This is my attempt at a post for February’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health, developed by Astrid and hosted by Differently at Ramblings of the Differently Sane. I say attempt because whether or not this post fits the subject is still up in the air. But it’s an important topic for me, so I’m trying anyway.
I didn’t used to speak up for myself. I’ve felt the impact of psychophobia pretty much all of my life, though my younger years I wasn’t aware of what it was – my loved ones and I just thought I was on the odd side. Sometimes they still think so. But that pain was still there, with every assault on my personhood simply for behaviors that are natural to me and not seeing the world as others do. For years this continued, even as I moved to new areas, and all the while I said nothing.
I think the first time I actually spoke up was toward my highschool psychology teacher when he was talking to the class about Schizophrenia. Granted, I didn’t ‘speak’ per say, largely out of fear because my classmates had a tendency to harass me and I didn’t want to give them more ammunition, but instead wrote a note and gave it to him at the end of the class. He was the first to respond positively, actually apologizing, something no one had done for me before. I think he knew the impact such perceptions could and often do have on folks like me, folks living with mental illness. He even warned me ahead of time about the movie he was going to play in the class later in the semester (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and how my classmates may respond to it, giving me the option to opt out of class for that day. I didn’t understand the significance of that until I started blogging, but it’s still one of the reasons why I started actively speaking up for myself and advocating for better treatment of people with mental illness by the people in our given societies and cultures.
Though I still struggle with doing so in real life. In real life I don’t have much power over my surroundings in case shit goes bad. Most of that power is actually in my games, where if something goes wrong or someone starts giving me shit about it, I can block them or simply stop playing. This has given me an empowerment that just isn’t there in the rest of my life, and is probably why I spend so much time online. For once, I am in control, and I can determine whether or not I put up with the shit people dish out.
But it still hurts. It always hurts. Frequently I find myself dropping out of dungeon groups or dropping gaming blogs I read because of psychophobia. Because many times, when I call out complete strangers on their behaviors or attitudes, they don’t care and I’m pegged as being ‘oversensitive’ (I fucking hate that word). So I do the only form of self-advocacy I can do in those situations – I leave and do what I can to preserve my mental health at that time. And because of it, my characters are sorely lacking and I’m falling further and further behind in the Cata rush. But I continue to do it because I know that if I don’t, the effects of staying and putting up with it will be far worse. Gear and levels can wait, keeping a grip on one’s reality (whatever that may be) can’t really, since everything we do is so dependent on it. Without it, everything becomes a downward spiral and the last thing I want is to be hospitalized again because people are assholes. Because yes, that’s pretty much what it amounts to, though that’s putting it in really simplified terms that probably won’t be understood to people outside of such situations.
Sometimes, like in guilds, I’ll speak up. Mostly because I feel like I can, either because I’ve grown to know the people involved and thus they may have some level of sympathy or because I know I can drop if I need to. And unfortunately, it doesn’t typically end well. The last guild I was in, things blew up when I pointed out on the side that being crazy doesn’t necessarily mean doing something outrageous and vice versa – and even if it was the case then, so what? But I was taking away people’s words, even when that wasn’t what I was trying to do. Eventually I wound up leaving because I just couldn’t handle something like that happening again, especially from people I was getting to know better. In another guild, the guild leaders had a habit of saying ‘that’s insane’ for everything they deemed outrageous and bad-things-not-to-do. Of course, there I couldn’t say anything because the one in charge was the ‘I’m not PC, if people are offended it’s their own problem not mine’ sort who had no level of empathy for anyone, let alone me.
The thing is, it shouldn’t have to hurt this much. It shouldn’t have to be a battle of which scenario is going to cause more harm, defending oneself and advocating for the deconstruction of psychophobia and better treatment of people with mental illness or keeping quiet and letting the cycle of harmful behaviors and attitudes continue. We should be able to speak up about the things that harm us and be listened to, having people actually give a shit on a regular basis instead of being told to fuck off and that we’re making things harder for others. But it does, because that’s the sort of world we live in, especially in the gaming community where you’re constantly graded on your performance and how dare you have feelings while doing so! Just stop complaining and go back to your duty, noob.
And that sort of attitude is the worst, especially when this is a community where you feel most comfortable. You’re not expected to be a person and have all of the complexities of such, you’re expected to be a white-cis-straight-male robot that’s socially programmed to conform to the attitudes and behaviors of the dominant majority around you.
The fact that this sort of thing still hurts, and the fact that it shouldn’t have to, is part of the reason why I keep fighting against it. Because it won’t go away on its own. And even if I don’t make it through to many people, I can still reach some – and that shows me that there are people that really do care and will listen. That’s what matters to me. If I can reach someone, and that person is willing to listen, grow and learn about how such attitudes harm people with mental illness, that makes it worth it. I bear this pain because I know others do as well. And we shouldn’t have to.