So, I was surfing around on my iPad last night, and came across a couple of blurbs about celebrities who have been age shamed lately. Eva Mendes posted a pic and someone said she was getting older (OK…how should she stop time?), and another was of Gwen Stefani who wore a leotard, hoodie and boots with sequins while giving a concert. People said she should ‘act her age’ and ‘quit performing since she’s so old’ (she’s 50!). Lara Spencer on Good Morning America was age-shamed because she posed in a dress with ‘old looking knees’, and Madonna was shamed regarding her old looking hands, and actually had multiple, invasive, painful treatments on them to make them look younger. And we all know about fat shaming: take a look at the tabloids this summer and we’ll see pics of celebrities who have the “Worst Beach Bodies” because of weight.
Shame. That’s an interesting word; one we need to understand since it’s being done so much to others on social media. Do you know what it means? To shame someone is to try to make them feel they are disgraceful or should be humiliated by what they ‘are’. It means you should feel bad for whatever someone deems to be an issue. Look at those words: disgraceful, humiliated, guilty. Damn.
Of course we should feel shame when we do something wrong. Self-shame in that regard is healthy since it makes us realize how wrong we were and then hopefully makes sure we don’t do whatever it was again. I once read a parenting book that said “You should never allow your child to feel shame.” What the fuck?? Of course I wanted O to feel shame when he did something wrong. How else could he learn to internalize his own consequences for behavior? And I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of things in my life I am ashamed of, and rightfully so.
However, we aren’t looking at personal, internal shame. We’re looking at what’s put upon us by others who want us to feel shame simply for ‘being.’ Age shaming? OK…guess you’re not going to get older (let me know how that goes). Fat shaming? All righty…stop eating those desserts before you gain a few.
But, what really hits home for me is mental illness shaming. And yep, it happens. The mentally ill are shamed for having a disorder or condition. Period. We are supposed to feel humiliated, disgraced, less than. Our illnesses are shameful while other medical conditions such as arthritis, COPD, asthma, etc. are accepted as a struggle the person has to bear. “Of course, take the medications that help treat the symptoms.” “Of course you can’t join us for dinner since you aren’t feeling well.” “Of course, take your time…I know you are struggling today.”
What? Of course physical medical conditions should be treated with such care and support! But, shouldn’t that hold true for MENTAL ILLNESSES we well? Sadly, those of us who live with mental illness hear things like this instead:
- “Do you really need all of those meds? Don’t they just screw up your brain even more? I wouldn’t take something that messes with MY brain!”
- “C’mon. You’ve been depressed long enough. Get out there and so something!”
- “You can’t make it? Why are waiting until now to tell me? What the hell?”
- “Therapy? How does talking to someone help? No one’s probing my mind.” (Thank fuck for that.)
And of course, the list goes on.
Why is it that so many people look at mental illness as something WE are at fault for? That we must have ASKED for? That we should be able to control on our own? Maybe they think we are ‘sick in the head’ because we’re being punished for something. Why can’t people understand that our illness are often biological too?
In a study done by Ole A. Andreassen at the University of Oslo, people with bipolar have thinning gray matter, particularly in the parts of the brain that control inhibition and motivation (the frontal and temporal lobes). Psycheducation.org states that “Evidence is growing quite strong that a region of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex is underactive in people with bipolar disorder even when they are having no symptoms at all.”
The Stanford University School of Medicine has determined that scrambled connections between the part of the brain that processes fear and emotion and other brain regions could be the biological reason for types of anxiety disorders and even depression.
MRI’s show structural abnormalities in the brains of those with major depressive disorder or social anxiety disorder according to a study by Youjin Zhao from Sichuan University in China.
In terms of eating disorders, findings are showing that the hypothalamus may not be functioning correctly in triggering the response of being full in the person. Further, researchers are also determining that certain neurotransmitters in the brain are tied to eating disorders as well.
So…we are finding more and more biological causes of mental illnesses. Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and even some personality disorders. Borderline, for example, is now considered an inheritable brain disease with specific brain abnormalities. Wow.
SSSSSOOOOO, here’s my question. Why in the HELL are we shamed for having a biological brain disorder??? Answer that for me, peeps. Mental illnesses are not made up for attention or an excuse or crutch people use when they can’t cope. They are BRAIN disorders. Period. And we should feel guilty for having one (or in my case, 2)? We should feel disgraced that our brains differ from others? We should be humiliated to carry a diagnosis showing that we have brain abnormality?
NO, grasshoppers, we shouldn’t. Why in the fuck should I apologize or feel shameful for having bipolar? Why should I have to worry about ‘coming out’ and disclosing this to everyone? (Kristi…are you sure you should talk about all of this? What about your job?) First, it’s a fucking career I went to school for 8+ years to get (so let’s get that straight right now!). Second, why should I HAVE to worry about having an illness? A disorder? OH YEAH. Because it’s in my brain. Even though I earned a freaking M.S. in 18 months, while taking care of a toddler, and teaching to pay for it, people should still worry that I just might screw things up at school. Well, I haven’t yet for 23 years…so…
Here it is: I’m so tired of people shaming other people for things that they can’t help or control. I’m going to get old (OK, I’m already there). I’m going to gain weight as I age (less estrogen, less metabolism, more tummy). And I’m going to have this bastardly bipolar until the day I die. Except now there are studies showing how dementia is more likely to happen among us who have bipolar, so that’s something else to look forward too as well. Goody.
We who have mental illnesses shouldn’t HAVE to be afraid to talk about it…ask for support…get compassion. I understand when my neighbor with arthritis can’t carry in her own groceries, so I do it for her. Why can’t others understand that when I’m depressed, I simply can’t answer my phone at times? Can’t go out to the mall? Can’t make plans for the week? When are us ‘crazy, psychotic sickos’ going to get the same treatment as those with physical disorders?
I don’t have the answer for that, grasshoppers. But you know, I’m just hopin’ and prayin’ it happens soon.