I had an experience on Monday that left me reeling. I’m not going to explain exactly what happened, but I will say that I felt ignored, pushed aside, and avoided. It was the first time I was meeting this group of people, and they were all aware that I have schizophrenia. I have never felt like having schizophrenia caused people to treat me differently, so this was a new situation for me.
It is clear when someone comments with something like wacko, sicko, psycho, etc. that they have ignorance and possibly intolerance about people with a mental illness. If someone ignores you or avoids you, it isn’t obvious why they are doing that. For example, I can’t say with one hundred percent certainty that people were avoiding me or pushing me aside because they didn’t want to interact, recognize, or give space to the person with schizophrenia.
I spoke to a coach/mentor friend of mine and told her the whole story, and she said she didn’t think it was intentional. I know her advice and her perspectives are good ones and healthy ones, but there is a nagging feeling in me that says, what I felt was real, and true, and valid. (Just to make a note she wasn’t trying to invalidate my feelings, she was trying to be objective).
Now that I am thinking about rejection, there was a time, on a psych ward, that the attendants made me feel less than. It was after I was admitted, late at night and I was in my room. The attendants were obviously going over my paperwork, and one of them said, “Did you see where she works and what she does?” Someone else answered, “Yes, she is a social worker for the State.” The first person replied, “I hope that doesn’t happen to us!”
At my job, during the day, I would have been these women’s equal, their coworker, or even someone with more authority than them, but while I was in bed, on a psych ward, I was someone they didn’t want to be. I was someone they hoped they would never become.
I am going to try to be more aware of people in social settings I find myself in. I am going to look for those people that hang on the fringes, that sit by themselves, that seem awkward, anxious, or scared. And if I know something about someone like that they are battling an illness, or have recently lost someone, or anything that can make other people feel uncomfortable talking to them, I am going to gravitate in their direction.
I know you have heard it a thousand times, I have heard it that many too, but it truly is the little things that make the difference. I am capable of small things, and let’s hope those small things I give, and that we all give, turn into the force that keeps others from feeling lost or alone.
No matter what, we all have the little things to give. Give them with wild abandon.