This is my entry for July’s Blog Carnival of Mental Health. The topic is Stigma and Discrimination, which I interpreted liberally.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the boundaries I set affects how others treat me. As some of you know, after my suicide attempts and subsequent hospitalization in an urgent care facility, I basically told my boss everything that had been going on. Why did I do this? Well, I trust him for the most part, he’s easy to talk to, and I need more people in my life who I can share my inner experiences with. In retrospect, this may not have been the best decision, but what’s done is done. I was in the midst of a crisis, and I may not have been thinking all that clearly. Things happen in a crisis.
Anyway, I also told him about the Nardil and about how it affects my diet (because he’s always trying to shove cheap pastries and hot dogs down my throat, which I can’t have while on Nardil).
Being who he is–older, somewhat wiser, and a wanna-be therapist–he likes to give me his opinions on my condition. For example, sometimes, when he’s stressed, he jokes around by saying things like, “I’d try to kill myself too if I just had the time.” I’ve spoken to him about this–about how that’s insensitive and is not something I want him joking about. He’s stopped. Other times, he gets serious and tries to tell me that, looking solely at my behaviors, I don’t need to be on medication, especially long-term.
Although, I appreciate that he cares, he has no idea what’s going on inside my head. Sure, my behaviors tell a particularly happy story about myself–a story that others interpret as the entire picture. I mean, I have a job. I’m in school. I have a girlfriend. I’m training for a marathon. All good things. Inside my head, though, something entirely different is going on. He, as well as many others, tend to forget this. I think we all tend to compare ourselves to others based on what we see. This is unfair not only to others but to ourselves as well.
Logically, it makes no sense to judge how we’re feeling on the inside to how others look and behave on the outside. I am incredibly guilty of this. It’s a huge reason why I suffer so immensely from social anxiety.
Anyhow, because I chose to disclose my condition and the fact that I am medicated, I have greatly altered my relationship to my boss. He has considerable power over me, even more so than he did before. He could use it against me if he wanted to.
So the question remains: Do I choose how people treat me based on what I disclose? The answer in my opinion is yes. Sure, there’s much more that goes into it than just that, but boundaries are a huge factor.
Most of the time I usually don’t disclose much of anything, and people think (at least in my opinion) that I’m distant, cold, boring, and that I perhaps don’t like them. In other cases, I disclose too much because I need emotional connection really, really bad. There is a happy/perfect medium which I haven’t exactly been able to find yet. Again, it’s something I’m working on, and, again, I believe one day I’ll get there.
“Logically, it makes no sense to judge how we’re feeling on the inside to how others look and behave on the outside. I am incredibly guilty of this. It’s a huge reason why I suffer so immensely from social anxiety.”
You’ve given me a lot to think about.
It happens so fast. It’s an automatic response. Without even thinking about it, when I see somebody, I’ve already summed up who they are and how they’re better than I am. I place them on a pedestal, and I’m already less than whoever I think they are before the conversation even begins. It’s a way for me to stay who I am.
Thanks for your thohugts. It’s helped me a lot.
I can relate to so much of what you’ve written in this post. From the idea that I know what people are thinking about me from my interpretations of their behavior down to disclosure issues. I’ve always struggled with disclosure. Only a few people know about my condition. At times when I’ve really been struggling with my mental health, I’ve been tempted to disclose at school, to my adviser or profs, but I never have because I know that once that is out there, it will most likely change things forever and I’ll not be able to ever take it back. This doesn’t mean that it will be for the worse, but I am extremely skittish about changing the dynamic in all of my relationships. I guess it’s almost like I would rather, they think I’m a slacker or mediocre student than tell them what is really going on. That can’t be good
I know what you mean. Don’t feel bad about this. Mental issues are looked at in most cases negatively in our society. It’s not easy to disclose our problems because of this. I think we both want a little understanding, but it’s so hard to get when mental issues can really only be understood by those who have gone through them. I for one feel very alone, aside from those I connect with through my blog, and feel like no one else can relate. However, when I do disclose, even a little bit, I’ve found that most people can understand because they actually have experienced some or all that I have been through. It’s surprising.
One of the first things I learned in therapy was that everybody influences the way others react, both consciously and unconsciously. We are “programmed” to do so: when we smile, the other person will like us a little bit better than when we don’t betray any emotions, regardless of what we say or what else we do. So even if we are not planning to, we are sending off signals which already modify the behaviour of the people we interact with.
I have been accused of cold, distant or arrogant behaviour more than once, which I could never explain to myself – sure, I wasn’t very talkative, but didn’t people see that I’m nervous or anxious? Turns out, my body language was sending a different message, because it told people to stay the hell away from me: averted gaze, arms crossed in front of the body, moving half a step backwards…
On top of it all, I hardly ever disclosed anything about me, and I never asked others questions about them. Again, out of shyness, but it comes across as a lack of interest or downright dislike.
So, I can definitely relate, and I could continue the list of examples for quite a while.
Disclosing something is an awkward, sometimes even painful business, but I have come to believe that between this and not saying anything, it’s preferable to speak out, because in the vast majority of cases, being open makes people treat you more friendly. And it takes an awful lot of energy to always hide one’s distress.
That doesn’t mean that I tell everybody everything, but I have moved away a bit from “not telling anything to anybody”, and so far my experiences have been exclusively positive – plus, it reduces the social anxiety a little the next time you go through something similar.
It does take a lot of energy to hide who I am and my distresses in social situations. I’m never really myself. I put up so many walls that the real me just gets lost. It’s exhausting. No wonder I feel anxious.
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