Why Are the Mentally Ill Expected to Advocate for Themselves?

Consider this: Someone you love very much is driving down the road on a routine errand.  It has gradually gotten darker outside.  Suddenly, a truck driving without headlights veers across the road and smashes into your loved one’s car.  Your loved one couldn’t see it coming, and could do nothing to prevent the crash.  The truck speeds away into the night.  Your loved one, while seriously injured, manages to find the cell phone and press the speed dial.  You barely hear that your loved one has been in an accident and the location of the crash.  You drive to the scene and see your loved one trapped in a crumpled automobile, both legs fractured, blood gushing from a large wound where his or her head cracked the windshield.  Your loved one is confused and doesn’t know what happened.  Your loved one sees you and, expecting a loving response, cries “There’s something wrong!  I’m bleeding!  I can’t feel my legs!  I can’t move!  It hurts!  Please, please help me!” What do you do? Do you stand and stare at your loved one while he or she sobs uncontrollably and begs for your help? Do you walk up to your loved one and, instead of calling 911 or rushing to comfort, say to him or her, “You need to think more positively.  Why are you acting this way?  There’s no reason for you to be so upset!” Do you then scold your loved one, insisting that it is his or her responsibility to figure out what’s wrong and fix it? Do you expect your loved one to extricate him- or herself from the situation and drag him- or herself to the hospital while in excruciating pain, before he or she bleeds to death? When your loved one continues to plead for your help, do you ignore the cries, turn away, and leave your loved one in agony and feeling rejected and unloved? OF COURSE NOT!! When you hear your loved one’s cries, you drive as fast as you can to reach him or her, calling 911 on the way, giving them the exact location of your loved one’s car, demanding that the paramedics hurry!  When you get to your loved one and you hear his or her sobs and cries for help, your heart breaks – you rush to the wrecked vehicle to hold your loved one and try to comfort him or her.  You pray out loud; and assure him or her that you will always be there and that you will do everything you can to help.  You cry with your loved one because it hurts you to see him or her in so much pain.  When the paramedics arrive, you explain to them what your loved one has told you and make sure they are doing what needs to be done.  You ride in the ambulance as it careens toward the hospital, because you can’t stand to leave your loved one’s side for even a moment while he or she is going through this ordeal.  If your loved one lashes out at you or behaves strangely, you aren’t offended because you understand that he or she is confused and in pain.  You stay at your loved one’s side in the hospital and pay attention to every detail of the doctor’s words and your loved one’s treatment.  If your loved one isn’t healing, you insist that the doctor do something about it.  You don’t mind watching over your loved one’s care, because you know he or she isn’t capable of doing it alone.  Your know your loved one needs help. Now consider this: Someone you love very much is moving along is his or her daily life routine when things gradually begin getting darker.  Suddenly one day, your loved one crashes.  Your loved one couldn’t see it coming, and could do nothing to prevent the crash.  He or she begs for your help.  You come to talk and see your loved one broken, bewildered, and in pain.  Your loved one doesn’t know what is happening.  He or she, expecting a loving response, cries “There’s something wrong!  It hurts!  I can’t control my life!  I can’t move!  Please, please help me!” What do you do? Do you stand and stare at your loved one while he or she sobs uncontrollably and begs for your help? Do you walk up to your loved one and, instead of rushing to comfort, say to him or her, “You need to think more positively.  Why are you acting this way?  There’s no reason for you to be so upset!” Do you then scold your loved one, insisting that it is his or her responsibility to figure out what’s wrong and fix it? Do you expect your loved one to extricate him- or herself from the situation and find his or her own help, before his or her health and life completely deteriorates? When your loved one continues to plead for your help, do you ignore the cries, turn away, and leave your loved one in agony and feeling rejected and unloved? Consider this: Why is someone with a mental illness not as worthy of attention as someone with a physical illness or injury?  Why do we tell someone having mental problems to “buck up,” “figure it out,” or “stop behaving that way”? Would we tell someone with severe physical injuries that they are weak because they need medication or other medical treatment?   Would we blame and berate them for not making themselves better? Why, then, are the mentally ill expected to advocate for themselves?

© 2009 Noelle Marier

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Categories: Life, Mental Illness, Observations, Rant | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Why Are the Mentally Ill Expected to Advocate for Themselves?

  1. Mike Foster

    “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

  2. Hi, I just found this blog of yours through Facebook.

    I have been suffering with the exact same thing and perinatal depression. It’s just assumed that you’re behaving the way you are and reacting as you are because you want to and could simply turn it off if you had enough gumption. It doesn’t even seem to matter that the condition was diagnosed and is being treated by a physician; it is as if people think we must be in some sort of magical collusion. It’s so frustrating. We don’t tell someone with cancer to get over it, why tell someone who is hurt in the brain? Even people who know me and have said I am not myself have been very unwilling to accept that my being this way is not my choice. It’s hurtful and certainly does nothing to help me heal.

    Anyway, good post. We should chat privately. Take care.

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