Mental Illness as an act of rebellion?

I read this article the other day, and no, I didn’t save the link so I won’t make any direct quotes. But it kind of steamed me up. Not because I necessarily disagreed with the writer having a valid point on some level. But because articles of that nature completely invalidate the very real struggles some of us with mental disorders have.

He surmised that mental illness in this day and age is an act of rebellion against the oppressive aspects of society- sucky jobs, sucky relationships, sheer laziness. He himself claimed he suffered from a bout of depression and felt in a way even his own depression was an act of rebellion against that which oppressed him in his life.

I am not naive. I don’t deny-as I have witnessed firsthand- that a number of people do claim a disability yet function fine in every other aspect of life outside of a job. I knew one in the tiny town I grew up in who claimed back injuries that crippled him. Yet on any given day he was fixing his roof, hunting, fishing, taking swings at his wife and kids, drinking like a fish.  To this day he is still drawing disability and yet still totally functional outside of a job environment. So, no, I don’t deny people like him exist and they suck.

On the flip side, you have people like me, who have struggled our entire lives with an illness that has impacted every aspect of our lives, not just the oppressive or unsavory ones.

Were I merely rebelling against that which scares me or oppresses me then I’d be out dancing on weekends and going to carnivals and amusement parks and concerts. I wouldn’t panic at the thought of taking my kid to a crowded water park. I wouldn’t have a panic attack when a guy seems to be flirting with me. I wouldn’t get into such a non functional funk that I have a two and half foot high pile of laundry in the floor. I wouldn’t sporadically break down in public crying for a reason I won’t even remember two hours later.

I suppose I take everything way too personally even when it isn’t meant to be and that is my flaw. But the article just got my dander up. Most stuff I read on line is a tiny splinter under my skin. It’s annoying, a little sore, but it resides in the background after awhile. When something is still getting my dander up two days later, then it’s something that struck a chord in me, for good or for bad.

And the notion that the mentally disabled are simply milking it because we’re too lazy or of too weak of character to tough it out makes my blood boil. I am sure there are those out there who turn a minor bout of “the blues” into a major depressive episode, especially with certain doctors willing to hand them the keys to the pharmaceutical kingdom.

Most of us are not that way.

Most of us are actually embarrassed by our condition. Guilt ridden how it negatively affects those around us. Completely demoralized by our own lack of independence and ability to contribute to our own existence, as well as to the rest of the world. We are the living dead at times and yet we are surrounded by people who don’t understand and keep telling us to suck it up and we try and we fail and it makes us feel even worse. Which actually compounds the disorders we’re fighting. Unsupportive people are like a toxin that spreads through our systems and poisons us further.

I will admit, I do have a rebellious personality, and I always have. I have marched to my own drummer since I was 5 years old and preferred to hang out with the crazy drunken cat lady rather than other children. Tell me not to do something, I want to do it. Tell me to do it, I don’t want to do it. Back in my teens and early twenties I was just immature enough to go with it.

At some point I realized rebelling for the sake of rebelling was stupid. What is the point of rejecting a notion-something you had previously wanted to do- just because someone else suggested it. It’s just dumb.

So now I choose my acts of rebellion wisely. Like refusing to conform to whatever society’s idea of a normal mom is. I will never own a mini van. I will never wear floral print dresses or listen to lite rock or decorate my home with dainty throw pillows and adorable matching everything. And it’s not because I am rebelling idly, it’s simply because that is not who I have ever been and just because I am supposed to become soccer mommy doesn’t mean I am going to sacrifice my identity. My uterus performed its duty. That is all. I am macabre, I am goofy, I am unconventional. And all those things society seems to frown upon…are the aspects of myself I actually think are endearing.

Is that an act of rebelling? Sort of, going against the status quo. But it’s in order to remain who I have always been. It’s not idle rebellion. More self assertive rebellion.

Now my mental disorders, which have existed since I was a preteen…That’s not rebellion. That’s just my cross to bear. Because when the depression kicks in, I could run ten miles and have all those happy endorphins or whatever coming out in truckloads…and my brain still tells me I am sad. So no, I will never be convinced I am simply claiming mental illness because I am lazy or rebelling.

But as the counselors have said, maybe I take it all so personally because it’s not something I haven’t felt about myself.

And therein lies the rub. It’s NOT how I feel about myself. I know my disorders are real. But I know it’s how a lot of people see me and it gets under my skin. I mean, pretty much seven days a week I am subjected to someone close to me making a derisive comment about “lazy people on disability” and “wellfarers.”

If I could find a job this minute that would be willing to take into account my various periods of functionality and shutting down, I would jump on it and hump its leg. Not being self sufficient kills me on a daily basis. It’s not how I was raised. But isn’t insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? And that’s how it is with me trying to hold a job. I crack under the pressure or I have a bad manic or depressive episode and suddenly I become undesirable and expendable. I went through 16 jobs in 12 years, never holding one more than 17 months. The counselors, the doctors, they all told me I needed disability because I couldn’t rely on my own stability. I fought them for a long time. I didn’t want to be *that* person.

But I am that person. And since going on disability, I have managed to keep a roof over head, paying my rent every month like clockwork. Putting the money right back into the economy. Not taking advantage of any assistance programs I don’t absolutely need. Trying to barter with people for things I need by cleaning house or running errands.

I make an effort.

I try hard.

I just can’t seem to kick ass on this bipolar and panic bullshit.

So to have it reduced to something trivial like “rebelling” because life is too oppressive…is offensive. It is invalidating. It is ridiculous.

And I will go to hell for this, no doubt, but sometimes I wish mental illness was infectious and I could just pass it on to all these assholes who don’t even try to understand just how hard it is to live with this shit. Walk in my shoes before you make a judgment. Until then, fuck you.

Leave it to me to take a simple internet article about ONE person’s opinion and make it all about me and righteous indignation.

I guess in that respect I am a narcissist.

But the fact I recognize that and can admit and feel bad for it kind of indicates it’s a low level narcissism.


What do my followers think? Is mental illness our form of rebellion because we’re too weak and lazy to cope with the difficulty of life?

Feedback is welcome, and also, appreciated.

2 Responses to “Mental Illness as an act of rebellion?”

  1. Maybe for some people it is… but I really doubt that’s the majority of cases.

  2. When I’ve been at my worst states, that is completely psychotic, my sister said I would do anything anyone told me to do. Kind of the opposite of rebellion, don’t you think?

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