My aunt asked me today at work, “Have you noticed that P (workmate) has become more unfriendly towards you recently?” I answered that I wasn’t sure, but she hadn’t been talking to me much of late. “I think I know why,” my aunt mused. She went on to hypothesise it’s because P saw what I had posted on Facebook about my mental health issues. Umm, what? My aunt’s lesson is this: you can email your friends but don’t post this type of thing to Facebook where everyone can see.
Her husband has a mental illness, he experiences psychosis and takes Zyprexa. She tried to make an example of herself, “I don’t tell anyone about your uncle’s illness, not even my best friend in Canada because there’s stigma,” hinting that I should follow her lead. If you want to keep your husband’s mental illness under wraps that’s your prerogative, but how and to whom I reveal my own mental illness, it’s mine to choose.
The reasoning behind her advice not to post any hints of my mental illness on Facebook, “I’m telling you because you’re still young and maybe you don’t know how cruel people can be.” I don’t know how cruel people can be? I don’t know how harshly society can judge those with mental illness? Puh-lease. Give me some credit here. I have had mental health issues for years. I am a volunteer for two youth mental health organisations. I have friends with mental illness. I read a number of mental health blogs. I think I know a bit about stigma against mental illness. The implication of that statement, that I am so naive and have no social awareness, is just insulting.
She’s even gone so far as to already have reported to my grandparents and other aunt that P has been ‘unfriendly’ ever since I posted comments of my mental health issues on Facebook. Yet she has no proof P has even read those comments, let alone acted accordingly towards me because of it. Apparently my other aunt has attributed P’s ‘negative attitude towards me/my mental illness’ to ‘having Asian beliefs’.
I tried to tell my aunt that I don’t care, others have been open about their mental illness and have been none the worse off. I told her I’ve given a speech telling my story to employees of an accounting firm, and consequently revealed to sixty strangers a part of my mental health journey. I emphasised that I do know about stigma, which is why I used to keep my mental health issues hidden from everyone, but as time progressed I have become more open. Unfortunately I don’t think I got my point across.
I was feeling irritated and slightly upset after this conversation. Why must she insist I keep my mental health issues completely hidden and to submit to the stigma it can carry? As well as this, my insecurities were starting to creep in. Prior to this, I hadn’t even noticed P’s ‘unfriendliness’. Was my aunt right? Did P’s opinion of me really fall so low, just because I’m ill?
As it happened, the lunch break after this conversation took place, P and I, along with a couple of other workmates, had a lovely cheery conversation together. No sign of disrespect nor looking down upon me. This occurred whilst my aunt was in the same room. Goes to show her suspicions are unfounded.
Me: 1 Aunt: 0
I’ll admit I feel rather smug.