A ‘wink’ had come in from a popular dating website.
For the uninitiated in online dating, this is an indication of interest from someone. I clicked on the profile and within seconds of reading, found myself perturbed.
Dating websites can upset people for all sorts of reasons, but this was the first time I’d ever read anything discriminatory related to mental health here.
The 30-something year old, ‘educated’ guy, well-dressed in all his photographs and who identified himself as working in the medical/veterinary field, stated in his opening statement, “Would be great to meet someone normal that hasn’t got mental health issues…” He went on to add other desirable traits in a potential companion like “laughing”, “having fun” and “a passion for life.”
I’m really inclined to rant on about this, but I’m terribly exhausted from over-explaining. This right here is why charities like Mind and Depression Alliance work so hard to challenge stereotypes and end stigma. We know that stigma prevents people from accessing the help they need out of fear of being judged and actually being judged, for something that they have no control over.
Yet, even with all the lobbying for an end to stigma we continue to see rampant discriminatory behaviours and rhetoric from all quarters. I have written before about being brazenly laughed at by Masters-degree ‘educated’ people who found it funny to call me derogatory names related to my diagnoses. I wondered whether people are aware of what they’re doing when they perpetuate certain behaviours and speak in certain ways in reference to mental health.
Those free flowing, dangerous words
This road with mental health problems is not one less travelled. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. That means, chances are if it’s not you, someone you know or love will likely be affected.
None of us would choose to have a mental health problem. Some of us inherit it; others develop conditions like PTSD from suffering traumas, sometimes repeatedly in the case of people like myself living with CPTSD.
Maybe to this guy people with mental health problems don’t like to laugh, have fun or love life, thus, not seeming ‘normal.’
Who doesn’t want to laugh? Have fun or enjoy living? These behaviours and outlooks are not always easy when one lives with a mental health condition, given the suffering that often comes with it. Saying that, I do know many people with these conditions who fight for their chance at life, for any opportunity to smile or see a flicker of light; But who, are often shut down by people in their circles or wider society with stigma and discrimination.
Perpetuating stereotypes, misconceptions and stigma through our behaviours compounds an already dire situation. Why do that? You’re hurting people who are already in pain. You’re pushing them back into the shadows, marking them, shaming them… some of these people who struggle with living and for whom, the simplest trigger could lead them to the edges of the nearest precipice. If being with someone with a mental health problem troubles you so, why behave in a manner that will worsen the status quo? Resulting in less people receiving treatment, and getting better so that they can be ‘normal’ according to your questionable standard of so-called normalcy?
Furthermore, I was going to state that we’re perfectly normal but no, we’re not. We’re extraordinary.
We are compassionate and empathetic— qualities that I believe we develop due to the rugged, lonely road we walk. We are caring, and loving and even with internal wars waging, we are easily the most considerate people you will find. And we do all of that while facing a tide of shite from people who label, and discriminate against us for the unwelcome pain we bear. The irony is, Mister Charming obviously believes himself to be ‘normal,’ with all his exclusive, discriminatory language.
Quite frankly, if that is what ‘normal’ looks like, call me abnormal any day. I wear it damn well.
Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.
Gentle Hugs 🙂