All right, Friends, I had a few different ideas about what I wanted to post today but none of them were really working out when I sat down to write them, and then I saw a commercial and I found my topic.
Let me start by clarifying, this is more of a rant than anything, but I am both disappointed and disgusted by the way people talk about mental health in general, especially the ones involved in “helping” in the recovery process.
The commercial in question was from an addiction recovery centre and it was talking about how many people die in America every hour from addictions, and I was one hundred percent on board until the doctor on screen said something extremely similar to this, “Addictions lead to death, or worse, they hurt other people.”
Let’s back up for a second, this is a doctor who was supposedly trained in addiction recovery, and he just said, “Addictions lead to death, OR WORSE, they hurt other people.”
Excuse me, the death of a person is worse than “hurting someone else”. End of story. There should be no discussion here.
Before anybody berates me for “not understanding how hard it is to live with an addict” or lectures me on the emotional hardships that go alongside that, let me tell you something: I have an older brother who still lives at home, and he is addicted to various substances (I can’t pretend I know them all, I don’t. Alcohol is a huge one, pot is another — though I’m aware most people don’t consider that a drug anymore — and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that’s not it, but I have no idea what else he’s doing) and when his payday rolls around, something clicks in the back of my mind that says, “We’re all in for a bad time”.
I’ve never been physically harmed by my brother (I mean, beyond the usual brother-sister stuff when we were kids, but that’s not what I’m talking about) but I have seen him put his fist through the window of our kitchen door, and I’ve watched him come home bleeding from fist fights (and smashing things in fits of substance-fuelled rage) numerous times, and he’s verbally nasty to everyone around him.
I love my brother immensely, but I hate who he becomes when he’s on substances of any kind.
That said, I know physical abuse happens every day to the loved ones of those who are struggling with addictions, and I can’t begin to imagine how that feels, but I guarantee you it would not be a better situation if your loved one ended up dead. That is still a person with thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams, they are sick and they need help. It doesn’t make it right that they hurt you, but it comes down to understanding that it was a product of their illness, not who they are as a person.
The commercial should have said, “Addictions can lead to death.” Full stop. It’s not just a causal preface to “addicts can hurt people”. If anything, it should’ve been reversed. “Addicts can hurt people, OR WORSE, addictions can lead to death.”
But this is not the first time I’ve heard language like this used in a so-called professional setting. When I was in counselling the first time, I was deep in my struggle with dermatillomania (skin picking. It can be a form of self-harm, or a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression or anxiety, among other causes. Click here if you want to see my post about my personal struggle with skin picking. Link will open in a new window) and I had spoken to her about that, and one day I was in her office and I tend to have a dry, flaky scalp so sometimes it gets itchy, and on this particular day it was itchy, and as I kept scratching at it she asked me if I was picking and I honestly wasn’t so I told her as much, and a few minutes later she got irritated and accused me of having head lice. I’m pretty sure it was around that time that I stopped going to counselling.
Other instances have included another counsellor giving me a pamphlet that said my depression was my own fault, and that it was caused by my “unresolved sin,” and, actually, depression didn’t exist. Chemical imbalances had never been proven.
Can we take a second to be pissed off that those examples are just from the so-called “professionals”?, I won’t even go into the things I’ve heard from “normal” people!
It is 2016, it is time to learn how to talk to people who are struggling, because mental health and addictions are so hard to deal with as they are, and to heap more guilt onto people and to make them ashamed of themselves and force them to live in isolation because they can’t TALK TO YOU is not okay in any way!
I’ve already rewrote that commercial, but in an ideal world, the other instances would have looked like this:
COUNSELLOR: “Are you picking?”
COUNSELLOR: “What are you doing?”
ME: “I have a dry, itchy scalp.”
DITCH THE PAMPHLET! Depression is real, and even if (for argument’s sake) it wasn’t, telling people that everything is their fault is wrong.
This right here is the reason people hate Christians, because they think we’re judgemental, and crazy, and horrible, and we make God out to be some old man in the sky with a stick, waiting to strike us whenever we don’t obey Him.
For me, counselling made things worse. I would leave the office and question everything, and I almost always felt worse than went in. There were days I’d go in feeling like a 3/10 on the suicidal scale (10 being the worst, of course) and leave at a strong 9.
So-called-Christian-god is like: BOO, YOU SUCK. You don’t pray thirty thousand times a day, and you sin too much! Take some depression and suicidal thoughts/anxiety/addiction/whatever you struggle with to make you hate yourself.
Real Christian God is like: I had to allow your depression/anxiety/whatever, but I hate it, too. I love you, and I’m here for you. I want to help you through this. You don’t have to make yourself perfect before you can come to Me for help and comfort. I want you to come to Me now, and I’ll give you help and comfort, and in My time I’ll make you perfect.
No, I don’t understand why people get depression, or why they get cancer, or why children die. I don’t understand why the world is so incredibly screwed up, but I know that God does, and I know that it’s going to work out for His good, which in turn will mean that it works out for OUR good. God knows what He’s doing.
Believe it or not, this was almost two thousand words longer but I’ve decided to save the second part of this for tomorrow’s post (which is today now, because this took a lot longer than I intended!)