truly damaging in more ways than I can count right now. In case you’re new here (Welcome!), I’ll reiterate that DefineFunctioning is based largely on the need to self-define “functioning,” “wellness,” “crazy,” “treatment,” and the like. As a result, when I read Natalie’s post (my comments are in there), I was angry, worried, and sad. It is largely these comparative, ranking, and hierarchical statements that limit the resources and support available to the “high-functioning.” They are the reason I couldn’t feel comfortable in a typical support group despite really feeling like I needed support. Question: Have you ever felt that your diagnosis, your difficulties, or your personal experience were invalidated or undermined by your level of functioning?
This sentiment strikes an even deeper chord for me as well, one that is terrifying to admit for its implications. Question: How will the mentally ill community address stigma in any significant way if some of its members are meant to feel that they may not actually belong to said community? Being a long-time quasi-misanthrope, community membership isn’t something I hold onto in a life-and-death sort of way, and I’m willing to bet that most of us have rarely felt like we “belonged” somewhere. Still, if there’s one place where our individual understandings, perspectives, and experiences should be valued it’s within the context of other people with mental illness diagnoses, right? Whether you’ve experienced that strange dismissal first-hand or not, that anyone might be experiencing it represents a difficult-to-swallow state of affairs: fracture. That might have sounded a bit dramatic, but I started this forum because I couldn’t find a forum. And maybe I couldn’t find one because of this fractured state.
Let me start this discussion by sharing something that’s difficult for me to say: I feel something akin to shame when I disclose my diagnosis to an MI patient who doesn’t work, who doesn’t have a relationship or family, or who doesn’t “pass” for non-MI. I feel something like survivor’s guilt. I know how hard my day-to-day life is, but I also know that I am lucky for what I have. I shouldn’t be ashamed that I’m not on disability. I shouldn’t be ashamed to feel lucky. Like many, severe mental illness runs in my family. As such, I have seen what life would be like if I weren’t so lucky. I am thankful everyday. But I know my guilt is not because I am grateful; I know it is because I’ve been judged as unfairly fortunate. I should not have to explain my functioning or make excuses for it. I should not have to be forgiven. I should not have to feel like I need to forgive myself.