“Long Courageous Battle” Fought With Cancer, Heart Disease, Etc.–But Mental Illness?

Another community fund raiser for a poor soul stricken with a horrific illness. Spaghetti suppers are planned, raffles, prizes, trips to Disneyworld. No doubt it’s for a worthy cause, but where are the helping hands for persons with mental illnesses or their families trying desperately to hold on? Where’s the offer of a ride to the doctor or a neighbor bringing dinner so you can get a break? At best you’ll get an “I’m sorry” and at worst avoidance with someone crossing the street to dodge that strange looking person who happens to be your loved one. Where I live there is even a suit before the State Supreme Court to keep a clubhouse for persons with MI out of a particular neighborhood.

Then there are the obituaries reading Mr. or Ms. X died after a “long courageous battle” with cancer or whatever. Well, what if Mr. X committed suicide due to depression? You won’t find those three quoted words in the newspaper, even though the illness may have been lengthy, fought tooth and nail, and was … well, deadly.

It’s a fact that not everyone will survive cancer. Similarly, not everyone will survive mental illness. Yet, these afflictions are looked upon so differently–in life as well as death–even with both being common human disorders. Family members who lost a loved one due to cancer get sympathy; those who lost one to suicide get hushed tones and in some instances shame.

Another article in today’s newspaper features a young man in a vegetative coma due to an accident. A fund is being set up for his care with readers asked to contribute. It’s sad. No doubt about it. Still, I’d like to see just one fund set up for an individual living with a serious mental illness. I won’t hold my breath.


About waywardweed

I am a consumer and parent of two sons, one with a mental illness and the other a third-year law student.
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38 Responses to “Long Courageous Battle” Fought With Cancer, Heart Disease, Etc.–But Mental Illness?

  1. It’s still the idea that one can control mental illness… that mental illness is your own fault in a way, a weakness of character.

  2. Justine-Paula Robilliard says:

    Hi Wayardweed…
    You are 200% correct, yes I won’t be holding my breath waiting for the day someone sets up a fund to assist someone suffering from mental health issues.

    I know in my case, I will be denied employment due to a previous bout of mental illness, and of course this only contributes to further bouts of self hatred, and a further serious of hospitalizations.

    It is a never ending cycle, that cannot be broken by the patient, how I wish I could think my way to positive health and wellbeing!! I can do many things, that is not one of them.

    My reputation is destroyed, what I spent 15 years creating, all that was destroyed in 1 foul swoop.. I know no one on this 3rd rock is going to do anything to help me.. And why would they, I have proved that I am a danger to myself, I am unstable, to the point where I am almost unemployable.

    If I was of a noticable mental illness, a down’s patient or had suffered a mental illness as a result of a car wreck, there are people willing and able to find me a job, everyone falls over themselves trying to help.. I have seen it, I know someone that is doing this as a full time job and is very very well paid..

    But for someone that has a chronic depression, low self esteem, has a mental illnes that is not as a result of a trauma, you are on your own…. That lady you mentioned last time, in the hat.. She may have at one time been 100% normal, had something bad happen in her life, she derailed, and as a result is now in a very bad way.. Who is going to trust her now??

    I long and I pray for the day when I can go to a suicide booth and buy a method of death.. [Futurama…thanks for the idea.. brilliant!!!!!]

    I know that for the rest of my life, I am never going to work again, the money will run out and I will become a menance to society, begging and being in the way, just waiting to die!!!


  3. Reblogged this on counselorssoapbox and commented:

  4. Reblogged this on Stoning Demons and commented:
    This is an important article. Too many who suffer with mental illness find their issues complicated by isolation and unnecessary shame in their condition.

  5. Reblogged this on Human In Recovery and commented:
    A post about how mental illness is treated like the proverbial red headed step child in the world at large. Written by a mental health professional.

  6. magicallymad says:

    Excellent post – I keep trying to get my FAMILY to accept that it’s a potentially deadly, terminal illness. No one gets it. Reblogging…thank you!

  7. Pingback: “Long Courageous Battle” Fought With Cancer, Heart Disease, Etc.–But Mental Illness? | Waywardweed’s Blog – Not Quite Lost

  8. Pingback: Character: Development of self | Human In Recovery

  9. Mandi says:

    Love love love this. Read the re-post from Magically Mad. This is EXACTLY what I keep saying. I have BPD, I was “normal” until last June when my life EXPLODED. It’s been a long battle and is far from over. There are VERY few people left who I once was close to. It makes me ANGRY. I got over being UNCOMFORTABLE when I became good friends with a grown son with Autism. I didn’t have a CLUE about the disease. But I jumped in and asked question. It was awkward, but they meant enough to me to get over that and I’m glad I did. They became like parents to me, grandparents to my kids. But even THEY completely and totally abandoned me along with the other 90% that I thought would be there.
    I have said, and MEANT, many times that I WISH I had cancer. And I know a lot about cancer having lived 3 years surrounded by people dying every week, my husband with Leukemia in the group.(14% chance but he survived!) I have better odds than he did. But the majority of cancers are very treatable now and many have a higher rate of living than BPD does. But APPARENTLY our lives just aren’t as important. We make people uncomfortable. No one want’s to talk about it. There is a debate about hiding suicide deaths because of the risk of others following suite. I don’t know how true that is.
    I wrote a post awhile back, http://mmstores.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/why-suicide-makes-sense-2/ It drives me CRAZY that when someone takes their own life, people start asking questions. The answers are all HERE, NOW. All you have to do it ask! But the majority won’t. They won’t try to understand. They’ll make judgments. A lot of judgments.
    I feel like this is a loosing battle. There would have to be more physical evidence to prove that a mental illness was indeed a true physical illness. But even then it would be hard because it’s not a leg or an arm. It’s our brain. Our personality, the way we feel. I think being OPEN about our lives and what happens helps. A small group will learn and start to understand more. They can’t understand it all anymore than I can understand what it feels like to have cancer. But trying to understand the kinds of battles we face, even the BASICS of the illness would be better than nothing. Hell, ANYTHING is better than nothing.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • survivor55 says:

      Be careful what you wish for, Mandi: I’ve been bipolar without knowing it since I was about 9 years old. It got out of control right before I turned 36. They misdiagnosed me until 4 years later when a good doctor asked the right questions and I was properly diagnosed. I’ve been on more meds than you can shake a stick at!! Last fall breast cancer was discovered after I reported two lumps to my doctor. I am not only bipolar, but have several other mental illnesses which I live with daily and have managed to survive so far. Now I’m surviving breast cancer. Thus, my user name. I love everything Waywardweed has written!! I, too, blogged about suicide since I’ve seen both sides — having loved ones commit suicide and being so close to it myself. Please understand that I’m NOT putting you down in any way. I realize what you’re saying: You’d rather have something ELSE instead of a mental illness. I get that!! It’s just that having gone through all the crap I had to go through to fight this breast cancer, with my hair just having grown out to the point it can stick up in the mornings and facing a follow-up exam next week after going through radiation (which I hope and pray is the end of it) and the constant tiny bit of fear in the back of my mind when something goes wrong with my body that “it” might be back . . . well, it’s just REALLY scary to think about. And that damn chemo took SO much out of me that I truly didn’t know if I’d survive the final treatment because the doses they gave me were SO high!! I mean no offense whatsoever, Mandi, so I pray you don’t take my words that way. I also get that you understand about cancer. It’s just having all of this at one time, even though God enabled me to handle it and survive it all, really sucked!! So I guess the thought of anyone desiring to have cancer, even if it is in exchange for the horrible tormenting times that accompany mental illness, is just so awful for me to contemplate that I felt I needed to write to you.

      Forgive me if I have offended you. I swear that has not been my intention!!

      God bless you!!

      • Justine-Paula Robilliard says:

        I suspect that a few that have responded here, wanting something other than mental illness, they say this as the biggest problem with mental illness is that it is an invisible condition.

        You cannot see it, as you can with cancer. There is no warning signs, nothing to indicate you are having a dramatic crisis, and that is the problem. No one understands how severe and how crippling mental illness can be at times. You seem to the outside world, normal and rational, and yet nothing makes sense, you see the world in black and white, or see sounds and hear voices.

        This cannot be diagnosed with a medical machine, there is no device to confirm what you say you have and thus you are seen as lazy, stupid, incompetent.. You know inside this is not true and yet there is nothing you can say to change what people believe.

        Suicide is most often the “port in a storm”, people do not commit suicide on a whim, maybe some do, in most cases, there are missed diagnoses, missed appointments, misunderstandings, fights, turmoil. People turn to suicide as a way to get rid of bad thoughts, that is the case for me.

        I intend to one day die as a result of suicide, despite my telling people my plans, blogging it, facebooking it, twittering it.. And yet on the day the lame excuses will come out and yet no one bothered to do anything about it before the bad day.

        Medical unprofessionals have very little understanding of the depth and width of a full blown “depression” that lasts for weeks or months, robbing you of everything in your life, beating your mental state into such a bloody pulp there is no hope of recovery, and yet there is nothing to show on a eeg, ecg, x-ray, pet scan, mri scan.. you name it, you appear to be normal…

        Cancer is a disease that has a sympathy element, breast cancer is one that affects the women, and something that is obvious to see, and it is this that mental health sufferers crave, the obvious illness aspect.

        I am seen as strange, odd, maybe even incompetent, unreliable.. When I know given a chance and a small safe job, I am more than competent, I am way more than that.. I am super confident, and yet when a small thing happens, I am very unstable, I need things to be a certain way, I need to operate in a certain environment.

        I worked as a television news video editor, and I worked alone in the edit bay, when someone came in, I became flustered and incompetent, it was being around people, and yet working alone, I could edit award winning inserts.. That sort of thing.

        Sorry for going on… typing is a way to express myself…

      • Mandi says:

        Don’t worry about offending me Kathy, I appreciate positive criticism and honesty!

        I can’t imagine having both cancer and a MI at the same time. That would be a nightmare and definitely would defeat my purpose, or reasons for wanting cancer instead of BPD. You must not only be incredibly strong, but have a huge purpose!

        When my husband was sick it was terrible. He was in a tremendous amount of pain many times. I watched so many people die I literally can’t count. I might find myself completely wrong if put in the position (it wouldn’t be the first!) but right now if given the choice I would choose that physical pain over emotional pain. (but I’m also a self harmer!) Especially the pain of loosing friendships and support. Whether I died or not would be out of my hands.

        Mark had an intense 3 year battle with support the entire time. I feel that all the people who were praying for him, who showed that they cared in so many ways, is what got he and I both through. I don’t feel that I have that, at least part. A few have told me that they were praying for me or just even that they cared. Mark had people holding him up. When he couldn’t pray, he had people there to do it for him.

        I am blessed to have a husband who tries his best to understand. Many don’t have anyone. If I had cancer, he would have a ton of support and could use it. Especially since we have two little girls. There wouldn’t be all the judgment.

        I completely understand where you’re coming from. Luckily I don’t have a choice. And a year from now, hopefully when my mind is a bit clearer, I might feel completely different. Right now I’m in the midst of the biggest battle I’ve ever fought. I could fight for Mark. Fighting for ME is more than difficult on so many levels.

        Thank you for taking the chance to tell me your thoughts. I appreciate it! I hope and pray that you will be healed and that this WILL be the last of it.


    • waywardweed says:

      I just saw an infomercial with Glen Close this morning. Maybe you’ve seen it too. (www.bringchange2mind.org ) It was on a major network so that was hopeful. Also I regularly check another site (www.bbrfoundation.org ) for the latest good news in research developments which I pray comes sooner than later.

    • waywardweed says:

      I replied farther down. I am incompetent on computers.

  10. Reblogged this on Summer Solstice Musings and commented:
    That post really hit home. I know I am doing so much better now but I’ve had my fair share of dark times, doctors refusing to take my case, the government denying me assistance, etc.

  11. I know one should never say “I know how you feel” cause nobody ever feels the same way we do. But what I can say is that I do relate to your post.

    But it reminded me so much of this one I wrote a while back. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here…


  12. rainey says:

    Wow and WOW!! You said it so well; I am reblogging this on Rainey Daze and Crazy Nights: http://rainey46.wordpress.com/

  13. rainey says:

    Reblogged this on Rainey Daze and Crazy Nights and commented:
    Well said!

  14. Reblogged this on theartistryofthebipolarbrain and commented:
    Having been treated as if I was a nonentity, as if my disorder was “my fault”, as if I was a bomb that was going to go off any minute, as if normal irritations on my part were not the fault of the person causing problems but part of my mental illness…and on and on. This is a wonderful blog that hits home for so many of us.

  15. Reblogged on the artistry of the bipolar brain and commented:

    Having been treated as if I was a nonentity, as if my disorder was “my fault”, as if I was a bomb that was going to go off any minute, as if normal irritations on my part were not the fault of the person causing problems but part of my mental illness…and on and on, this is a wonderful blog that hits home for so many of us.

    Loved this post and am following you now.

  16. survivor55 says:

    I absolutely love what you have written and couldn’t agree more!! Along with the other bloggers who’ve read this before me, I would like to reblog this on my blog, “bipolarandbreastless.” Thank you so much for posting this!! — Kathy

  17. survivor55 says:

    Reblogged this on bipolarandbreastless and commented:
    This is an amazing post. If you’ve read my post on suicide, you’ll know why I agree wholeheartedly!!

  18. seventhvoice says:

    You are so, so right. Where is the help? Why are some illnesses still considered the fault of the individual even though we know better? One thing that the Autism community has gradually been able to do through a tireless campaign of knowledge, has been to remove some of the stigma attached to Autism. Why does prejudice fade so slowly in this so called fast paced life?

  19. waywardweed says:

    I want to thank all the people who have responded. There have been so many comments and emails to this post. I am very surprised, but apparently it has hit home to so many. I also want to apologize because my computer skills are terrible. I hope I haven’t accidently deleted anyone. I often ask my husband for help, but I don’t want to bother him unless I get desperate. I also type with two fingers so everything takes me a long time. Pathetic!

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