Unfriendliness towards me due to mental illness?

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.

7 thoughts on “Unfriendliness towards me due to mental illness?

  1. It struck me whilst reading this that it’s your aunt that maybe has the problem with stigma, or that she’s so hypervigilant about it because of her husband’s illness, that she’s seeing it where there is none. I am glad that things with P are actually fine and I applaud all your work in trying to decrease the stigma. take care xx

  2. I’m so glad that P hasn’t submitted to the stigma. And I would feel smug too 🙂

    I think you’re absolutely right to be open about it all. For a long time I wasn’t either, but when I lost my job, I couldn’t hide it any more. So instead I use my “real life” Facebook profile to prattle endlessly on about mental health issues, to help break down barriers and stigma. I’m so glad that I did; I feel so much more comfortable about myself, and think I may have made at least a few people more aware of the horrible reality that mental illness brings. I’ve had people “unfriend” me over it, but as far as I’m concerned, if that’s their attitude then they’re not worth being friends with anyway.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Cass. In the long-run, people are likely to respect you for your candour.

    Take care

    Pan xxx

  3. I would feel smug as well. I also wonder if it’s your Aunt that has the problem. I think it’s great that you can be open about your mental health and that things were fine with P. I haven’t quite gotten there yet myself.

  4. I’m glad P is still talking normally to you. I agree it’s probably your aunt who’s having issues with stigma ore being hypervigilant. Either way, it’s up to you to decie what you do with your mental health information, whether you share it or not. I’m very open about my mental health conditions online and have never encountered stigma because of it.

  5. I agree with Pandora, I use to shy away from things until I left my job in 2007 and I became more open to people about things, I think to prepare them for ‘when I went off on one’ on FB and Twitter which I use to do often. Now since doing my voluntary work for a MH organisation I am even more open…

    Similar happened here today, my Dad had a call from my Auntie this evening and questioning him trying to find information on something I posted on FB yesterday about benefits… some people just get to overly concerned with silly things. I have reached a point in my life where I am sick of the likes of FB, if it was not for me solely keeping in touch with my music friends around the world I would delete my account – okay off on a tangent now!

    I think the older generation just do not understand these issues and they think stigma with mental health means you will be locked in a dark room if someone discovers you are mentally ill!

  6. I’m glad that you’re willing to be open with your own mental health-discussion breeds understanding and education, which i think is important! In my counseling practice, I see older generations having, in general, a much bigger stigma of mental health issues, are less understanding, and were raised to keep it a secret. Perhaps that’s what your aunt is operating from-keep explaining to others why it’s important!

  7. I really think it’s a generational thing. Immediate family (parents, siblings) I think are bound to hop on board more than aunts, grandparents, etc because of the direct relation to it, but age plays a major role, IMO.

    I have chosen to keep my illness secret from most of my older family members because of this reason. Call it uptight, close minded, whatever.

    I am very open with my friends and family that I know don’t judge me.

    Different strokes for different folks. Try not to let it weigh you down!

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