I don’t usually lose my cool unless I’m in a car, but that is another story. Today, I lost my cool. On my Facebook feed, I saw a post by a woman that said schizophrenics (I hate that word) in America hear voices telling them to commit acts of violence but in India schizophrenics (that word again) hear voices that tell them to clean house. I have over one thousand friends in common with the woman writer who posted this and the last time I checked her post had eleven likes from other Facebook users.
At first, I left a comment telling her she was ignorant and wrong. Then I deleted that and left a message about it on my Facebook page with a big F.U. (something I rarely, if ever, do), and then I deleted that too.
When my husband got home from work, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell him what had happened. There is a wound that is caused by people’s ignorance. It is like being bullied. It is like being called names. It is like being an outsider who is misunderstood. Of course, the name for this type of incident is stereotypes and stigma.
People’s ignorance and terrible comments make me feel shame for an illness that I didn’t ask for or do anything to create. Schizophrenia is not a punishment from God or an attack from demons (no matter what some people would have you believe). It is a disease of the brain, just like brain cancer only it doesn’t require chemo or surgery – it disrupts the thought process (a tumor can do that, too). Also, schizophrenia doesn’t equal violence and what does some woman on Facebook know about hearing voices – her words are in reality preposterous.
What gets me about today, was that I lost my cool and that I was ashamed to tell my husband what happened. I didn’t want him to hear about how some people think about me, and people like me. I want my husband to be shielded from the cruel words and beliefs that others hold about my condition.
I want my husband to think the best of me, and I know that he does, because he knows me, loves me, and counts on me almost as much as I count on him. I just couldn’t take having him hear the negative way people think and talk about people with schizophrenia because I have schizophrenia so that woman was saying something about me.
Occasionally, the uphill climb to educate and inform people about my illness is too steep for me to get up. Today, I needed help, and I felt too weak to let the person in who loves me most.
So, does it matter when we stereotype, stigmatize and marginalize people – yes, it matters a lot. Words and actions are significant, and they can pile on injuries to people who have collected injuries all their lives in the same way that other people collect dolls or action figures. In medicine the oath is to do no harm, we should all claim that goal for our interactions. Do no harm. Do no harm. Do no harm.
It has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?