I am no foreigner to judgments heaped on those that live in the midst of mental illness. For the last 11 years, I have been in the trenches with loved ones that have a mental illness. It grieves my heart how judgments flow so readily from others that have no understanding of what it is like to be in the midst of mental illness.
In the midst of mental illness, judgments cause more suffering, scars, and hinder recovery for everyone involved. Is this the mark you want to leave?
A loving kind mom once told me of her encounter at the ER that broke my heart and infuriated me. I hope it does the same to you.
Her daughter had hurt herself, and they promptly took her to the local ER. Upon arriving, she was taken in and put on a gurney to wait in the hall. Of course, this mom understood that the most severe cases had to be attended to first.
But what she never expected was the coldness and judgmental remarks that followed.
Her daughter whom she loved more than life itself had a mental illness. As soon as the medical staff discovered the nature of her illness and that her wounds were self-inflicted the remarks started, “ Don’t bother with that girl she is just a …………..” “Let her just wait; she doesn’t deserve to be helped.” The smiles from staff turned to stares, the softness in their voices became harsh, and the whispers began throughout the halls.
This mom was quickly reminded…
That judgment in the midst of mental illness are significant and rapidly add to everyone’s suffering.
Wait a minute – does this really happen? Do people with mental illness sometimes get treated differently from other sicknesses? Yes, it does – too often. In my experience with mental illness, I have heard countless stories of judgmental attitudes that loved ones and families have encountered.
Did you know when we judge those with mental illness we add to their burden?
With many of the mental disorders, self-judgment can be a major factor and hindrance to one’s recovery. When we judge those who have a mental illness, we are most likely adding to the profound suffering that is already going on. They probably judge themselves harsher than we ever could.
Some walk around at times feeling unworthy or with a running tape that says, “I can’t do anything right.” Do we want to add to that?
What about when we write those with mental illness off as hopeless or stay away because it feels awkward? Is that not a huge judgment – not only of the person but of the God we believe in? He doesn’t write us off.
Instead, can’t we learn skills to look beyond the behaviors to the beautiful person that God created? After all, we could be a catalyst in helping instead of increasing the suffering.
Sure, you may have to learn some skills, to meet a person where they are at, but isn’t that what God does for us?
Isn’t that what God would want us to do?
When you judge us – the family
It does not help. The burden we carry is hard enough. We need to concentrate on how to be effective in the midst of mental illness, not defend our every move. We need your support, your love, and your understanding.
Please realize we too judge ourselves and struggle with the fact that we can’t alleviate the suffering of the person we love.
You may see us a nod as if we are taking in in your well-meaning advice, but inside we may be feeling judged. The pain is deep, and we may be screaming on the inside – “Walk in our shoes – you have no idea.” When you suggest “tough love”, it cuts to the core as if we have failed.
Instead be curious and ask us questions. We need you to help us arrive at what might be best, not step in and tell us what you think is best.
The vicious cycle of judging and family silence:
Please, understand many have judged us, so we are reluctant to open up and let you in.
On the inside, we cry out, “If only they knew or took the time to understand what mental illness is like to live with, surely, they would not judge.”
Thus, the vicious cycle begins – we stay silent for fear of judgment, which in turn increases the insensitivity and lack of understanding. This in turn only increases the judgments.
It is a sequence that needs to be broken. To break this, we need families to be brave and share their stories. We need others to educate themselves and be willing to drop the judgments and be compassionate and curious instead.
Of course, there are also stories of great love, dedication, and empathy. I will forever be grateful for the people that continue to stand by our family and the strangers that offer hope in dark times.
We all can do our part to decrease judgments and make living in the midst of mental illness a little bit better for everyone.
A few suggested places to start would be:
- Read the blog series on judgments:
- How To Stop Judging and Have More Peace
- Why is Judging Others A Problem For Us?
- Are you Judgmental?
- Educate yourself on mental illness – NAMI
- Be curious, ask questions, and do not judge.
Please share what you can do to make a difference or how you have been judged harshly in the midst of mental illness?