Being open about my bipolar disorder has been the prime focus of this blog. I pride myself on working hard to remove the stigma of mental illness...up until just a few days ago. In keeping with my honesty policy, I need to let you know I'm a hypocrite.
Ridicule of the shortcomings of Greg's brother-in-law have been a constant throughout the years; I've heard about them from his mother and from Greg. She always spoke of him with disdain, Greg's stories were told more in a humorous vein. I've always known he had some sort of mental illness, sounded like bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, I'm ashamed to say I've laughed along with everyone else.
His sister had rotator-cuff surgery last week, and it didn't go as well as expected. While texting with her to see how she's doing, she said this:
[John] has been taking good care of me. He is a good guy and a very kind person. I know mom says lots of negative things behind his back, but she is really wrong about him. He always has been. Part of mom's views were colored because of his history of depression and some mental issues, but he can't help it and it doesn't make him a bad person.
I felt like I'd been slapped in the face. I read her text to Greg, and he got tears in his eyes. I can't remember the exact conversation we had, but we agreed that the only thing that was important about John was that he took good care of Greg's sister. We decided to stop perpetuating the stories, and do everything we could to be supportive of John.
Since this happened, I've thought about all the times I've felt impatience towards others with mental illness. In my mind, I've separated them between functioning and non-functioning. It seems I was more patient toward the people who had more severe manifestations of mental illness; and less understanding of those who, in my stupid opinion, could do better at helping themselves.
Who the hell do I think I am? How could I have forgotten all that I've been through? Shame and guilt encompass me. I vow to strive to never forget this valuable lesson I've learned.